Types of online assessment

Different universities make use of different learning management systems, each with its own online assessment tools. The following are three of the most widely accessible online assessment tools available on various institutional LMSs:

Online tests/quizzes

What is it?

An online test (or quiz) is a test that is created and completed on a computer or other electronic device. While most online test platforms allows for open-ended questions, such as essay type questions, it most commonly consists of objective question types. One of the biggest advantages of an online test that consists of objective question types is that it is usually set up to be marked automatically by the system, which saves a lot of time in marking! Most online test platforms allow you to set up individualised feedback per question which is important in any assessment, but often difficult when you have to assess large groups. Another advantage of online tests is the ease of analysing your results through item-analysis.

How to use it?

Online tests or quizzes are generally formative assessment activities. It can provide students with more regular opportunities to gauge whether they understand the content. Here are some ideas for using online tests as part of your overall assessment strategy:

  • Diagnostic assessment: An assessment your students have to complete at the beginning of a course to check prior knowledge.
  • Preparation quiz: A short (usually informal) quiz students have to complete before class to help them prepare for class. This works well as part of a flipped classroom as well where students have to work through content before attending class.
  • Quiz after a unit of work has been completed: to test students’ understanding of the content completed. This again does not have to be a very long test, it can consist of 10 to 20 questions about the work that has been covered in a unit / chapter.
  • Class test: If it is possible for you to conduct your class in a computer lab, you can make use of the opportunity to have your students complete a class test online. This option can also work if you have ubiquitous Wi-Fi access on your campus and if your students have access to smartphones as most online test platforms is also mobile-friendly.
  • Practical: If your students have to complete practical assessments, you can consider converting some of these to online assessments.

LMS-specific resources

Blackboard

How to add and edit quizzes, add questions, and grade quizzes in Blackboard.

Moodle

More on quiz settings, building a quiz, and using a quiz in Moodle.

Sakai

Sakai community documentation on how to use the tests and quizzes tool.

Respondus

Respondus quick start guide and user guides for various LMSs.

Assignments

What is it?

While assignments are a well-known assessment activity, having your students submit an assignment through the LMS allows additional options and flexibility. Firstly, it allows you to manage the submissions effectively as all assignments are stored in one place. It is also easy to quickly track which students did not submit the assignment. Secondly, in addition to text-based submissions, audio and/ or video submissions are possible which is especially useful in some disciplines. Since the assignment instructions are also uploaded to the LMS and need not be printed which saves printing costs for the department. Further costs are saved if the assignments are marked with a rubric online, which, in most LMSs, form part of the assignment tool.

How to use it?

Here are some ideas for using online assignments as part of your overall assessment strategy:

  • Essay: There are various types of essays (including descriptive, narrative, and critical essays) but mainly you will require your students to write an essay to convey their understanding of a topic.
  • Case study: A detailed, in-depth exploration of a phenomenon.
    Annotated Bibliography: A brief summary of a list of references together with an unbiased opinion of the credibility of the author and/ or source, as well as an evaluation of the usefulness of the source for a particular research project or task.
  • Reflection: Reflection is an important part of learning. You can require your students to reflect at different times throughout a course through a reflective journal that can be submitted as an assignment or a number of assignments. Some LMSs (like Blackboard) also has a specific tool for the submission of journals that can be used instead of the regular assignment tool.
  • Poster: Posters require students to communicate their understanding of an idea in a concise and creative way. There are several user-friendly, free online tools available to students for creating innovative posters (see additional resources). Electronic posters can be submitted as a Word/ PDF document.
  • Portfolios: are a good way to allow students to collect and organise samples of work over time (usually the duration of a course). Portfolios can consist of various media (such as images, text documents, short video and/ or audio clips) and submitted as an assignment on the LMS.
    Video/ Audio submission: Digital stories or video diaries submitted on the LMS are much easier to manage than having students submit these with a flash drive or CD for instance.

LMS-specific resources

Blackboard

Creating, grading, and downloading assignments on Blackboard.

Moodle

Quick guide to using the assignment activity on Moodle.

Sakai

Sakai community documentation on how to use the assignment tool.

General assignment resources

Ten different types of essays.

Case study method for descriptive research and its uses.

Free tools for students to create posters:

Online discussion forums

What is it?

A lecturer poses a question or puts up a topic for discussion / debate and students respond to the question / topic and can respond to other students’ responses. It is an asynchronous discussion over a set period of time, which means that unlike a chat, not everyone needs to be online at the same time. The benefits of an online discussion forum, include that it allows students to reflect before submitting a response, students learn from viewing and responding to other students, and students who may be shy or unlikely to participate in a face-to-face environment may feel more comfortable to contribute in an online environment.

How to use it?

  • Opinion based on a topic: students can read an article or case study based on the module content and then provide their opinions on certain aspects of it
  • Debate: discussion forums are an effective tool for debating a topic where students have to defend their points of view with facts and relevant references
  • WebQuest: a task that requires students to consult sources from the internet to demonstrate their understanding of a topic or to explain a concept. Also see the additional resources for ideas on how to incorporate this type of activity in your teaching
  • Role playing: students do research on a person and write entries as if they are the person they did research about.
    Informal discussion forums: More informal discussion forums where students can interact with each other about the module content are useful to create class community. If you want to use an informal discussion forum as an assessment activity, you can consider allocating a participation mark only for this type of activity.

LMS-specific resources

Blackboard

Creating and managing discussion boards on Blackboard.

Moodle

How to use the discussion forum activity in Moodle.

Sakai

Using the Forums tool in Sakai.

General discussion forum resources

How to get students to participate in online discussions.

How to facilitate robust discussions online.

The method and means to grading student participation in online discussions.

Case study of a lecturer who used a discussion forum and the lessons she learned.

Generating and Facilitating Engaging and Effective Online Discussions by University of Oregon Teaching Effectiveness Program.

More information on WebQuests.

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