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Instructors use assessments to gauge the success of the learners’ achievement of the stated learning outcomes of a course. Having that assessment online doesn’t change that primary intention. However, online assessments mean different things to different people. Some see it as a potential for efficiency with automated marking; others are worried about the implications of cheating and using technology to sidestep active learning; still others regard it as an opportunity to redesign their assessments as they move from the in-class to the online environment. As you design your assessments for your course, you need to keep all these things in mind.

In addition to conditions imposed by the online format, instructors likely have their own criteria for assessments such as the requirements of accreditation bodies, industry demands, and traditions within a program or department.  Finally, assessments need to be realistic, feasible, and in line with both student and instructor expectations.

Whatever route you take, there are a few general principles to serve as your guide for creating assessments. They apply to both the in-class and online environments, but with online you need to think of how to apply these principles using different approaches and tools.

Assessments should:

  • relate to the stated learning outcomes
  • reflect the teaching approach
  • draw from the resources you’ve used for the course
  • measure student progress and success

Share information about the assessments with your students. This includes grading criteria and expectations for the format, style, and scope. Use a variety of assessments rather than rely on a single opportunity.

To ensure that your students understand the course materials, your assessment strategy should act as a checklist for what you hope students will achieve in your course. For each of these questions you should list the technique or strategy that you follow, as well as any online tools used.

Rather than wait until the end of the development process, you can start developing questions (and whatever other forms of assessment you will employ) as soon as you begin developing your course materials. Starting while the course material is fresh in your mind will ensure that you can capture your best ideas before you forget them and go on to the next course section. Also, you won’t have to scramble at the end of the project to find suitable questions, exercises, or case studies. Don’t put off this crucial part of the success of an online course!

Assessment Resources

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