Online Assessment Software: Does it Work?

As educators we want to ensure the highest quality learning for our students. One way educators measure this learning is by assigning grades to the students. What makes one student more successful than another: study time, reading the textbook, practicing problems, study groups? Is there a better way to measure whether learning is actually occurring and whether or not the learning objectives of the course are being met?

Technology is beginning to play a larger role in education. Many courses today have moved to either a hybrid/blended format of course presentation or entirely online. A hybrid/blended course differs from an online course in that there are still in-class meetings that encompass at least 50% of the course. This allows students the opportunity to absorb more of the material prior to class, leaving class time for more productive activities that allow students to apply the knowledge they have attained through online eLectures, group discussions, study groups, etc.

The introductory accounting courses are typically required of all business majors. These courses set the foundation for future accounting majors but are also the only exposure that other business majors will have with the field of accounting. Students typically begin in financial accounting and progress to managerial accounting. However, not all students follow through this particular progression. Some students transfer from another college or university and will end up taking the two introductory accounting courses at two different institutions. Therefore, some students may be more familiar with the online options available to them when entering managerial than others; depending on the institution they transfer in from.

Do assessment software packages effectively assess learning? We assign homework to our students and each student, no matter what their level of mastery, must complete the entire assignment. This can seem like busywork to some students and they become bored with the topics and may decide that accounting is not for them because it is not challenging them enough. For others, they only learn the process by practicing and practicing the problems/exercises. Software assessment packages continue to morph; with artificial intelligence integrated into the software, students now complete an assessment prepared by the instructor. Once they can show mastery in the topics covered they are finished. Therefore, students are no longer mandated to complete ten homework problems: students who have prepared prior to an assignment should easily complete the assessment presented by the software. However, students that are not well prepared prior to attempting an assessment will likely not succeed on the first, second or third attempt and will be required to practice more with the system until they can prove proficiency in the topics.

Is this the wave of the future in all fields of education? Is this an accurate way of measuring learning? Does the old methods of practice, practice, and more practice still hold fast and true as the only way to learn accounting?

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