1.1 Unit design
Welcome to Evaluating technology. The overarching aim of this unit is to present a body of knowledge that leads to a full understanding of the why, where, when, what, how and who of technology evaluation and assessment. The objective is to do this in a thought-provoking but accessible, instructive and useable form. The approach to the design and application of the unit has been heavily influenced by two interrelated arguments. The first is that a fundamental feature of the contemporary environment (i.e. the context) of almost every type of evaluation and assessment is its complexity. The second is that we subscribe fully to the view that ‘effective practical evaluation must be future action-directed, have both scientific and stakeholder credibility, and take an holistic approach.’ (Chen, 2005, p. 234).
Acceptance of these two arguments has two important implications for the design of the unit. First, the choice of material presented in this unit is largely generic to evaluation and assessment rather than technology specific. However, to demonstrate the importance of this material, we have either applied it to specific technological examples or provided activities that require you to do so. Second, as you work your way through this unit you will find that, in addition to the voluntary self-assessment questions (SAQs), there is a compulsory element to your active engagement with the ideas, theories, concepts and arguments that sit at the heart of this unit. This comes in the form of frequent wiki-based activities that require you to undertake research and analysis centred on either real-life case studies supplied with the unit or, where appropriate, cases of your own choosing. These activities are included as a direct response to the two arguments set out above in that they are designed to ensure you engage fully with the complexity of evaluation and assessment and to provide an action-orientated – and therefore applied – dimension to your studies. The unit team has compensated for this compulsory activity by reducing the amount of printed matter you need to read.Acceptance of these two arguments has two important implications for the design of the unit. First, the choice of material presented in this unit is largely generic to evaluation and assessment- rather than technology-specific. However, to demonstrate the importance of this material, we have either applied it to specific technological examples or provided self-assessment questions (SAQs) and activities that require you to do so. These are design to engage you with the ideas, theories, concepts and arguments that sit at the heart of this unit.
Identify a technological product you purchased recently, e.g. an iPod, a high-definition television, a car or a washing machine. Note down the pros and cons you considered when you purchased the item and looked at alternatives to it. Try to list at least ten points overall.
Keep your notes from this activity as you will need them later.