9 Ways to Assess Student Learning Online

11 minutes

Student assessment has changed in the new millennium. Though there’s something to be said for old-fashioned paper and pencil methods, new technologies are evolving daily to assist teachers with this task.

In this article, we’ll look at different ways to assess student learning using technology. Here are nine methods of online assessment that are sure to support training, engage your audience, and provide teachers with insight into their students’ learning process. But first, let’s understand the assessment process.

What Is Assessment?

Assessment is simply the process of gathering information on what students know based on their educational experience. Assessment results are typically used to identify areas for improvement and ensure that course content meets learning needs.

There are two basic types of assessments:

  • Formative assessments occur within a online course or lesson and are used to determine how well a student is learning the material. They’re best when they are ongoing, consistent, and provide critical feedback to learners.
  • Summative assessments are sometimes referred to as a final exam and measure what the student has learned after completing a course. They can validate how well your content supports the course’s overall learning goals.

Obviously, assessments are about more than just grades. When meaningful and well-constructed, they help students gear up for success by challenging them to reflect, interact, and apply their knowledge to answer questions, solve problems, and communicate information.

There are a number of practices you can use to evaluate students mindfully. The best method will vary based on learning needs and objectives. For example, an online quiz will be your perfect match if your goal is to measure knowledge gains quickly. But if you want to test your students’ interview skills, you’re better off using a dialogue simulation.

Let’s see how we can use nine of the most common assessment methods to support student learning. Сheck out this infographic for a brief overview.

 1. Online Quizzes

Quizzes are a traditional assessment tool. Plus, when paired with technology, they are an excellent way to engage student learning. Quiz questions can take a number of forms, such as multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blanks, and hotspots. One benefit of quizzes is that they are short and easy to assess. Another is that question order and options can be randomized, so each student’s quiz is unique.

Online quizzes are ideal for measuring learning results across a wide audience. Since each student takes the same test, you can compare and contrast results across different classes, schools, or communities.

A non-graded online quiz can be given prior to the start of a lesson to gain a baseline measurement of a student’s existing knowledge. You can also embed a knowledge check test into a module to reinforce concepts taught in the lesson, or make a final graded test at the end of the course to evaluate students’ overall performance.

How can I create an online quiz?

Online quizzes can be easily created using an eLearning authoring toolkit such as iSpring Suite. iSpring Suite includes a quiz maker tool that offers 14 question types. You simply need to choose the appropriate templates to put together a quiz for your students quickly and easily. You can enhance your test by providing detailed answer feedback, adding info slides, and creating individual learning paths, depending on how well each employee is performing on the quiz.

An online quiz in iSpring Suite

A slide from a drug dosage quiz for pharmacy students created with iSpring 

2. Open-Ended/Essay Questions

Open-ended or essay-type questions are one of the most popular qualitative assessment methods. They prompt learners to explore their thoughts, feelings, and opinions, while testing their overall comprehension of a topic. This type of question encourages critical thinking and is best suited for evaluating higher-level learning. Essay questions require a longer time for students to think, organize, and compose their answers. 

How can I create an open-ended assessment?

Open-ended assessments are one of the question types available in iSpring Suite. Unlike many other questions types, they cannot be auto-scored in online courses, so instructors will have to take the time to review them one by one.

A slide from a quiz on research methodology created with iSpring 

3. Drag-And-Drop Activities

Drag-and-drops are a type of assessment that show a learner’s ability to link information and apply knowledge to solve a practical problem. You can incorporate both images and text in a drag-and-drop activity, giving it a real-world feel that is both challenging and engaging.

It’s essential to use this assessment type when you want learners to be able to apply knowledge in a real-life situation. 

How can I create a drag-and-drop activity?

iSpring Suite provides a drag-and-drop template that allows you to move text boxes, images, and shapes to a specific place on the page. To create an assessment, you need to upload the images into a question template and then simply identify the drop target. 

 Drag-And-Drop Activities in iSpring Suite

A slide from a quiz on waste sorting and recycling created with iSpring

4. Online Interviews

You can incorporate a video conference within your online teaching to give learning a more personal touch. During brief online interviews, students can demonstrate their proficiency in language, music, nursing, and other courses, for example, where mastery of specific skills is an important requirement. Sometimes it may be beneficial to conduct group interviews – for team project reports, for example. 

Interviews can also include a mentoring component enabling students to get immediate feedback from instructors and help them feel more responsible about their studies.

How can I create an online interview?

You can share online interviews with the help of web conferencing tools like Zoom. For best results, take the time to plan out your interview before it begins. Prepare your questions in advance and schedule a time for the meeting to occur. Allow your online learners a way to provide feedback or interact with the interviews.

Zoom Boom: How to Bring Training to “Live” →

5. Dialogue Simulations

 A dialogue simulation is a way to train learners for real-life conversations with customers, colleagues, and others. When creating a conversation activity based on a situation that a student may face on the job, let them know what to expect and provide a safe place to practice their reactions and responses. 

For example, with dialogue simulations, you can help your students master sales and customer service skills or test how well they are prepared for a job interview. These activities can also be a good learning support tool for experienced workers who want to refresh skills they haven’t used in a while.

How can I create a dialogue simulation?

You can create activities similar to dialogue simulations manually, using simple slides, but it will take you a lot of time and effort to create this kind of branching scenario in PowerPoint. There are some specific tools like iSpring TalkMaster (a part of the iSpring Suite eLearning toolkit) that allow you to design a conversation sim quickly and easily.

Start by mapping out the scenario you want to create. Think over the scenario and script, choose a suitable character and location from the built-in library or upload your own, and create a dialogue with iSpring by offering learners a choice of responses and giving feedback. As with a typical quiz, learners will get points for correct answers and lose points for inaccurate ones.

Dialog simulations in iSpring Suite

A slide from a job interview role-play created with iSpring

6. Online Polls

Polls allow you to capture feedback directly from your audience about their learning experience. They can be used to measure anything from learning satisfaction (Kirkpatrick Level One feedback) to why a student made a particular choice during a lesson. Online surveys are highly engaging for learners because they allow them to share their opinions, make themselves heard, and are quick to complete. 

You can also use poll questions when you want to quickly grab and focus your learners’ attention on something important or break the ice during an online group interview session. For the latter, you can simply carry out a mood survey. 

How can I create an online poll question?

If you host webinars via web conferencing solutions, you can use built-in tools for conducting polls. There are also some specialized online platforms like SurveyMonkey that allow you to create, send, and analyze surveys. 

You can also build a survey with eLearning authoring tools like iSpring Suite. All you have to do is to choose a ready-made question template supported by the iSpring QuizMaker tool, write the question and answer choices, or a text field for open-ended responses.

Online polls in iSpring Suite

A slide from a student survey on a math course completed created with iSpring


7. Game-Type Activities

Game-type activities turn a series of test questions into a game. For example, a trivia game might ask learners to answer a certain number of questions within a period of time and award points based on the number of correct answers.

Game-based assessments are considered fun, and not “tests”, so they are generally a good indicator of true skills and knowledge. Besides, they have been shown to enhance learning by promoting the development of non-cognitive skills, such as discipline, risk-taking, collaboration, and problem solving. 

Add game-type activities when you want to engage and challenge your students in a non-traditional way. Organizations have found that game-type activities work well in employee training, while schools have found that high-achieving students enjoy competing with their peers in learning games.

How can I create game-type activities?

Quizlet and Kahoot are two popular applications that teachers can use to create fast-paced interactive learning games. Quizlet allows you to create a study set of online flashcards for learning terms and definitions, while with Kahoot, you can build engaging quizzes and let your students score points by answering quickly and correctly.

There are also many other apps, such as GimKit, Formative, and Plickers, that can add a game-show experience to the classroom.

8. Peer Evaluation and Review

Peer evaluation turns the tables to put learners into the instructor’s seat and allow students to review and edit each other’s work. Such activities give each participant a chance to reflect on their knowledge and then communicate their feedback in a consistent and structured way.

How can I create a peer evaluation assessment?

Third-party platforms, such as TurnItIn’s Feedback Studio, enable students to read, review, and evaluate one or more papers submitted by their classmates using rubrics or prescribed assessment questions. Teachers are able to log in and track individual participation in the activity and monitor comments or peer evaluation feedback.

As a best practice, the instructor should map out and clearly explain the steps of a peer review and evaluation process prior to launch. Be sure to provide a rubric or set of guidelines for each participant to follow to ensure that evaluations are conducted in a consistent manner.

9. Forum Posts

A forum is an online discussion board organized around a topic. Asking students to contribute to a forum post is an excellent way to gauge their understanding, pique their interest, and support their learning. In this activity, students are given a critical thinking question based on a lesson or a reading, and are asked to reflect on both. Their answers are posted to a forum and their peers are given the chance to respond. 

Use this method when you want learners to interact, communicate, and collaborate as part of the learning process, while checking their comprehension of the topic. 

How can I create a forum post assessment activity?

Start by creating an online message board exclusively for your class in your LMS or some external platform like ActiveBoard. Identify common topics or themes that you can align messages to. Set participation goals and guidelines that explain acceptable standards for posting (be respectful of others, avoid foul language or personal criticism, etc.).

The facilitator should review postings on a regular basis and provide constructive feedback or guidance to participants.

Final Thoughts

Online assessments are a critical part of eLearning and should be undertaken with the same level of care and rigor that you put into creating your learning content. The good news is that you don’t have to be a programming genius to build online assessments. There are many software tools that allow you to generate engaging tasks. Choose your way to assess student learning and a related tool to align your needs and the results you want to achieve.

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