ICT and formative assessment in the learning society

Abstract: In the 1930s and 1940s, less than one percent of the Swedish population were in higher education. By the beginning of 1990s this proportion had reached 2.4%. During the 1990s, however, a new economic current flowed in Swedish higher education. A period of general economic stringency brought the costs of higher education under scrutiny. Further expansion, therefore, was to be accompanied by a reduction of unit costs. A discourse of expansion was to be joined by discourse of efficiency. By the end of the 1990s, however, an efficiency discourse based on quality assurance was facing difficulties. The educational merits of the efficiency reforms were not easily discerned.A new educational - or pedagogical - emphasis emerged. Quality and effectiveness were to be augmented via ‘quality enhancement processes’ and by ‘mobilising the inner resources’ of each institution. The emphasis of such thinking was on development of institutional practices that ‘best favour the development of activities’ that, in turn, lead to the ‘best long-term outcomes in teaching and research’.For these reasons, the student body had entered a new world by the start of the third millennium. The proportion of traditional students was matched by the proportion of non-traditional students. These changes, demographic and economic, represented a challenge to policy-makers and practitioners in Swedish higher education. Was it possible to ‘mobilise inner resources’ to meet the challenge of this new body of students?This thesis focuses on one of the responses to this challenge – the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) as an integral part of the pedagogics of higher education. Can ICT, therefore, become an add-in rather than an add-on to higher education. In particular, this thesis focuses not on teaching in general but, rather on an add-in issue; that is, can formative assessment be used as an integral support for learning. Five papers provide perspectives on this response; and the introduction sets the scene by identifying the key ideas that hold the studies together, reporting the development projects that were used to clarify these ideas; clarifying the events and ideas which governed the preparation of the five papers; and, finally, summarising the conclusions that arise from my research.The landscape of learning, like the physical landscape, is constantly changing. But are these changes superficial? Are they the result of ideas and tools that merely till the surface of the learning landscape? Or do these tools contribute to shaping the new knowledge that is expected of the learning society? This thesis explores these overarching questions. It concludes that the distinction between ICT as add-on or as an add-in remains central to the organisation of formal education in Sweden.