Education

Online assessments

You may be thinking, “I can certainly deliver content and engage my students at a distance, but how do I accurately assess their learning?!”  Some institutions may already subscribe to a video proctoring service. These services often charge by the assessment and therefore can be quite expensive, so they might be best employed for final exams only, and not each and every test. Every LMS has the option to build a test, quiz, or assignment. If you already have a large bank of assessment items, you can load them into your LMS and auto generate a quasi-unique assessment for each student. 

The first assessment of every semester is anxiety provoking for students in part because students must familiarize themselves with the modes of assessment for a particular instructor and course. Many students will be unfamiliar with the technology needed for online assessment, and will therefore benefit from an opportunity to become familiar with the new format of quiz or other evaluation. Therefore, we recommend a practice quiz to help them get used to the format. Alternatively, the first quiz (or new assignment type) can be worth fewer points than a typical quiz will be. This allows the student to become comfortable with the new tool in a lower-stakes environment. 

As an instructor, you may be concerned about issues related to academic integrity, particularly given the myriad repositories of archived course materials available to students (e.g., Chegg, Course Hero). For each of the assessments below, we provide points of consideration for minimizing the potential for violations of academic integrity.

Assignments can be created to assign the students projects, papers, and problem sets. These are done at the students’ own pace, and are usually submitted individually. Often, the LMS will have a built-in plagiarism tool (e.g. “SafeAssign” in Blackboard). Rubrics for grading can be entered into the LMS system. Rubrics serve a dual role of clearly communicating the expectations and evaluation criteria to students, as well as a tool for streamlining grading. The LMS rubric provides selection of various point scale options that can be opened while viewing an individual student’s assignment and “click” selection of the scale level of correctness for each question or section.  The rubric will automatically total points for the entire assignment and transfer the score to the gradebook.

Take home exams are a possible option for evaluation where students have open book/open resources.  They can allow flexibility for when the student works on the exam, and they don’t require extended reliable internet access. In order to minimize academic integrity issues, consider reserving take-home exams for assessments that require students to evaluate and/or synthesize information.

Quizzes and tests. These may have a time limit and can include essay questions, numeric responses, file uploads, multiple choice questions, multiple answer questions, and much more. Other setting options often include showing only one question at a time as students complete the test, randomizing questions and/or answers, not allowing a student to return back to a prior question, etc. These LMS assessments are useful for evaluating a student’s understanding following a discussion or activity. Multiple choice and multiple answer questions are self-grading, making this a good option for larger courses.  Consider initially replacing your regular exams with several mini-exams to ease technology, student anxiety, academic integrity issues, etc.

Quizzes can be set up to give multiple attempts, which is useful for students who have unstable internet access and may have their assessment interrupted unexpectedly.  If you have a large question bank from years of teaching a course, you can upload them into a question pool from which the LMS draws to generate the quiz. In this manner, academic integrity issues can be minimized because the student is less likely to encounter the same question twice. You can set the LMS to score the question using an average, highest grade, or most recent attempt. For a timed test, it is advisable to set up the test in a way that allows some flexibility for difficulties with technology or internet connectivity. 

Most LMSs allow adaptive release of course materials, which enables the instructor to open course materials sequentially, once a student has interacted with another item in the course. For example, you can allow a test to open only after a student has opened the instructions, or release the next course lesson only after a student has submitted a particular assignment. 

Discussions can be used as a tool to engage students and as an assessment. Consider this as a substitute for a participation grade, if you have that in your syllabus. Perusall is a tool which allows an instructor to post a reading or link to an electronic textbook and invite students to post comments and questions directly in the PDF. It has an auto-scoring function which does a reliable job of grading the quality of the contribution to the discussion. This was originally developed by Eric Mazur of Peer Instruction fame and is now utilized by many instructors to engage students in reading and critiquing primary literature.
 

Resources

General assessment

BMB assessment

Basic assessment for instructors

  • Teaching Online
    Videos with tips for taking STEM courses online; includes assessment.

Online advising

Discussion tools