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.