Types of Online Assessments

What aspects of student learning can we assess online?

  • Interactivity, collaborative learning
  • Collective construction of knowledge

As an instructor, you probably use a variety of assessment methods to determine the extent to which your students have met your learning objectives. Most of these options are still available to you when you teach online, but they need to be managed differently. Furthermore, there are methods of assessment available to you in an online course that you may never have considered.

Below are online assessment methods which serve as appropriate measures of cognitive levels in Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives:

bloom MATCH

Formative Assessment

Formative assessment provides instructors and students with timely and frequent feedback on mastery of course material and learning objectives. In essence, instructors are sampling student learning and providing feedback based on the results to modify instruction and learning experience. Students can use feedback to identify areas of weaknesses for further study.

Summative Assessment

Summative assessment results are used to assign student grades and make comprehensive conclusions about mastery of course learning objectives. Even though more assignments for assessment may be better than too few, instructors need to be cautious of using an excess of assignments. If there are too many assessments, students may focus on quantity rather than quality of deeper learning.



Discussion Post (boards/blogs/chat)

  • Individuals or groups can present summaries or engage in conversation on various topics of discussion to promote interaction
  • Instructors should provide guidelines, deadlines, and discussion forum space to facilitate
  • Small groups can have one spokesperson who posts while another member can respond to questions/comments from rest of the class
  • Groups can chat or post discussion board with a goal of coming to a consensus on a problem/issue then present their consensus to rest of class in blog, video, and forum
  • All major topics need a separate topic area so students can post relevant to the topics while keeping learning objectives in mind when creating discussion topics
  • Instructors can create a new topic thread when there is an interesting topic you want to emphasize from previous student discussion
  • Instructors can also create a new thread to post external sources to help students on their weaknesses/misunderstandings from previous assignment
  • Chats can be helpful when groups or students need an avenue to ask and answer questions to facilitate collaborative work. Instructors can also use chat as  “office hour” to interact in real time with the students.

Quick references



Quiz (short answer, multiple choice)

  • Short but frequent quizzes can help both the instructor and the student track their learning progress. A quiz can be just 10-15 questions long to provide sufficient information for feedback.
  • For multiple choice quizzes, automated grading can save instructors time and provide quick feedback for students.
  • For short answer or short constructed response items, instructors may want to provide additional commentary feedback through emails or through the use of a private communication platform in a Learning Management System.


Midterm/Final exams

  • Instructors can use mechanism in Learning Management Systems to increase academic integrity (see Academic Integrity section of the module).
  • Plan and reserve computer labs well in advance if using human proctors.


  • Projects can include simulations, role playing, case studies, problem solving exercises, group collaborative work, and brainstorming or debates on various topics.
  • For individual projects, participants in group projects should receive peer feedback for a variety of viewpoints. An online environment allows students or the instructor to give and receive immediate feedback.
  • Students can pursue special interests or pre-determined topics by the instructor, write or create for an audience, and publish or present their findings and conclusions via websites/blogs/forums/discussion boards.
  • Instructors need to provide evaluation forms for self-evaluation and peer assessment


  •  Students can be creative in showcasing their learning and growth through various combinations of papers, audio/video, and/or presentations.
  • Instructors can also pre-determine what ought to be included in each portfolio
  • Instructors can use rubrics to assess portfolios (http://www2.uwstout.edu/content/profdev/rubrics/eportfoliorubric.html)
  • Peer reviews of portfolios can also serve as an effective learning and assessment tool


  • Presentations can be in the form of informational web pages such as blogs, web-based student-generated quizzes, video/audio, or slide shows.


Case Study

  • Case studies can be used for individual or group assessment
  • Asynchronous communication environment (discussion/blogs instead of chat) is actually more appropriate for problem based approaches because students have more time to reflect and collaborate with each other.
  • Teams of 5-6 are recommended.
  • Here is an example of using case study for online assessment: Each team member can be responsible for contributing responses for one or more cases by posting their reports and supporting materials. Other team members then respond with questions to the original posts. Based on question and critiques from team members, students can revise individual reports. Instructor can follow up by asking students to develop a case from their real world experience. Students can use a variety of methods such as simulation/games, videos, slide shows, photos, staged dialogue, and narration over text and images.

Quick References:




https://mitsloan.mit.edu/MSTIR/Pages/default.aspx (download free case studies)

Experience based practicum

  • Students post weekly or monthly about their experiences while their peers and/or the instructor can critique and respond. In doing so, such an interaction will help student reflect on his or her experience
  • For example, a student may post on his or her observation of a classroom situation, design of a lesson plan, professional internship experience. Classmates are then asked to critique or pose questions to the presenting student.


  • At the beginning of the course, clearly state submission policy.
  • Students can use blogs, forums, or electronic dropbox for submission
  • To minimize loss of work, encourage students to save their work externally (i.e. external hard drive, dropbox, google drive, etc.)
    The length of papers can range from a short paragraph to a full research report. Regardless of length, students can post their work online for their classmates’ critique and feedback as well as instructor feedback.
  • Students can submit short but weekly papers to assess whether or not the students are understanding the material for that particular week.
  1. One minute paper: Students summarize most important aspect of learning and reflect upon questions regarding their understanding
  2. Muddiest point: Students write on learning that was unclear after a particular lesson or groups of lessons
  3. One sentence summary: Students write a sentence that answers the questions, “who, when, where, how, and why?”
  •   End of course papers can also serve as a comprehensive assessment tool.


  • Students can assess reflect on their own learning and their level/skills.
  • Short/timed multiple choice self-tests (10-15 questions) using automated scoring are useful for providing quick feedback

Quick References:




Simulation/Animation/Virtual Lab/Game

  • Lab simulations are particularly helpful for science courses. However, lab simulations can be expensive. If simulations are not available, an instructor can put together simple lab kits that students can use to conduct science experiments at home.
  • Another alternative can be to have students work in labs at nearby campuses.
  • Instructors can also utilize videoconferencing technology to have students observe lab experiments
  • For games, a student creates a game based on their topic or a student chooses a role to play pre-designed by the instructor. For example, the student can play role as a company consultant to solve case studies.

Quick References:




http://tlt.its.psu.edu/mto (collection of animations in many disciplines)

http://serc.carleton.edu/index.html (collection of resources for sciences)


www.merlot.org (links to simulations/animations with commentary on how to use simulations)

Reflective Journal

  • Journals can be nested in individual or class blog where all students contribute.
  • Free blogging software that is external to the course management system can be used to create own reflective journals (http://education.weebly.com/)
  • Instructor can give students a general format on writing reflections. For example, the 3 categories that students ought to address are introduction to blog at the beginning of class, weekly blog response (reflecting on what they learned, what they take away, what has value to them, their connection to what they learned based on prior experience and knowledge, and how students can apply new knowledge), and a final reflection with overall summation of their course experiences.
  • To facilitate the use of journals, instructors can connect all student blogs by an index page so that students have potential access to all of their classmates’ journals. Students can have the option to comment on each other’s blogs.
  • An instructor blog is helpful to reinforcing points, reassuring, and summing up issues or further explain instructions. In order to save time keeping up and continuously assessing students’ progress through their reflections, instructor can use Google Reader (http://www.google.com/reader/view/). Google Reader is an aggregate where you can follow and view multiple websites in one location. This will allow the instructor to follow all of the student blogs without having to separately log in and check each one.
  • To facilitate the use of journals as assessment, blogs can contribute to a certain percentage of the final grade and assign blog entry topics each week with detailed instructions

Quick References:



Example Software:

Hot Potatoes (matching, crossword puzzles, quizzes) http://www.respondus.com/products/studymate/index.shtml

StudyMate Author (fact cards, flash cards, pick-a-letter, matching, crossword puzzles, quizzes, glossary) http://www.respondus.com/products/studymate/index.shtml

TechSmith Camtasia Studio (quizzes, flash video/audio) http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.html

Adobe Captivate (quizzes, flash video/audio) http://thankyou.adobe.com/en/na/products/CP/v3/1106_captivate.html?sdid=EICJN&skwcid=TC|1026688|download%20%2Bcaptivate||S|b|14834841262

Discussion board http://www.quicktopic.com/

Capstone (simulations) http://www.capsim.com/business-simulations/homepage.cfm?CFID=501722&CFTOKEN=45731252

TK20 (portfolio) http://www.tk20.com/ and http://www.slideshare.net/SuziT9/hort491-fall2011

Collection of Online Testing and Quizzes Software http://www.assessmentfocus.com/online-testing.php

Quia (quizzes, games, surveys, grading) http://www.quia.com/

Quizstar (quiz, grading) http://quizstar.4teachers.org/