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Assessment in Online Courses


What’s Involved In a Good Course Assessment?

A holistic assessment goes beyond course design; it acknowledges the nuances that make a course unique, including input and contributions from students, developments in the field of study, and current events. Most valuable are students perceptions of their learning and of the course experience. A good course assessment considers the course over a period of time, and considers interactions between instructor and students, students and students, all of which create artifacts that can be studied and analyzed. (Thompson, 2005).

Faculty new to online teaching may feel that assessment in online courses is limited to multiple choice quizzes or traditional research papers. However, through careful design and technology use, there are other assessment options to effectively assess how well students achieve learning outcomes in an online course.

As in the classroom, assessment is easier when it starts with observable, measurable outcomes. Once these outcomes are defined, the instructor can use a variety of formal and informal online assessments to measure student progress in the course.

According to New Horizons for Learning’s Building Tool Room five elements characterize effective online assessment (Gigliotti):

  • Continuous interaction between instructor and students and among students
  • Contribution to the learning process
  • Real-world demonstration, application, or performance
  • Relevant and aligned to the student outcomes and the learning community
  • Clearly communicated goals and requirements for success

“These elements are seen in other frameworks for developing and evaluating online learning assessment.” (Gaytan and McEwan 2007).