Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Moodle Competencies / Student Learning Outcomes

MoodleMootUS2015 (#MootUS15) was held this past week at the U of Mn Minneapolis campus. In his keynote Martin Dougiamus offered encouragement to all who have been longing for Moodle to finally make the reporting of student learning outcomes, or competencies, something that is easy to do and makes sense.  Note that I said encouragement. Martin didn’t say when the useful reporting of student learning outcomes in Moodle will actually happen, but he and a lot of other people are working on it.

Moodle has had the idea of student learning outcomes defined for many years.  It’s just that those  outcomes currently can’t be aggregated beyond the course level.  So, outcomes in Moodle are currently not something useful for anyone other than the teacher of a particular course which makes them not very useful.  As they are now, Moodle outcomes don’t provide information to program coordinators, to department chairs, to Academic Deans, to principals, to superintendents, to any of the people other than the teacher who might be interested in who is learning what.

Reporting student learning outcomes based on assessments of student learning as evidenced by work submitted via the Moodle LMS will make life easier for lots of people when it finally becomes available.  After spending time everyday last week talking to Moodle people about student learning outcomes I understand better why this hasn’t happened, yet.  Most of the people at the Moodle Moot were the IT developer types; there were very few people who were in the academic leadership of their institutions.  And, therein lies the explanation for why useful kinds of reports of student learning outcomes hasn’t happened, yet - the academic leaders don’t really understand what’s possible, and the IT developers are hesitant to make what’s possible a reality until they get some direction from academic leadership.

Reporting student learning outcomes beyond the course level alters the way lots of things in academic institutions have always been done.  This is not something that just impacts online learning or hybrid learning; reporting student learning outcomes is a systemic change.  It’s a change that won’t happen without leadership at the highest levels of an academic institution.  The reporting of student learning outcomes that can be sorted and filtered in a variety of ways is a change that is coming and will be a good thing once it’s available. The logical place to start is with those programs that have already clearly defined the desired student learning outcomes of their programs.  In higher ed that’s the professional prep programs:  teacher training, nursing, social work, health services, and  technical trade programs.  In K12, most areas have defined learning outcomes, but standardized testing has been falsely offered as a way to find out what students are learning.  So, the reporting of learning outcomes based on assignments created by teachers will need to compete with standardized testing.  That systemic change is possible, but will likely take more time because there are still way too many people who think that standardized tests are the same things as tests based on standards. The real sense of possibility in the air just below the Falls of St Anthony this past week gave me hope that we'll soon see student learning outcomes reporting in Moodle even though a firm date wasn't promised.