Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Can we really quantify learning?

The recent developments in the US in Competency Based Education (eg Wisconsin and SUNY) may well signal the start of a movement away from "seat-time" towards a measurement of what students actually know or can do.  Personally, I think this is a positive development as it will enable disaggregation of the learning and assessment processes and thus incentivise competition and innovation in the facilitation of learning.  However, it does beg the following question.  If we no longer measure learning in terms of student effort, how will we quantify how much learning goes into a qualification?  In the US a 4-year degree requires 120 credit-hours of courses and in the EU it requires 240 ECTS.  The Bologna agreement has required that European institutions standardise both the volume and level of content in such degrees.  In my limited experience of institutions it seems that it is the academic's subjective view of what content can be realistically covered in the time available that determines how much content goes into a particular course or module and the practice of using external academics in the process of programme approval acts as an equaliser between institutions.

So if we move away from seat-time, what other technique have we available to us to define the quantity of material that goes into a course?  I recently posed that question to an Educational Measurement group with over 5,000 members in Linkedin and no real response emerged?  Could it be that this issue has not been addressed?