The course I examined was the “Full Stack Web Development Specialization” course offered by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. This course has many similarities to COMP 4621 – Web Information Systems that Open Learning will begin offering in 2016. The learning outcomes for the HKU course appear to be focused on achieving and demonstrating what are termed “multistructural” skills in Bigg’s SOLO taxonomy – the course materials do not appear to be directed towards achieving learning outcomes that would be classified as “relational” or “extended abstract”.
Student learning in the course is assessed through quizzes, group projects and a final capstone project. Students are expected to pull together the fact-based skill they learn through the course to build a functional web site and a mobile application. It is the latter assignment, specifically demonstrating solving the same business problem using different technologies (e.g. web and mobile) that allows the student to demonstrate leaning that is classified as a multistructural response.
For the online HKU course, the learning outcomes and the assessment are aligned in that the courses teach specific skills and the student is expected to demonstrate an understanding of those skills through software constructed by the student. The difficulty in constructing the required software is that the student is expected to combine concepts leaned in the course. However, the degree to which the student is able to integrate these concepts is not measured.
In a typical module in the course series, students are expected to “Demonstrative an understanding…” and to “Build and configure…” These activities require at best a multistructural response. If they were rewritten to state that “Students will apply their understanding…” and “Students will create and generalize…
David Kumka is a former high school teacher and college instructor who left teaching some time ago. After spending the last 30 odd years as an IT consultant, and stopping along the way to pick up and M.Sc. in IT and a Ph.D. in Information Systems, David has returned to teaching as an OLFM. And is quite happy to be back!
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