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As educators, we all spend a lot of time thinking about assessment (too much, some might say). In the current accountability-driven times, assessment has come to dominate many education conversations.

But assessment is much more than end-of-the-year (and increasingly, more often) bubble tests.

Assessment can be informal or formal, formative or summative, standardized or non-standardized, authentic or contrived. In fact, every time you check on how a student is doing or any time a student measures his own learning, assessment is happening.

Assessment is obviously an important part of any online learning experience. And while it may be that formative assessments are of most benefit to the learners, most formal education institutions require a summative assessment as a part of issuing formal credit.

For formal, summative assessments given online, there often arise concerns regarding cheating. There are many ways to deal with these problems, which are by no means only found in online classrooms. One is to give proctored assessments in a f2f environment. Another is to construct authentic assessments that are not so susceptible to cheating. This technique also has the advantage of being more appropriate for a larger number of students.

Formative Assessment and Monitoring Student Progress

An important part of any successful online course experience is active participation. Formative assessment can take the form of many types of informal "check-ins" with learners to see how they are doing. Formative assessment provides the instructor and the students the information they need to adjust instruction to make sure every learner is successful. Typically, it is not graded.

Formative assessment can include writing (online discussion forums, blogs, journals, etc.), problem sets, learning logs, observations, peer- and self-assessments, graphic organizers, or quizzes.

Most online learning platforms give instructors many ways to check in students, and doing this is a very important part of your job as an online teacher and facilitator. Here are just a few tips on maximizing the benefits of this:

  • Comment on student work promptly, and be descriptive and specific. Keep your online grades up-to-date and encourage students to check in frequently. Research shows that students respond to timely and ample feedback.
  • In many platforms, you can see when each student last logged in. Check this often. If students are falling behind or not logging in regularly, check in on them!
  • You can design formative assessment "check-ins" of many types. Just doing a quick "How's it going?" survey each week can give you valuable information and also prompt students to think about their own learning. If you set up these surveys, make sure to monitor closely the progress so that you can intervene as needed.


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What types of assessment are most appropriate for your learners and your course?

Write about this and then develop a plan for assessment for your course. Make sure to include not only formal, summative assessment, but also informal, formative assessment. Post a link to a part of your course with an example of what you think is especially effective assessment.

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