Monday, May 22, 2006

Version 8 Competencies

The competencies tool in Desire2Learn is a very ambitious undertaking. It looks incredibly powerful, it appears to be well thought out, and it appears to have more functionality than we are ready for. However, that's fine with me since I prefer to have more power than I need rather than less.

It is somewhat difficult to describe this tool. Whatever you choose to say first about it is probably not the most important feature. Here is my concern about this tool: it has so many facets, so many possibilties, and operates at so many levels; that we are going to need a huge amount of training in order to utilize this tool beyond the most basic level.

This tool is all about assessing student learning, but it is not a quiz tool, or a grading tool, or anything like that. It is a tool that has the capabilities to do what we have to do in higher ed, but mostly are not doing --- assessment of student learning from when they enter our doors until they leave. The problem is that this type of assessment is a daunting task.

The competencies tool could be used to track student achievement of course outcomes in one semester, program outcomes and college-wide outcomes over several (or many) semesters, or even the achievement of a particular sets of tasks. Basically, it appears to be customizable to track achievement of anything that you want it to.

This tool is brand new, it appears to be very robust, and it can be a little scarey. I'm thinking that faculty and designers/techologists are going to need a great deal of training in order to get real value out of this tool. Let me be clear...IMO, the training will be necessary because it is a powerful and deep toolset, not because it has a complexity or user-unfriendliness that will require a great deal of training. Let me put it a different way, it appears to me that people will only use the top-level (easiest) features of this tool if they are left to learn this on their own. They will need to see the full range of possibilities in an effective demo if they are going to make full use of this tool.

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