The Need For Assessment

T14 b

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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.