Whether online/hybrid or face-to-face, assessment is a vital component of student learning since it encompasses a variety of methods used to collect, synthesize, and interpret information to aid in educational decision-making (Airasian, 2000). Assessments may be evaluative in nature (i. e., course grades), or instructional (adjusting instruction to improve student learning). Effective teaching utilizes meaningful and valid assessments and constructs alignment with learning objectives. An online environment offers several advantages and challenges when implementing assessment. Below you will find some guidelines on how to create effective assessment (Gronlund, 1998).

  • Student outcomes are clearly communicated
  • A variety of assessment methods are utilized
  • Assessments are relevant and meaningful
  • An adequate student sample of performances are required
  • Assessment procedures are fair
  • Criteria for judging successful performance are clearly communicated to students in advance
  • Students receive meaningful feedback regarding strength of performance and weakness to be improved
  • A comprehensive grading and reporting system (tests, performance) must be utilized
  • Develop your student outcomes in relation to Bloom Taxonomy of Cognitive Domains. The six levels of cognitive outcomes are: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation.

Assessments may be summative or formative in nature:
  • Summative assessment (“Assessment of Learning”) is generally carried out at the end of a course or project. In an educational setting, summative assessments are typically used to assign students a course grade, and often a scaled grading system enabling the teacher to differentiate students will be used. Summative assessment falls into two categories:
    • Objective assessment typically utilizes items (multiple-choice, true/false, matching, short answer items) that have only one correct answer.
    • Performance assessment can measure higher levels of cognitive outcomes, such as application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.
  • Formative assessment (“Assessment for Learning”) is generally carried out throughout a course or project. Used to aid learning, it helps the student and teacher to find out what the student knows so that the teacher can address any areas of weakness or misconceptions in subsequent lessons. The purpose of formative assessment is to see if students have mastered a given concept and can typically be assigned a pass/fail grade (if used for grading purposes at all). Formative assessment does not always need to be conducted by the instructor; self and peer assessments are also effective in providing feedback for improved learning. Methods of formative assessment in an online/hybrid course may include group discussion, posted reflections and allowing rewrites or redos.

Align Assessments with Learning Objectives

Course assessments should evaluate how well students have mastered the objectives. These objectives should guide the choice and design of the assessments. The alignment between objectives and assessments is critical to ensuring a course is well designed.

Many types of activities can be used to assess student learning. When you select what kind of assessment activities or tools to use, it is helpful to consider the following questions:

  • What kind of activities or tools (essays, presentations, case studies) tell me about their level of competence on the learning objective?
  • How well the assessment of their work help guide students’ practice and improve the quality of their work?
  • How will the assessment outcomes guide my teaching practice?

Use a Variety of Assessment Types

In assessing online learning, it is important to create a “mix” of assessments that cover the multiple dimensions of learning that online/hybrid courses can employ. Traditional tests become a smaller part of the grade as you move towards encouraging student interaction on group projects and other activities.
Different types of assessments include:

  • Tests, Exams, Quizzes
  • Pre & Post Testing
  • Project Reports
  • Peer Reviews
  • Role Playing
  • Research Papers
  • Reflective Writing
  • Presentations
  • Discussion
  • Surveys, interviews and observations
  • Checklists
  • Group discussion
  • Case studies
  • Journals
  • Reading responses

Communicate Expectations

Students in online/hybrid courses need clear information about course requirements and instructor expectations. Therefore, develop specific grading guidelines for course assignments and activities ahead of time so student know in advance what is expected from them. For example, articulate what are appropriate responses to questions in online discussions, what is a substantive answer versus a superficial response.etc. Providing students with specific examples of the kinds of work you are looking for is helpful.

Working with an Instructional Designer

For more guidance on strengthening your online assessments we encourage you to consult with our instructional designers. Visit our Consultation page to set up a meeting.

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