Building KU's Teaching and Learning Community

Covid-19 inspires innovation in assessment
Kissan Joseph, Marketing

Given testing limitations induced by Covid-19, I introduced a new assessment format in my MBA-level course on Marketing Management this fall: open-book, take-home unit assessments administered every two weeks, Friday 8 AM to Saturday 5 PM, in lieu of examinations. 

There are three features that distinguish this approach to assessment. First, after discussing a topic, I can now assign a fairly comprehensive reading and gauge understanding and application via a series of reflective questions. For example, I recently assigned an article on the design of digital paywalls at The New York Timesthat was published in one of our leading research journals, Management Science, in August 2020. While students are not expected to grasp the finer econometric details, they are fully responsible for understanding the issues investigated and the key empirical findings pertaining to paywall design. In particular, they are questioned on the trade-offs associated with the porosity of the digital paywall, the sampling benefits of providing free articles, and the likely shifts in monetization strategy occurring at newspapers all across the county. Pedagogically, this yields a richer internalization of the topic of paywall design.   

Second, the take-home format markedly reduces student stress.  I am beginning to experience a brighter environment in class instead of the familiar dread that arises at mid-terms. This relaxed atmosphere, in turn, is generating a higher level of curiosity and participation. While I encourage individual completion of all assessments to maximize private learning, I do not disallow collaboration. The overarching goal is not to sort students but to provide opportunities for learning and maturation, however they may occur.   

Finally, this assessment format inculcates the skills required for the problem-solvers of tomorrow. Specifically, it imbues the ability to cull insights from technical reports. It gets learners to articulate trade-offs facing managers. And, it stimulates broader, strategic thinking as students grapple with issues that have no easy answers.  

Selfishly, this deeper pedagogical approach, the relaxed atmosphere, and a focus on preparation for tomorrow has invigorated my teaching efforts. I am getting my fix!


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