Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Searching for assesment

This piece is a result of reading this blog post
There has recently been a considerable amount of controversy about employers asking for job candidates Facebook credentials in order to find out what sort of people they were, and what sort of things they got up to. 
The critical issue seems to revolve about the distinction between a users public and private life.
In practice we may be judged by the company we keep.  This issue is particularly apt because Facebook is primarily a social network, and unless I am a policeman, and my friends are mostly journalists, it’s not totally clear that this information is relevant to an employer.
Be that as it may, David Wiley of Bringham Young University  has come up with another scary evaluation metric.  How about letting your employer, or your prospective college, see your search history?  Using “Big Data” tools, this could give either power broker a deep insight into whom they are potentially entering into a long term relationship with.
I think, with a moment’s thought, that this one too comes into the too much information category, and would fail European data protection legislation on the basis of informed consent and need to know grounds.  It would also leave a potential employer open to charges of discrimination, by providing them with information on which to make a discriminatory decision.
The problem again comes in because of the umbrella nature of such a request. It grabs everything, and a lot of it is outside the scope of any possible legitimate use of the data.

Now how about if I am asking my students to do research?  Suppose I’m asking them to document their web journey in search of enlightenment on the subject using membranes to provide high altitude diesel trains with oxygen enriched air for combustion.
In this case, it could be legitimate, and could provide a valuable anti plagiarism tool.  It shows how long they were on task, It shows how efficiently they used the web, and it shows how successful they were while they were doing it.
I could potentially have a number of target websites which I expected them to find, and I could evaluate them on a richer metric which could combine time on task with success in locating information, and a subjective assessment of their search methodology. 
Because the search could be seen as coursework, and could be limited to a defined time period, we could avoid the privacy issues, which down check the more general histories covered above.   As for an employer, I could ask the candidate in advance to provide a transcript of an hour spent researching the company prior to the interview.  This could be an effective test of their skills and prior knowledge in the field. 

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