1. Give three purposes for grading in an online class. Explain each one and then provide an example or guideline for accomplishing each purpose.

These questions will be answered from the perspective of business-sponsored professional development programs.

Purpose 1: Grading as an assessment of student engagement.

In an on-line training program, engagement relates to the participant’s efforts during course of the training program (Robinson and Hollinger, 2008).

One assessment tool could be a weekly log where the employee reports how the skills were employed between training modules. A second tool, might be peer assessments and interactions.

Robinson, Chin Choo and Hubert Hollinger (2008). New Benchmarks in Higher Education: Student Engagement in On-Line Learning. Journal of Education in Business, November/December.

Purpose 2: To guide and shape students’ performance.

Assessing employees participating in business-sponsored on-line professional development programs are expected, over time, to attain increasingly complex skills and capabilities applicable in the workplace.

Following a -By-Objective (MBO) model design, the creation of increasingly difficult and complex work tasks (either simulated or in the actual workplace) that parallel the training program can demonstrate increased learning, including deep learning.

Purpose 3: Motivating Students

With both f2f and on-line training programs motivating employee is a constant challenge. In f2f training program, ducking out and missing modules are the traditional measures.

With on-line training programs, identifying non-motivated participants motivated is less easy, especially with asynchronous programs. Like f2f classes missing modules incomplete assignments are two measures.

To keep students motivated on-line, creating extrinsic rewards for both on-going participation and training program completion will likely achieve the desired goal.

Actuarial students receive salary increases upon the successful of each of 10 courses. While this is one approach, apportioning rewards throughout the training program can allow for the needed learning.

  1. You have been called to consult with a university which is about to create a brand new totally online graduate program in leadership education. As part of your consultation you have been asked to provide a short written policy (for the student and instructor handbooks) related to grading policy. List (bullet list) the top five issues your policy will address.

The University of X’s On-line grading policy needs to address at least 5 issues. They include:

  • Type of grades
    • Letter grades: A, B, C, D, F
    • Pass/Fail
    • Audit
  • Appeals process
  • Benchmarks for determining best practices (to ensure the grading schema remain up-to-date)
  • Standardized measures of success (e.g., absence, work product quality)
  • Discussion room and blackboard policies.
  1. As part of the consultation with the university on creating an online program you have been asked to create a rubric that can be used across all program classes to grade the online discussions.

A 10 week class is graded on the basis of 100 points. Students can earn up to 30 points for their student-to-student interactions. Essentially, 30% of a student’s grade is earned through peer interaction.

Required Action Available Points Points Earned
  1. Made substantial posts to each of the discussion board questions by midnight Wednesday of each week.
  1. Between Wednesday and midnight Sunday responded to at least 3 colleagues’ postings with a meaningful comment.
  1. Integrates your posts with your colleagues’ comments to create a real world application for each of your original posts.
  1. Between Saturday and Sunday midnight, adds to the discussion board a major learning for the week.
  1. Provides appropriate links and references as appropriate.
  1. Choose a topic that is familiar to you and create three excellent learning objectives. Explain why the objectives you create are excellent.

In a Professional Development Course that I currently teach, students are required to develop competencies in a variety of skills (e.g., resume development, informational interviews, business dress and behavior). The course meets 2 hours/day for 4 days/week. The term is 5 weeks long. With class sizes ranging from 3-10 some classes seem more like hands-on training/coaching sessions that formal lectures.

Objective 1: Resume Development. By class 8, the student—using the distributed handout—will complete a job-search-ready resume that includes a header, job objective, work history, competencies/skills, education, additional certifications and awards that can be used in a job search.

This objective succeeds because it is time locked with clearly articulated requirements and a understandable outcome.

Objective 2: Informational Interview.  By class 10, the student will a) conduct an informational interview with the assigned interviewee and b) turn in a 2-3 page report that adheres to the assigned format.

This objective succeeds because the student is told what is expected, by when it is expected and the format of the product.

Objective 3: Professional Dress and Behavior.  By class 5, students will identify and evaluate three different 4+ minute Youttube videos on some aspect of professional dress and behaviors.  Each evaluation, none of which can be an advertisement, must include the 1) Youtube Title, 2) web address, 3) a paragraph describing the video, 4) an evaluation of the video, and 5) a statement as to why/why not its hould be shown in the class.

Although Objective 3 is long and has two sentences, it does define the task clearly and instructor expectations.

Objective 4: Create a LinkedIn account. Between classes 8 and 12, the student will send to the instructor their coversheet for their LinkedIn account and request that the Instructor be a LinkedIn contact.

Objective 4 is a straightforward task that is done totally on-line.

  1. Describe an eLearning activity that will have students meet one or more of the objectives you just created.

Objective 3 is the easies to describe in eLearning terms. Specifically, the student is required to:

  1. Conduct a Youtube search of videos meeting predefined criteria.
  2. Watch and review the videos.
  3. Analyze the appropriateness of the videos for use in class.
  4. Submit a report to the instructor.

Objective 4 is direct, allows students anytime between the completion of the resume and class 12.

  1. Explain how you will grade the student work in the above activity. For example you may want to provide a rubric or describe other methods used.

Although it is the most challenging, assessing student performance when developing through e-learning seems most intriguing. In lieu of a specific rubric—something that I am currently thinking about since I will likely propose that this professional development course be reconfigured as a blended class—below are some of the dimensions that seem important when developing the rubric. [N.B. Some course deliverables, like mock interviews and elevator speeches require f2f and interaction.]

Total points earned for the class is 1,000. A student can earn up to 150 points for their resume, with preparation and outside reviewer being able to allocate 100 points and 50 points, respectively.

The easy part is the outside reviewer assessment (i.e., a summative evaluation). I developed an assessment tool that totals 100 point,that can be divided by 2.

The development of the formative evaluation is much more difficult: the resume requires considerable interaction between the instructor and the student. Depending upon the class, peer interactions rarely work.

Some of the elements of the evaluation rubric can include students:

  1. Student uses template to job history including company, location, dates, job title and responsibilities.
  1. Student uses template to detail education history, including schools, location, degree, dates of attendance (including expected graduation), relevant courses
  1. Student uses template to identify skills that can be used on the first day of work.
  1. Student use template to identify certifications, honors and additional qualifications
  1. Number of times needed for a student to produce a job-search-ready resume.
  1. Student submits a well organized resume based upon one of the 4 templates included with the course handout.
  1. Student turns in grammatically correct and well-formatted (e.g., spacing) with no typographical errors
  1. Student turns in a visually balanced resume (i.e., not top-heavy, not bottom-heavy, not lopsided)
  1. Explain how you will provide feedback to the student in the above activity. Include an example of your feedback if possible.

Feedback will be provided via email and telephone consultation. Since this is also foreseen as a blended or synchronous learning course, some of the feedback on the resume session could be f2f.

There is also an article I read earlier in the semester where in asynchronous sessions the instructor created a library based upon previous classes where students could see the instructor editing student products. [Unfortunately, I am unable to locate the reference.]

  1. Quote your best entry from this week’s Blackboard discussion. Explain why you chose it and what it demonstrates about your understanding, learning process etc.

As my primary interest is applying eLearning to corporate/professional development initiatives, translating questions about grading what is traditionally a traditionally non-graded arena proved challenging. This is especially important as increasing numbers of employers are looking at employees as human capital. And, they are demanding some return on investment (ROI) for dollars spent on training employees.

  1. Identify the student you think was the most important participant in the Blackboard discussion. Explain why and provide at least one quote from that student’s contributions to the Blackboard discussion.

Less for any one comment and more for his style and approach, Daniel Perkins seemed to be really responsive to his colleagues. For example, his exchange, especially with Laura (Policies and Problems of Grading) moved the conversation to a deeper level and resulted identifying additional resources for our own work.

  1. Reflect on what you have learned this week. What have you learned that has the potential to inform or influence you or your practice of online learning going forward? Explain why.

Coming to the conversation, and wanting to apply the learnings in somewhat differently than my colleagues reinforced my dilemma when thinking about assessment in a professional development world.

At minimum, the conversation forces me to think of ways where assessments do not equal “grades” per se, but focus upon behavioral, cognitive and other changes in competencies that can be demonstrated in both simulated and actual environments (e.g., the workplace).

While I am not a diehard fan of MBO, it seems like it may be an approach when assessing increased skill levels in certain arenas.

Going out on another two limbs, two additional issues seemed to be missing in our conversations, especially when it comes to discussions about assessment.

  • The Relative Importance of Questions Over Answers. When in graduate school, one professor placed less weight upon his students’ answers and far greater importance upon the questions they asked. He repeatedly commented, “That finding answers is far easier that asking meaningful questions.”  To some extent that has been a part of my grading philosophy when teaching Juniors, Seniors and Graduate students.

However, how does one assess questions in a meaningful an measurable way?

  • Intraindividual Change. Many of the assessments we discuss are either scores by which we compare students or outcomes that demonstrate specific competencies. What is missing, however, is our measuring the delta or change within the individual.

There is a whole body of literature in life span development (e.g., Paul Baltes, K. Werner Schaie, John Nesselroade) that looks at the importance of assessing interindividual differences as well as intra-individual change with respect to interindividual differences.

In practical terms, I am always challenged when I must grade a student–who demonstrated the greatest improvement—lower than the student who started and ended without demonstrating any real progress.

Any thoughts?


2 thoughts on “MODULE 06

  1. I enjoyed your responses, especially your reflection. As you know it is possible to grade based on some objective criteria or some measure of learning over time. At one point in my career I worked at a school where we tried to do both. We provided a grade for the learning performance as measured by engagement and improvement. And then we also assigned a grade based on grade-level expectations. It worked, sometimes.


  2. This dilemma challenge of delta over task specific performance is something I am grappling with in the PRD class identified in much of my responses to Module.

    Specifically, I am grappling with a student who is performing somewhere between a D & F; however, I know that her performance has improved more than most every one of my better performing students. A prime example of my quandary is two combative students: they “know” that they are correct and refuse to change opinions, behaviors, attitudes, etc.Essentially, these latter two students demonstrate at best somewhere between a negative and marginally positive delta.

    How do I grade these two students, essentially since my reputation is attached to their grade? Essentially, grading them down, based upon qualitative data, will result in a series of arguments that will definitely go up the organization ladder.


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