At the risk of oversimplifying, we can say that there is a paradigm shift in the transmission of knowledge in the Information Society, following the digitization of information and communications.
Because of this digitization , storing and distributing content is virtually at no cost, as well as happens with accessing experts in a particular discipline or knowledge.
The concentration of knowledge and its transmission (in libraries, schools, universities), especially for reasons of efficiency is no longer critical. Thus, it is possible that education exits the institutions, that non-formal learning acquires greater relevance or that learning can be supported with new content and different platforms as usual.
Historically, training has focused not only been concentrated in space but also in time. There was a place and an age for learning, for education. This made it possible to assess the acquisition of knowledge in relatively simple ways: the evaluation process began at the final stage of education, in the place where education took place, and it then ended with the corresponding accreditation. We could, in turn, have periodical assessments to avoid a single assessment at the end of the stage, but the accreditation did remain for the end. And we had exams and titles with which we abandoned forever the education system.
When learning (there has always been learning, but it has now become more necessary, intensive and extensive than ever) no longer has a place and, above all, ceases to belong to an age: do we have the necessary tools for assessment and recognition? Examinations and qualifications, are they still valid?
Without willing to be exhaustive — how could we be in such an open question? — let us point at some key (in my opinion)
A first need is to decouple the evaluation from a specific time period. If we believe that learning is something that will happen throughout life (or life-long), we should quit the evaluation systems that focus on vital stages. e-Portfolios or virtual learning environments can help to trace the itinerant learning over time.
A second need is to decouple the evaluation from a particular place, meaning “place” the institutions of formal education. Although the terms are still quite preliminary (if not confusing), digital identity, digital presence can contribute to (dis)locate the learning that happens outside the walls of the school and that (fortunately or unfortunately) leaves indelible trace on the network and its non-spaces.
A final issue concerns the flexibility of learning, the total customization of learning processes that questions the generic solutions for evaluation. The higher this customization, the greater the need for new forms of assessment, new ways to accredit expertise. We should probably move from knowledge to competences, from content to continents.
Reputation, as something that is built little by little and, above all, in relationship to others and not to some predefined syllabuses may be both something to be assessed an a tool for assessment. In this sense, it would also enable a way of assessing that is not only vertical, held by institutions or individuals of a “system”, but rather horizontal, among peers, performed every day, wherever we are.
Article originally posted as Nuevos contenidos y nuevas plataformas de aprendizaje for a set of articles for the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival, taking place in Barcelona in 3-5 november 2010:
If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:
Peña-López, I. (2010) “Learning assessment and accreditation in the Information Society” In ICTlogy,
#85, October 2010. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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