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Designing practical online assessment: Five strategies for more effective online assessment practices


University professors are working incredibly hard to quickly transition their instruction online in response to the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. Their commitment and passion have been inspiring in these times of tremendous change. Over the past few years, conversations have turned to assessments and how to move them online effectively. For over a decade, people have discussed the benefits of online assessments. Online assessment is much more than just a different approach to what we already do.

An increasing amount of research shows that diagnostic and formative tests that are well-designed and well-implemented can promote more effective learning for a variety of learners. Since the report’s publication, higher education institutions have drastically increased their digital offerings. Every station in teaching labs may now have an iPad, lecture recording, and video streaming technology that are changing remote learning alternatives.

For genuinely practical online assessment, digital infrastructure is not enough. There is a need for a solid pedagogical foundation. Here are five methods to make your online evaluation procedures more productive.

1. Ensure alignment of all teaching element

The idea is that all elements of the teaching system, including the curriculum and its intended results, the teaching strategies employed, and the assessment tasks, are aligned. You want your students to know the intended learning outcomes (ILOs); it is challenging for the learner to leave without having learned.

Regardless of the ILOs, your students will study the material they think will be covered in their assessment. By ensuring that all three elements (ILOs, teaching techniques, and evaluation) are in line with the same objective, your students’ learning and constructive alignment acknowledge this dissonance and seek to minimize it.

Although this isn’t specific to online assessments, it’s essential to consider the variety of tools available. Some devices are more flexible and customizable than others, and these are much more likely to be capable of constructive alignment.

When considering adopting a new online assessment form, check its flexibility for positive alignment before contemplating implementing it. Is it adaptable to your present ILOs and teaching strategies? Or will you need to change these two to fit the assessment?

  2. Instill students’ confidence

You must find out the best ways to increase the trust of everyone involved in learning and teaching in the effectiveness and appropriateness of computers in assessment. One of the critical areas for first-year students to develop is confidence. This likely extends to assessment too.

Although most students are adaptive and open to new experiences, we shouldn’t assume they will understand everything immediately, especially in the first term. Think about whether each assessment needs to be summative or formative and how high you want the stakes to be.

Students may find it challenging to get used to a new format for an online assessment, so consider whether you need to offer shorter “trial” assessments to get students used to the new design and make sure requirements are clear and common “tripping points” are acknowledged and clarified.

  3. Personalize your feedback

In student satisfaction with their course discussions, feedback nearly always comes up. The “holy trinity” of feedback is personalized, immediate, and consistent. Before the online assessment, these three were mutually exclusive. There was always a balancing act individually tailored between quick, general feedback and detailed specific feedback.

For practical online assessments, feedback should be personalized, immediate, and consistent. Tools like Moodle quiz questions often provide various feedback options. You may get more flexibility from other bespoke packages. Intelligently designed online assessments and sample data from previous years can help.

 ‍4. Utilize learning analytics

The collection, analysis, and reporting of data produced by students interacting with their digital learning environments are known as learning analytics. The objective is to comprehend and enhance the learners’ experience.

Learning analytics has enormous potential to improve the student experience by providing targeted and personalized support and assistance to each student. For this purpose, online assessments are essential because it can be difficult to tell whether students complete assignments on time or at the last minute. What were the questions students had the most trouble with, and what were the typical wrong answers?

You may get a general sense, but data resolution is much higher online. It helps optimize your online assessments for a broader view of topics which might need further exploration to ensure sufficient depth of understanding.

 5. Check accessibility

Online tests allow students to finish their assignments whenever and wherever is most convenient for them, successfully overcoming obstacles like distance, disabilities, or illnesses. However, you can only reach these benefits if the requirements and deadlines are fair and it laid out to students.

In addition, even the most excellent online assessment in the world will not help students learn if they cannot access or understand how to use it. Students might not have much trouble embracing a new technology if given the proper instruction. But there could, however, be learning curve issues if the resources are not intuitive. You will enhance the effectiveness of your students’ experience if you prepare new assessments in advance, so you have time to familiarize them.

 Takeaway and reflection

If introduced appropriately, online assessments can support constructive alignment and instill confidence in students at all course stages. Also, adopting assessment technology can provide other benefits, including better feedback, learning analytics, and accessibility.

Have you recently improved your online assessment techniques? If yes, how successful has it been, and what measures are you using to determine this? If not, what do you believe to be your main “point of conflict”, and which item from the list above may have the most significant impact?


"The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet "- Aristotle.

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