The issue of assessment, and finding alternative ways to provide assessment in MOOCs is a key issue. Some interesting alternatives were identified by Fabian Schumann, of iversity, at the recent Bartlett/ UCL symposium on "Beyond MOOCs".

Open Assessment and Value Creation
This symposium raised the issue, yet again, of assessment in open learning and, in particular, in MOOCS. There are two further approaches to assessment and value creation which are worth considering:

  • Mapping open learning onto assessment criteria, and
  • Mapping learner experience and designer expectations.

Mapping open learning onto assessment criteria
I was involved with the management and accreditation of a programme at Portsmouth University a few years ago, the Learning at Work / Partnership Programme, which enables students to use learning done outside Portsmouth - or outside any university - and get credit for it towards a university degree. I also created the first online versions for some of the modules.

Mapping learning onto assessment is quite different from the Certificates of Attendance or Badges, or even online examinations that are being tried out in some MOOCs.

The principles are:

1. Accreditation for Higher Education (HE) takes place in formal institutions.

2. Learning takes place in many settings: formal education, informal learning, work-place learning, community-based learning, MOOCs, social media, etc.

3. All this learning is recognised as potentially valid. The questions are: how to map this learning onto the assessment and certification criteria of HEI's, how to certify it, and how to avoid substantial increases in cost, if this is all done by the HEI .

4. The solution is a partnership between the HE Institution and the learner, in which the learner is taught how to understand the assessment models, documents and requirements of the HEI; gather valid evidence to demonstrate this learning, and then map the learning evidence against the assessment outcomes.

5. The university then checks that this mapping and the evidence is satisfactory, and if so, awards the student credit for that particular course. The student can gain credit for several courses in this way.

The value of this approach is:

1. Learning does not have to be constrained by assessment. The course can be as open as you like, and you can still offer traditional assessment for those who want it, and want to pay for it. You can offer certificates of completion and badges too. But those people who just want to learn in a MOOC, and who like to be able to think about whether they would like to map their learning onto an assessment framework at a later stage (using learning they have done in one - or even more than one - MOOC) have the freedom to do so.

2. Learning for its own sake changes the way people learn and interact, promotes cooperation and collaboration in a MOOC, and puts control of learning into the learner's hands. It also provides the lecturer / facilitator with a unique cohort of students, who only stay and participate as long as it provides them with something of value.

3. Mapping learning onto assessment does not have to be done in the same institution - a principle, it seems to me, that underlies iversity's 'European' approach (and such mapping could be done onto assessment frameworks in other countries too).

This makes 'open learning' an opportunity for the learner, and challenges HE institutions, and ASP platforms like Coursera and Futurelearn to be genuinely open - for the learner, not primarily for their own venture capitalist shareholders, because it cuts the ties between learning and assessment and institutions.

4. Mapping learning onto assessment in this way is not confined to providers of MOOCs. It can be done by any accrediting and certifying institution that is prepared to go down this route. This means that the work that an institution does to set this up can have immediate benefits for mapping from the work-place, informal learning, learning in emergency settings, and so on.

Mapping learner experience and designer expectations

Open learning provides unique opportunities for independent initiative and creativity, collaborative discovery and emergent learning. To understand our own practice as participants, researchers, and as designers, we need new frameworks, new approaches, and new tools to share and value knowledge about it.

The Footprints of Emergence toolkit provides both visualisations and narratives that can help learners explore, articulate and share what they value about their learning. The designer too can use the visualisation tools to map out how they envisaged the learning experience when they design the course. Researchers and evaluators can then use this information to analyse, design, and improve the value of existing and new courses.

More information on how the Footprints toolkit has been developed, and how to use the visualisation tools is available on the footprints of emergence open wiki.