This week in CEP 813 we examined and compared the affordances of free Content Management Systems (CMSs) through the lens of assessing student learning. I chose to compare Weebly for Education, COURSEsites by Blackboard, and Haiku Learning. The results of my critical review of the three sites listed can be found in this spreadsheet.
Based upon my analysis of these three CMSs, I have chosen to use Haiku Learning to create my CMS assessment. The main reason I chose Haiku Learning is because it not only had all of the redeeming qualities and capabilities I was looking for in the assessment framework, but it also was very user friendly- from an instructor and student perspective. All three sites appeared to offer unique and differentiated options for assessing students-formative and summative, but I was most impressed with the design and usability of Haiku Learning. For example, Haiku Learning offers the following options that could easily be used to assess student learning: 1) discussion forums, 2) dropbox submission, 3) surveys, 4) rubrics, 5) learning portfolios, and 6) peer and self assessment tools. However, I did find that COURSEsites by Blackboard offered perhaps more specific options for collaborative group work, like assigning roles and jobs, but it was much more difficult to navigate and set up than both Weebly for Education and Haiku Learning, which made the features not worth it to me. I felt like Haiku Learning‘s traditional and non-traditional assessment tools worked harmoniously within the framework design and flowed well with content, opposed to Weebly for Education and COURSEsites by Blackboard where I spent a lot of time clicking around in different places to utilize and create different assessment types, but again, that is a design issue not an issue of whether or not the features exist. I am just a huge believe in USEFUL and USEABLE tools, and the challenging design framework in both Weebly for Education and COURSEsites by Blackboard made some of the features and tools less USEABLE.
Since assessment should inform teaching and learning and in many ways drive our instruction, I was pleased to see the various options for feedback in relation to the assessment type. Some sort of gradebook feature is available on each of the CMSs I reviewed, keeping both parents and students informed and up to date. Additionally, through various multimedia tools and options on each of the sites, students are able to express themselves creatively and receive direct feedback via comments from their instructors and peers. For example, in math class, I like to utilize GeoGebra as a teaching, learning and assessing tool. Unless I used a link to a new page for each GeoGebra activity, I would need to be able to embed Java applets into my site. Having learned to navigate Weebly for Education quite well over the past few years and through my explorations with Haiku Learning the past few weeks in both this course and CEP 820: Teaching Students Online, I know I am able to embed Java applets into both of these sites; however, I was not able to figure out how to embed Java applets into COURSEsites by Blackboard. I don’t want to say it isn’t possible, though, because I am still learning to navigate the site and it’s tools. To view a GeoGebra lesson I created on Weebly with a Java applet embedded in the site page, check out my webpage on quadrilaterals and technology. Feel free to play around with the Java applet 🙂
Another great feature I was surprised to find is that all three sites offered an equation editor. As a math teacher, that was a feature I looked for right away. Having created online assessments using a shifty equation editor in Schoolnet for over three years now, I have become all too familiar with writing an equation in Microsoft Word, taking a screenshot of the equation, uploading the PNG file to the assessment question, and then repeating for additional assessment questions as needed. This daunting process is something I would definitely want to avoid while developing an online math course because we use equations so often in math class. As far as I can tell, the equation editors in each of the three sites appear to be up to par and don’t require coding like the equation editor in Schoolnet does.
Moving forward, the plan is to create a collaborative formative assessment activity using Haiku Learning and GeoGebra that allows learners to explore the Pythagorean Theorem. My Math 8 students will work together in a collaborative group space, using GeoGebra to explore and develop an informal proof of the Pythagorean Theorem. Through this activity I will be able to monitor and direct learning by providing feedback and stimulating discussion conversation, allowing my learners to eventually demonstrate their understanding of the Pythagorean Theorem. In the assessment, students will go on to become “Problem Writers” posting a real-world question involving the Pythagorean Theorem for their peers to read. Then, they will go on to review and respond to at least three questions posted by their classmates. This will foster collaboration between the students while also assessing students’ understanding of the Pythagorean Theorem (the question they write) and it’s application (their ability to solve their classmates real-world questions).