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How to Make Online Assessments Effective?

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How to Make Online Assessments Effective?

An assessment is said to be the most effective when it measures what is intended to be measured. In other words, an assessment should be goal-oriented, wherein performance is compared with the purpose of the training outcome. As a process, assessment starts with questions, followed by collecting and interpreting data, and providing feedback, which then leads to continuous improvement in learning. Ultimately, assessment is important for the training/learning process because it gives feedback on whether the learning objectives have been met satisfactorily.

Online assessments are being increasingly used these days to being provide learners with informative feedback that leads to their progress. Using effective assessment techniques to assess learners in online courses has now become an essential part of e-learning. With the transition of learning to the online medium, this trend is not surprising. As more learners desire flexibility in their courses, they expect that flexibility even when it comes to assessments. Online assessments could include electronic submission of written assignments, self-assessments, peer evaluations and weekly assignments with feedback, online exams with monitored and controlled start and stop times etc. One of the biggest benefits of online assessments is that students can receive feedback instantaneously; unlike in traditional forms of assessment. The online medium also lowers learners’ resistance to critical feedback. While the basic underlying principles are the same across online and traditional assessments, what is different is the use of technology in the former.

Online assessments can be said to be effective:

  • When assessments reflect the learning objectives and intended outcomes.
  • When appropriate technology and instructional design are used.

While making decisions regarding the use of online assessments, it is essential to consider the following two elements:

  • What exactly is being assessed – is it appropriate for the online medium? There could be situations where the learning of certain skills cannot be tested online – such as motor skills. Use online assessments only for subjects that lend themselves to this medium.
  • The learner’s characteristics, needs and situations – As with traditional paper/pen type of assessments, online assessments also need to factor for these. Special orientation could be required for learners who may not be very comfortable with the online medium.

Here are a few tips on making online assessments effective:

  • Build in the assessment strategy right into your instructional design.
  • Use realistic scenarios.
  • Ensure that the scenarios are aligned with learning objectives.
  • Use simple interactivity – nothing should detract from the topic being tested.
  • Ensure an online mentor’s availability where required.
  • Avoid choices such as “None of the above” and “All of the above”.
  • In multiple choice questions, avoid using negatives as much as possible.
  • Avoid using statements from the course for assessments – recall alone doesn’t test learning.
  • Provide diagnostic feedback for incorrect choices made by learners. Remember that an assessment is also an educational tool and it has to do what an instructor would have done in an ILT situation – give feedback in such a way that the learner learns from it.
  • Provide ample practice before moving on to a scored quiz.
  • Build in question banks that present a given set of questions in random order – this prevents copying.
  • Make optimal use of the following aspects of online assessments: regular and ongoing feedback throughout a course, using a variety of assessment types, and providing prompt, interactive feedback to students.
  • Use the assessment as a springboard for discussions with online mentors or with collaborative groups in which they can share and discuss areas learners need help with.
  • Provide options to learners – some may still prefer print.

So, are online assessments more effective than traditional print-based assessments? What kinds of online assessments have you used? Please do share your experiences.

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  • That’s a good summary. Automation of scoring and provision of immediate feedback are valuable features indeed. Instructors and test takers tend to appreciate the possibility of using assessment results while they are still current and relevant. I think the benefits of online assessment will be especially realisable when the online environment supports things like adaptivity, collaboration (where appropriate), consideration of complex data like response times and task interactions etc. The future of online assessment is bright.
    Also, for further advice on multiple-choice item construction, Downing and Haladyna have some useful references.

  • Al

    Most useful in class, not just useful – outstanding tools!
    Great for daily quizzes, writing prompts, testing and the big one- cuts down the huge time required for test grading. As far as I’ve used them, they were the replacement for print assessments. They tended to be more often, easier to manage, better feed back for the students, pushes for results based on text and discussions and great documentation for presentation to admins who aren’t always so nice to teachers.
    If presented well, students will see the value of their feedback to help guide them towards the information they need to process, AND, they get a study guide built in for quarter and final exams. The quizzes I let them retake until they can get all the answers right. I have a metric built on course requirements and that gives me the time line for test’s deadline cut off dates. This is enormously helpful in pacing the classwork, double checking myself, monitoring slackers and rewarding achievers- differentiation in other words. Here is the really cool part, sometimes they work off each other, cheat in other words. For the quizzes this is an advantage! Its when they get to testing, after they have digested the materials a few times(repetition is so easy online) that the truth is in the pudding. To cheat on the exams they would have to have the test questions(all of them) the version of the test(all of them) and know which one they’ll receive on the testing date.
    The tendency is for them to question the answers from the quizzes before they’ll get to the test I’ve found. Nothing like being put on the spot by students who want to talk about the material.