On Diversified Approaches to Learning Evaluation in Modern Distance Education
By Liu Renkun1,Yang Tingting2 and Wang Lina2
1. Heilongjiang Radio & TV University, Harbin, Heilongjiang 150080; 2. The Open University of China, Beijing 100039
Abstract: Modern distance education is characterized by individualized learning, digitized transmission of instruction, and provision to a diversified population. These unique characteristics call for corresponding changes in teaching concepts, teaching methods, and evaluation methods. In evaluating students' learning, there currently exist problems such as oversimplifying the evaluation or substituting examination for evaluation. The underlying causes are the lack of theoretical support for learning evaluation and the practical failure to overhaul traditional evaluation approaches. In light of the recent growth of distance education and national requirements and laws concerning distance education, it is increasingly important that we implement diversified distance learning evaluation approaches. Specifically, the evaluation approaches need to be procedurized, digitized, and comprehensive.
Keywords: diversification; distance education; evaluation methods
Chinese Library Classification Number: G434 Document Code: A
*This essay is the outcome of the 2011 Open University of China key topic "Study of the Open University of China's Personalized Learning Evaluation Services" (Topic Approval Number: G11AQ0020Z).
With the coming of the information age, it has become a trend for people to refresh their knowledge and upgrade their abilities through the Internet, fueling the rapid development of modern distance education. During the course of this development, distance education has demonstrated three features, that is, individualized learning, instruction transmitted via modern information technology, and education provided to a diversified population. Such changes in learning methods, instruction transmission and learner characteristics necessitate changes in teaching concepts, teaching methods and evaluation methods.
Schools everywhere are embracing the new concept of student-centered education. However, this new teaching concept must be embodied in the teaching process and in student support services. If traditional teaching and administration methods that are inappropriate for modern distance education and individualized learning continue to be used, student-centered education and individualized learning become empty catch phrases. It is noteworthy that distance education professionals in China have adopted some changes in teaching administration based on the unique features of distance education (particularly individualized learning), and have achieved some positive results.
1. Status quo of learning evaluation in distance education in China
All schools fundamentally aim to teach and cultivate; everything that a school does is related to the objective of equipping the student with the knowledge, abilities, and character needed to eventually become a successful member of society. Generally speaking, whether a student's improved abilities are commonly recognized during the schooling period constitutes an important prerequisite or factor for whether he or she will be successful later in society, whereas a student's success in school is determined by teaching and learning evaluation. Improvement of teaching quality is a never-ending theme in school development. Teaching quality comprises many factors, including external factors like teaching administration, teaching principles and teaching methods, as well as internal factors like the student's learning behavior, learning methods and intelligence. These factors interact with each other as a whole system in shaping teaching quality. Educational development theory and practice prove that only when each factor and each subsystem affecting teaching quality plays its due role can the whole system operate effectively and teaching quality be improved. It is well known that teaching is made up of different aspects, and evaluation of the student's learning is an indispensible one of them. Not only is it a recognition of the student's learning achievements, but more importantly it guides learning behavior and boosts the student's cognitive ability, practical ability and ability to analyze and solve problems. Therefore, learning evaluation plays an important role in improving a school's teaching quality. The reason why traditional, conclusive learning evaluation is criticized is that it no longer meets the needs of today's distance education. Furthermore, "establishing relatively independent and pluralistic standards for teaching quality evaluation and reforming the one-time examination format have become top priorities in distance education reform" . Thus, there is increasing interest in distance learner evaluation methods that focus on the learning process and effectively utilize modern information technology. Some theoretical research and practical exploration has been done by distance education researchers, instructors and administrators, formulating preliminary evaluation methods and approaches that differ from traditional ones.