Why Grade Students on Test Scores When You Can Grade Them on Klout Scores?

It appears that teachers are using all kinds of alternative grading methods these days. Yesterday on Technapex we talked about teachers who award badges instead of grades, and today we’re sharing the story of a professor who doesn’t base his semester grades on students’ test scores, but instead on their Klout scores.

Klout scores measure a person’s online influence. Klout has created an algorithm that tracks your activity across different social media websites and then determines a score based on not just the amount of content you produce across these sites, but how others within your social networks respond to that content.

University of North Carolina professor Ryan Thornburg describes in Mediashift’s Idea Lab  his experience grading students in his Social Media for Reporters class on their Klout scores. Thornburg writes:

The least favorite part of my job is grading students, so this semester I decided to outsource some of it….Boiling a semester’s worth of effort and accomplishment down into a single number has always seemed to me to have a certain false sense of precision to it. More than once I’ve looked down at the end of the semester and wondered to myself how one student or another ended up with a grade that was so much worse — or better — than I would have handed out just based on gut instinct.

Thornburg describes how this semester, 20 percent of each students’ grade will be based on how his or her Klout score goes up, and those will be measured on a curve. He ties the problem he has with grades to the problem many people have with Klout and other social media metrics tools: that boiling a person’s overall social media activity down to one number seems overly simplistic and possibly inaccurate.

Figuring out how to raise their grades will be tricky for his students, notes Thornburg, as Klout’s algorithm for calculating scores is not made public. So how will students possibly be able to raise their grades when they have no idea what these seemingly arbitrary scores are based on? This, says Thornburg, is the key to lesson he’s trying to teach this semester:

How is that possibly fair to students who are struggling to raise this arbitrary number that’s contrived inside a black box? It’s fair because it transforms the class from a workshop on button-pushing to an exercise in hypothesis testing, strategy and critical thinking. Students — who often approach grades with calculating economy of effort — don’t know what they have to do to boost their Klout scores, so they are forced to design simple experiments, isolate variables, and generalize their findings.

Thornburg will of course provide instruction about how these social networks work  and convey to his students the importance of using social media as reporters over the course of the semester. But perhaps the most valuable lesson Thornburg is teaching his students is the importance of critical thinking, and with his clout — er, Klout — he might influence other instructors to do the same.

Read the rest of Thornburg’s article here. Readers, would you take a course in which you were graded on your Klout? Sound off in the comments below!

Caity Doyle

Caity is a former English teacher and the editor of Technapex. Caity is extremely passionate about education and is TriplePoint PR's resident edtech expert. When not researching education policy and edtech, she enjoys running along the Bay Trail while blaring the Boss through her headphones, watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, and meeting fellow Italians in North Beach.

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About Caity Doyle

Caity is a former English teacher and the editor of Technapex. Caity is extremely passionate about education and is TriplePoint PR's resident edtech expert. When not researching education policy and edtech, she enjoys running along the Bay Trail while blaring the Boss through her headphones, watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, and meeting fellow Italians in North Beach.
  • http://www.sumpto.com/ Benjamin Kosinski

    The professor is using an algorithm that measures the social influence of anyone with a social network; how can that be applied to such a unique and specific demographic as college students? Whereas Klout uses this one huge algorithm to measure the social influence of everyone, Sumpto is able to incorporate certain unique metrics into the algorithm that provides a more specific measurement of influence pertaining to college students. If you’re a college student, how can the same algorithm measure your influence in the same manner as a 50 year old blogger?

    • CaityDoyle

      Hi Benjamin, thanks for your comment! I’d never heard of Sumpto before you mentioned it. Seems like that would be a much more accurate measure of college students’ social influence. However, these students are learning to use social media as reporters and journalists in the course, so perhaps Thornburg is trying to prepare them for “real world” social media.

      • http://www.sumpto.com/ Benjamin Kosinski

        Thanks, yes we launched just a few months ago. And to your last point, I would say they already are reporters and journalists- on fashion, on social events on campus, on sports, and most notably-on each other. This type of peer influence in such connected-and secluded- groups can’t really be found anywhere else, so I think they deserve and warrant an algorithm specific to their demographic.