In the new pedagogy of online learning, assessment has been expanded beyond papers, tests, and final exams that evaluate learning. Online assessment has become a critical learning tool that:
- Provides timely and detailed feedback;
- Targets learning to each student’s area of need;
- Facilitates peer assessment; and
- Encourages the development of new skills.
This summary highlights the creative approaches to online assessment and evaluation for enhanced learning and improved student grades presented in the Pockets of Innovation Series.
Timeliness: One factor students most appreciate about online marking, as shown at Ontario universities and colleges such as the University of Ottawa and University of Waterloo, is the fast turn-around time, often as short as 24 hours. Assignments with individually-assessed essays and short answers, as well as those with machine-marked multiple-choice questions, are returned more quickly. At the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College, a commercial product is used to take photographs and videos of student work and faculty provide personalized feedback in real time.
Professors prepare rubrics and comments that address common errors and issues, an approach used at the Ontario College of Art and Design University, and supplement these with individualized feedback for specific points. Students appreciate being able to incorporate the results of one assignment into preparing the next. Software developed at the University of Toronto organizes marking by large numbers of geographically-scattered markers, allowing quick turn-around of thousands of exams.
A research project headed by Dublin City University in Ireland look at using analytics of participation rates to determine and reach out to struggling students; a second project assessed the impact of online feedback on first-year student success.
Extending Access: Northern College offers a system of online proctoring that allows students in remote locations to complete monitored exams in their communities. To limit time for the consultation of resources, institutions allow limited, timed access to exams, so they can be completed online rather than requiring attendance at institutional exam centres. At the University of Ottawa, technologies to support exam-taking by students with disabilities are tested.
Encouraging Mastery Learning: Online tools that allow students to assess, improve, and re-assess their own learning are particularly effective in improving test results and final grades. Pre-tests reveal areas of weaknesses, accompanied by modules with instruction, demonstrations, and extensive banks of practice questions and explained answers. Students can repeat and re-test until achieving the necessary mastery.
Ontario colleges and universities offer examples of online support for mastery learning. For graded tests in Accounting at Carleton University, students can repeat the tests, responding to randomly generated questions and receiving feedback on their attempts, with the machine choosing the best results to submit for final grades. At Carleton University, the resources used for mastery learning in Chemistry are available from a publisher; the modules for Mathematics at Wilfrid Laurier University are created in-house. At Durham College, online worksheets offer practice as preparation for tests in Criminology.
Students at Kristiania University College in Norway can take practice tests, receiving feedback and examples of good answers so they can modify their responses. Student schedule their own exams in an open entry system.
Encouraging Participation: Online assessment often includes weekly tests that allow students to steadily accumulate marks throughout a course, encouraging ongoing participation and learning. A Massage Therapy program at Ontario’s Lambton College uses quizzes that are worth only a few marks each, but are also carefully timed to discourage reliance on the textbook. Results from short quizzes are used for purposes other than grades, such as determining the rate of student progress through online modules and pointing out areas for more attention. In a blended learning course in Organic Chemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, quizzes at the end of online sections that precede in-class lectures give professors a sense of topics needing additional explanation or examples and prepare students for more active involvement in the face-to-face sessions.
Peer Assessment: Many courses incorporate online peer assessment, in which students comment on each other’s papers according to clearly defined criteria. The student markers get the experience of assessing and providing useful and constructive comments on another student’s work, as well as seeing alternative approaches to a topic they also addressed. The student writers benefit from the feedback they receive and the opportunity to revise their papers. In Ontario, the University of Guelph and the University of Toronto both use tools they developed for peer assessment. As a part of each small group exercise at the School of Business at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, students assess their group members on online teamwork dimensions such as preparation, contribution and collaboration.
Fostering Skill Development: Contributions to online discussion boards, blogs and group projects are often part of the marking matrix, with students expected to offer substantive comments on issues and each other’s posts. As well as adding to subject knowledge, this form of assessment is effective in fostering the development of broader skills, as shown in experience at George Brown College and Trent University in Ontario, such as concise writing, clear communication, online etiquette, research and referencing, critical thinking, constructive questioning, and the joint building of content. As opposed to the submission of a single course paper, weekly discussions offer students frequent opportunities to refine their skills. In a course at Seneca College in Ontario, students are expected to model industry standards in their online assignments.
Highlighting Achievements: e-Portfolios bring together assignments, projects, and other examples of student work and function as valuable tools for students to reflect on, as well as demonstrate and track progress throughout their academic careers. Online portfolios are used for submitting and commenting on assignments, with the additional function of highlighting student accomplishments to employers, other educational institutions, galleries and other venues. In Ontario, e-portfolios are used to help students, assess, and present their learning accomplishments in the faculty of Visual Arts and the Built Environment at the University of Windsor, the Faculty of Music at Wilfrid Laurier University, a specialized nursing degree program at Nipissing University, Linguistics and Language Studies at Carleton University and in Business Administration degree programs at Sheridan College.
Open badges are used to recognize skill development in Information Technology by immigrants with foreign qualifications at the Beuth University of Applied Sciences, Germany. The areas of skills development are established in consultation with employers.
Faculty Benefits: In addition to creating opportunities for students to excel, faculty and instructors benefit in other ways from online assessment. Marking is more flexible and mobile, without the need to carry around paper assignments. All submissions are returned electronically – and can also be stored online for future reference. Assessments can be more frequent, more easily tracked, recorded, collated, and reported, with learning analytics providing detailed analysis of individual and group progress, challenges, and comments. The reduction in the use of paper also rates highly with faculty.
Online assessment means that rather than evaluation being separate from, or only at the end of the learning process, it can be effectively integrated into the ongoing teaching and learning. In addition to earning grades, students become more self-aware and independent learners, increase their abilities as communicators and critical thinkers, and contribute to the analysis and creation of ideas and perspectives. Faculty and instructors, through their innovations, demonstrate how online assessment can further both independent and interdependent learning.
Click one of the three links below to see a list of the Pockets of Innovation under each category and a link to the specific Pocket of Innovation.
- Carleton University - Improving Student Success in Financial Accounting with Online Learning at Carleton University
- Carleton University - Integrating ePortfolios at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada
- Carleton University - Online Interaction to Enhance the Learning of First-Year Chemistry Students at Carleton University
- Durham College - Engaging Students in an Online Course on Wrongful Convictions at Durham College
- George Brown College - Mobile-Assisted Language Learning: Enhancing student learning with mobile phones
- Lambton College - Adapting Hybrid Models for Better Learning – Professors develop and test new models for teaching and learning at Lambton College
- Niagara College - Enhancing Instructor Feedback with the Sesame Digital Platform at Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
- Nipissing University - Providing Access and Flexibility: Innovative learning opportunities for nursing students at Nipissing University
- Northern College - Flexibility in the Design and Delivery of the Mining Engineering Technician Program at Northern College
- Ontario College of Art and Design University - Maximizing Student Learning at the Ontario College of Art and Design University: Getting the Most out of the Learning Management System
- Seneca College - Integrating Facebook and Twitter: Helping Students Learn How to Learn Using Social Media at Seneca College
- Sheridan College - Reflective Practice via Creative Learning Portfolios at Sheridan College’s Pilon School of Business in Mississauga, Canada
- Trent University - Supporting Flexibility and Program Completion: Trent University implements a new approach to online learning
- University of Guelph - Student learning through online Peer Evaluation Assessment and Review
- University of Ottawa - e-Marking: Using iPads to deliver feedback on student assignments
- University of Ottawa - iAnatomie: Providing online learning and testing options for Francophone medical students
- University of Toronto - Developing Crowdmark, an Online Collaborative Marking Platform at the University of Toronto
- University of Toronto - Peer Assessment and More with peerScholar
- University of Waterloo - Marking assignments online to improve feedback for students
- University of Windsor - Documenting Learning: Using e-Portfolios in Visual Arts and the Built Environment at the University of Windsor
- Wilfrid Laurier University - Encouraging Student Independence: A blended learning model for Organic Chemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University
- Wilfrid Laurier University - e-Portfolios for Lifelong Learning – Integrating e-portfolios for students in the Faculty of Music at Wilfrid Laurier University
- Wilfrid Laurier University - Mathematics Online – The Supplementary Module Program for Calculus at Wilfrid Laurier University
- Simon Fraser University, British Columbia - Peer Evaluation as a Learning and Assessment Strategy at the School of Business at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia
- Beuth University of Applied Sciences, Germany - Using Open Badges to Visualize Learning at the Beuth University of Applied Sciences, Germany and the Open Badge Network
- Dublin City University, Ireland – Designing, Implementing and Evaluating Contemporary Models of Teaching and Learning at the National Institute for Digital Learning at Dublin City University, Ireland
- Kristiania University College, Norway - Innovations in Student Interaction, Support, and Evaluation at Kristiania University College in Norway