The Need For Assessment: The Double-edged Sword of Online Technologies in Higher Education

By Mary Caton-Rosser, Barbara Looney and Kaitlin Schneider.

Published by Journal of Technologies in Education

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: November 26, 2014 $US5.00

Recent research shows both students and professors rushing to adapt learning and teaching activities by accessing ever-upgrading digital and social media formats like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Prezi. Many institutions of higher education are embracing social media as viable, student-centered-classroom communication tools in a full range of subject disciplines, as well as in emerging interdisciplinary activities that prepare students for current trends in the workforce. These new communication channels offer students a direct voice in discussion and also introduce them to skills needed to operate mobile computing devices, such as tablets and portable hand-held devices. The advancing tools of online technology are also being used creatively in general communication across college campuses following standardized-use policies. The use of social media, for example, is effective in recruiting and interacting with prospective students and their parents or in expedited sharing of news or updated policies and procedures. The current endorsement of use of new technologies in a variety of ways in the higher-education setting aligns with historical enthusiasm in education for interactive classroom dialogue. Over the years, progressive and pragmatic educators, such as John Dewey, Paulo Freire, Elliot Eisner, and Larry Cuban have promoted interactive, inclusive pedagogical communication and experiential education since the early 1900s to current. Today, however, higher education faculty and their students face challenges in dealing with these same rapidly advancing online technologies—the communication channels can be double-edged swords depending on the quality of the transmitted messages and information. Well-structured curricula, lesson plans, policies, and procedures, as well as assessment and evaluation processes are integral in identifying either positive or negative outcomes from the use of social media and emerging digital technologies. Methods and assessments are key in measuring application and implementation of the new technologies. For the past year and a half, three faculty members at Black Hills State University have been conducting qualitative and quantitative research on the use of digital and social media in higher education. Assessment, evaluation, and measurement of teaching and learning—and communicating, overall—with these online tools have become primary foci in recent months. Since the beginning, the central goal has been to create awareness of digital technologies and social media as practical tools. More recently, the focus has become measuring of the learning experience and the development of curricula and policies that result in improved learning and teacher-learner communication.

Keywords: Online Technology, Social Media, Assessment

Journal of Technologies in Education, Volume 10, Issue 2, January 2015, pp.15-25. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: November 26, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 263.132KB)).

Dr. Mary Caton-Rosser

Associate Professor, Mass Communication, College of Liberal Arts, Black Hills State University, Spearfish, SD, USA

Mary Caton-Rosser has a PhD in communication (University of Colorado), a master’s degree in education (University of Wisconsin), and Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (University of Colorado), specializing in media education and media literacy through social organizing and the use of community media/journalism. Her research interests are interdisciplinary, addressing how the cultural, political and economic issues of globalizing society affect and integrate with diverse communities of learners through and with media. Caton-Rosser’s interest in studying and tracking community culture through community-based media has been integrated into her work as an independent journalist, artist and activist for over 30 years. This community-based work paralleled her career as a corporate media executive working in the photography, film and cable television industries, and consultant for publishers and practitioners of educational curricula development. Working with grants, she has developed community-based, citizen media programs for youth and adults using print, broadcast and new media.

Dr. Barbara Looney

Assistant Professor, Business Management, College of Business and Natural Sciences, Black Hills State University, Spearfish, South Dakota, USA

Barbara Looney has a PhD in English (University of Southern Florida), a Master’s in English (Rutgers University), and a Bachelor of Science in education with major in English (BHSU). She is assistant professor for two colleges. She teaches managerial communications—a persuasive business writing course—for the School of Business, and humanities—a survey of human expression—for the School of Liberal Arts. Additionally, she co-advises the Enactus student organization. Looney also holds paralegal certification (University of Maryland). Prior to her collegiate academic career, Looney worked in the private industry as a customer service representative for the Sheraton Hotel Corporation, as a Congressional legislative aid in Washington, D.C., as a corporate paralegal for law firms in Washington, D.C. and Charlotte, NC, and as the manager of a bar supply company in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Looney feels her personal experience handling customer and constituent issues, first in corporate business and then in government service, helps her connect the practical application of business coursework to real-world use. The demand for social media competency among business professionals drives her interest in research that will benefit her instruction and her students.

Kaitlin Schneider

Research Assistant, Psychology, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Black Hills State University, USA

Kaitlin Schneider is a student at Black Hills State University, anticipating graduation in Spring 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. Her interest in research began during an introduction to research methods class where her pilot test transformed into her honors senior thesis. She has been investigating how drawing effects stress levels, and more recently, how high stress affects a mock witness’s ability to identify a perpetrator from a police lineup. She also worked with the university’s psychology department through an internship where she enjoyed shadowing professors, tutoring and advising students, giving guest lectures, and attending administrative meetings. Kaitlin also gained great experience as a teaching assistant for an upper division psychology course where she assisted students in daily homework lessons and corrected assignments for the professor. To complete her college experience, Kaitlin also studied abroad for a semester in Florence, Italy where she gained a cultural perspective and experience. After graduation, she plans to apply for graduate school and pursue a career as a professor of psychology.