Topics Map > Online Instruction > Designing Online Courses
Assessment and measurement
This document is part of a larger collection of documents on online instruction from the Center for Teaching, Learning and Mentoring's Instructional Resources KnowledgeBase. See more online instruction documents from that collection.
Assessments are fundamental to the learning experience. They are the tools by which the instructor measures the degree to which the students have achieved the stated learning objectives of a course, unit, or content. Assessments may take many forms, including instructor assessment of the student, student self-assessment, and peer assessment. Instructors are encouraged to include a variety of assessment methods, such as quizzes or exams, papers, projects, online discussions, journals, case studies, or presentations—to name a few.
Why it is important
Assessment is important for both online course instructors and their students. Without assessments, online instructors would have difficulty determining whether or not their students have achieved mastery of the course content. Thus, assessments are a critical component of the online course, to which instructors should devote considerable planning and development time. From the online student’s perspective, assessments help them gauge the level and quality of their learning. Knowing which learning objectives or competencies they have fully mastered and still need to work on provides students with important feedback and identifies opportunities for improvement.
How to put it into practice
There are three primary forms of assessment of student learning. Each should be used strategically depending on the type of material and the timeframe for the assessment:
Diagnostic assessments capture students’ prior knowledge and misconceptions on a given topic to pinpoint their strengths and areas needing improvement before the course, unit, or learning activity begins. Also known as a “pre-assessment,” they can provide instructors with the information to adjust the course or learning activity according to students’ prior knowledge. This assessment can also help instructors identify what content needs to be taught, mastered, or discussed within the course.
In other words…
A diagnostic assessment answers the question: How will student prior knowledge be assessed?
Examples of diagnostic assessments:
Formative assessments measure current student learning and areas needing improvement to provide feedback that can be used developmentally as the course progresses. Also known as Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs), they enable instructors to determine what and how students are learning to plan instruction and learning activities better. In addition, formative assessments can help students use the results to adjust and improve their learning. This type of assessment may be used in either small or large increments as the course progresses; for example, a discussion post may be required following an online lecture or a one-minute paper may be assigned after students complete a required course activity.
In other words…
A formative assessment answers the question: How will feedback to assess student progress be provided?
Examples of Formative Assessments:
- Concept Maps
- Drafts/Outlines of Papers/Plans/Proposals
- Educational Games
- Mid-Course Evaluation
- Muddiest Point
- One Sentence Summary
- Online Discussions
- Peer Review
- Professor Bettis (University of Iowa) use of Calibrated Peer Review
- Practice Activities
- Practice Quizzes with Feedback
- Self-Check Quiz
- Stages/Drafts of ePortfolio
- Student Generated Test Questions
- What’s the Principle
A summative assessment might be a final exam or it might be an authentic assessment where students apply knowledge to a real-world scenario. For example, a business student may be asked to create a balance sheet or a journalism student might produce a newscast.
In other words…
A summative assessment answers the question: How will student understanding, usually toward a grade, be determined?
Examples of summative assessments
Examples of assessments
The following table provides examples of diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments and links to resources and samples.
Please note: Not all listed technologies are officially supported by the university.