But … but … that’s not what I said

I’m coming to the end of week three of Coursera’s statistics one course, and this week we’ve been looking at regression and hypothesis testing. Once again, the subject matter has been very good. I’ll need to take a closer look at getting the regression coefficients using matrices to make sure I fully understand it, but apart from that it’s been a good week. I still have the quiz and assignment to do, but that’s a job for the weekend.

Last weekend, I did the quiz and assignment for week two, with a rather critical error becoming apparent: the answers recorded by the system didn’t match the answers I submitted. Yes, that’s right, the online marking system (from an organisation top-heavy with computer scientists) doesn’t record a student’s submissions correctly. I became aware of this when looking back at previous attempts to try and work out which questions I was getting wrong so I could go back and look at the data analysis again. I posted to the forum to report the issue and received an email saying that a solution was being worked on and would be applied to existing submissions retrospectively. Surely this was tested before deployment? In which case, how did such a fundamental bug get past testing? Can you imagine how frustrated and angry students would be getting if they were only allowed one attempt and a completion certificate was being offered? Last week I said:

  • Is is too much to ask that something as well funded as Coursera using video as the primary teaching method could actually produce videos without errors in them?

to which I can add this week:

  • Is it too much to ask that when using an automated online marking system it marks what I actually submitted?

Week three and again the quality of the subject matter is being let down by pedagogy and planning issues.

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3 thoughts on “But … but … that’s not what I said

  1. Did you get full marks for the week 1 assignment? I’m in the significant group of students who didn’t, and don’t understand why; and I’m astonished at the lack of response from either the course team or Coursera staff to this issue which clearly affects well over 100 students (and probably many more). The stress associated with not being quite sure whether to write this off as a grading error or continue to worry at it on the assumption that I have a misunderstanding puts me off even attempting future assignments!

  2. PS I wonder whether its misrecording of your answers is connected to the reordering they do of MCQ answers in different presentations of the assignment questions? If so, then its root cause is something I see as a fundamental mistake Coursera have made: they are trying to pretend that there is some kind of integrity in their assessment process. There isn’t; assessment for learning is absolutely the only thing they can aim for, as there is no way on earth anyone can trust that Jo Bloggs’ recorded results are evidence of Jo Bloggs’ understanding of the subject matter. So they ought to stop worrying about cheating and go all out for making the assessment as helpful as it can be for students who are honestly trying to learn.

  3. Hi Perdita,
    I agree. With the courses as currently presented assessment for learning should be the aim, but whether that is the aim is a different question, particularly since at some point they’re going to have tag on some business model. I’ll quite happily learn something simply for the joy and intellectual challenge of learning something new, so I find it difficult to work out why someone would cheat on something that is essentially a ‘no-stakes’ assessment, i.e. no qualification, no completion certificate, indeed little output except the capabilities of the learner before and after.

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