The Student Assessment in Distance Learning and e-Learning Symposium was held in Chiba, Japan and was hosted by the Center of ICT and Distance Education, The Open University of Japan On February 16, 2012. Kumiko Aoki chaired the symposium which included guest speakers from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Korea and Japan. It also included a panel session to conclude the conference. In this symposium, “experts on student assessment in distance education and e-learning have been invited from U.K., Australia, Canada, Korea, and Japan to share their knowledge and opinions gained from their research and practices on student assessment to improve the quality of teaching and learning”.

Professor Mary Thorpe from Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University, UK examined the purposes of assessment and then outlined the ratio of formative (50%) and summative assessment (50%) and the importance of feedback in learning and retention particularly for distance education students. She also provided results of the National Student Survey 2011 which outlined impressive student feedback in comparison to other UK Institutions. I was the second presenter and attempted to provide an outline of the alignment between student expectations, course/degree design and assessment. I focussed on learning-oriented assessment and the importance of making the assessment task the learning task, involving students in the assessment process and providing feedback as feed-forward. I outlined a couple of cases and then the challenges of this type of assessment. The slides of the presentation can be viewed here.

Dr Christine Wihak, Director of PLAR, Open Learning/Prior Learning International Research Centre (PLIRC), Thompson Rivers University presented on Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition. The presentation focussed on reviewing, evaluating and acknowledging the information, skills and understanding that adult learners’ have gained through experiential or self-directed informal learning as opposed to formal learning. Credit is awarded for learning as opposed to experience and is assessed by experts. Professor Jin Gon Shon, Director, Digital Media Center/Professor, Department of Computer Science, Korea National Open University (KNOU) presented on student assessment trends in Korea Higher Education. There are close to 180,000 students attending KNOU. Assessment consists of a 30% mid-term exam and a 70% final exam. Jin spoke about a study being currently undertaken that checks the learning time of students or the time spent within the LMS.

Dr Yoshiko Goda from Kumamoto University Japan presented on self-regulated learning in e-learning. She discussed how assessment has an integral role in assisting students in how to learn. Self -regulation refers to the degree to which students were “metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviourally active participants of their own learning process” (Zimmerman, 1989). In particular Yoshiko concluded from her research that well-designed assessment might provide opportunities for students to control and regulate their learning. This research has implications for learning-oriented assessment and self-regulation may be an important area to follow-up. A panel session with the five guests focussed on the challenges of appropriately assessing distance learning students’ performance. Major issues included resourcing assessment, authentic assessment, employer expectations of graduates and the changing nature of assessment in the era of social media. The symposium was wonderfully organised and hosted by the Open University of Japan.

I thoroughly enjoyed my short visit to Japan and my perspectives of the short trip to Open University of Japan, Chiba and Shibuya, Tokyo can be viewed here.