There’s A (Digital) Outcome For That!

The more I work with faculty and students on integrating new technologies such as 3D printing and virtual reality into the curriculum, the more I think about ways we can measure learning for non-Information Literacy related competencies.

How do we know that students know how to use a 3D printer successfully? How can we measure the learning that occurred when they designed a file for upload into a visualization software package? While the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) has taken the lead on delineating national standards for Information Literacy, and more recently updated them to the Framework for Information Licaptureteracy, there isn’t quite as much information available about designing and assessing assignments that are less traditional than the ubiquitous 3-5 page research paper. I’m not sure that we will find one set of competencies to rule them all, simply because there are so many dimensions to these areas. In one seemingly straightforward activity such as creating an online presentation, you might have elements of visual literacy, creativity, and communication to name a few. But it would be interesting to try-so here goes!

What might an actual competency look like? Measurable learning outcomes are structured similarly no matter what the context. They have to explain:

  1. What the learner is able to do
  2. How the learner does it
  3. To what degree of success

ACRL has a great tool for developing these types of outcomes: http://www.ala.org/acrl/aboutacrl/directoryofleadership/sections/is/iswebsite/projpubs/smartobjectives

Applying that to a digital competency might work like this. Students will be able to create effective online presentations utilizing various free web tools by:

  • Selecting appropriate images and visual media aligned with the presentation’s purpose
  • Integrating images into projects purposefully, considering meaning, aesthetic criteria, visual impact, and audience
  • Editing images as appropriate for quality, layout, and display (e.g., cropping, color, contrast)
  • Including textual information as needed to convey an image’s meaning (e.g., using captions, referencing figures in a text, incorporating keys or legends)
  • Adapting writing purpose, style, content and format to the appropriate digital context

A sample assignment that includes those competencies might be: Create a 1-3 minute presentation on a given topic and consisting of the following elements:

  1. Must use one of these presentation tools
  2. Content must be relevant to the theme
  3. Visual design must contain at least 3-5 images or video elements. Color scheme, layout and overall design must be consistent with the guidelines mentioned above
  4. All material created by someone other than the student is given attribution in citations and used according to ethical and legal best practices

A rubric could then be developed to measure how well the presentation integrates the various elements involved:

Goal Outcome Levels Benchmark
Create effective online presentations utilizing various free web tools Select appropriate images and visual media aligned with the presentation’s purpose 0 (does not meet competency) Visual elements do not lend any value to the content and there is no overarching purpose or structure to their inclusion
1 (meets competency) Some images and media elements are integrated well  into the presentation and align with its content and purpose
2 (exceeds competency) Images and visual media significantly support the content presented and are effectively integrated into the overall presentation
At least 75% of students score a 1 or above

As we continue to forge new digital paths, we are constantly challenged to to re-define the notions of instruction, authorship and intellectual property in our ever shifting landscape of learning. I’m excited at the possibilities that digital literacy brings to student learning in this new environment, and I can only imagine the power and complexity these various assignments entail, and how much fun students (and faculty) would have in developing them.

Some additional standards to consider are: