Moving Assessment Online

There are some advantages, for both students and staff, in using technology enhanced assessment:

  • More flexibility and choice for students
  • Options for innovative, varied and authentic assessment
  • Use of more authentic collaboration tools
  • Automated marking for quick revision activities and monitoring lower-level learning outcomes
  • Efficient management and submission of assessment documents and items
  • Easy retention of student work by both students and staff
  • Efficient marker moderation

Consider the following types of assessments and options for moving face-to-face assessments into an online environment:

  • Exams - Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE) and other tests requiring students to demonstrate a range of skills

    To move this online:

    • It may be possible for students to submit videos of themselves performing a range of practical tasks, and for these to be kept as a work portfolio
    • Provide overall feedback to the class on strengths and common errors, to reduce the marking load
    • Consider using recorded oral feedback to provide some personalisation (especially for general feedback) and use the Discussion Board for students to submit post-feedback questions

    To assure standards:

    • Moving to online skills assessment may be problematic in professional disciplines where the achievement of specific capabilities is required at 100% e.g. drug calculations in nursing and medicine. A further in-class assessment of these skills may also need to be scheduled, when possible
    • Consider using different examiners for each skill to provide a range of assessor judgements
    • Provide practice opportunities for students, including creative ideas for practicing at home and outside the laboratory, where possible
  • Exams - Viva voice and oral exams

    Often used for in-person oral assessments or PhD examinations/defence

    To move this online:

    • These could be undertaken via Collaborate or Zoom or other electronic remote means
    • Review the exam ground rules for the online environment – such as whether questions will be asked with the chat feature, the raise hand feature or will there be a meeting moderator to open up the meeting for questions
    • Use Zoom/Collaborate breakout rooms for assessors to confer while the student remains in the main room

    To assure standards:

    • Create practice opportunities for students - students may need support and practice sessions to develop confidence and reduced anxiety. Oral assessments are not commonly used so students may have little or no experience with being assessed in this way
    • Set examination questions in advance, so that assessors are consistent with their questions
    • Consider ways to reduce assessor bias, such as using more than one assessor, using examiners who have not previously assessed the student, and using a rubric
    • Set up pre-exam meeting with the assessors to become familiar with the criteria, standards and format, and to troubleshoot technical difficulties
  • Exams – Written exams

    See the LTO’s practice guides on Exam Alternatives and Basic Considerations for Online Exams.

  • Extended written response/assignments/projects

    This may include assessments such as essays, literature reviews, reports and written critiques, case studies and research or applied projects (where these are not designed as performance-based tasks).

    They also commonly seek to assess higher-order capabilities such as students’ abilities to:

    • Research
    • Think critically
    • Synthesise arguments and;
    • Justify a position.

    To move this online:

    • Use Turnitin or Blackboard assignment submission
    • Allow and encourage students to check their citations and referencing in Turnitin prior to the deadline
    • Use blogs, Wikis or Google docs for collaborative writing and peer commenting, particularly on early writing plans
    • Manage marking efficiency by conducting marker moderation meetings online, assess students work online, using the Turnitin comment banks or keeping a record of your own frequently used comments

    To assure standards:

    • Use Notre Dame Academic Integrity Rubric in selected Courses to encourage the development of academic literacies
    • Assess progressively by:
      • Introducing formative and/or small assessment tasks for early feedback
      • Assigning a proportion of the mark to stages of the final product such as an annotated bibliography, or a critical review of three articles
    • Use (online) consultation times with the tutor to clarify issues and address student questions
    • Set dates for students to give online in-progress presentations to class/groups
    • Encourage submission of self-assessment where students identify strengths and areas for improvement and markers respond to the self-assessment to assist students to self-evaluate
    • Ask students to provide a written reflection on the feedback and for written comments on how feedback could be used to inform the next submission stage
    • Allow students to revise their work, based on feedback received, and resubmit where this can be done fairly and the increased workload for the teacher is practicable
    • Ask students to provide an oral summary of an aspect of the task or conduct a follow-up oral assessment
    • Use mock-marking activities with students on short exemplars of sections of a complete work – such as an abstract, a background section, or a conclusion
    • Provide assessors with exemplars at different grade levels to moderate the marking
  • Graded class discussion and contribution

    To move this online:

    • Use facilitated online Discussion Boards structured around groups and/or theme or weekly question/s
    • Set rotating roles for students in the discussions – e.g. leader, summariser, fact checker
    • Set Discussion Board forums which require students to post their own contribution before they can see the work of others
    • Allocate a small grade to encourage student participation, but consider how this might impact on your marking load e.g. ask students to submit their best three entries at the end of the semester
    • Use Collaborate or Zoom if discussions must be face-to-face and synchronous

    To assure standards:

    • Discussion postings and responding to others’ posts should only be required on topics where there are divergent or unique perspectives to be considered. Requiring postings when simple or single correct answers are needed is perceived by students as ‘busy work’, where answers are easily copied
    • Rather than grading individual posts, ask students to submit summaries of their postings – such as a summary of their three best posts
    • If using Collaborate or Zoom set up practice meeting rooms for students (and staff) to test out their set-up and troubleshoot any technical difficulties
  • Lab work

    To move this online:

    • Replicate some aspects of lab work through simulations in which students are presented with data sets and asked to interpret the data. Or create a video or photographic record showing students data being produced elsewhere
    • Ask students to conduct the work at home and upload a video of their work
    • Students focus on data interpretation rather than working in the lab to produce results
    • In small classes real-time observed practicals can be done over Collaborate or Zoom but consideration should be given to the time commitment necessary to do this

    To assure standards:

    • Provide students with different data sets for interpretation
    • Introduce formative feedback opportunities - for example where students are asked to review the methods or results of their peers
    • Assess progressively by introducing formative and small assessment tasks for submission prior to the final task
  • In-class presentations

    Where students speak to an audience of their peers/others, are assessed on the content and may also be assessed on their presentation techniques.

    To move this online:

    • Use YouTube, Collaborate, Zoom or Discussion Boards
    • Ask students to prepare a short video recording using a mobile phones or laptop and upload that video to a YouTubeunlisted channel. Keep the videos short (e.g. 3-7 minutes)
    • Ask students (individually or in groups) to submit a narrated presentation in electronic form which can then be tutor-marked and peer-reviewed. PowerPoint is familiar to most students, and offers a slide-by-slide voice-narration recording facility
    • Have students deliver live presentations via Zoom or Collaborate, where presentations are recordable, teachers and students can share screens and documents
    • Submit written reflections, references or working documents used to create the video/presentation via Turnitin
    • Give students the freedom to choose the presentation format for themselves to show creativity

    To assure standards:

    • If you change an in-class presentation to submission of a recorded presentation, review your assessment criteria. For example, adjust criteria requiring audience participation and questions, or use the Discussion Board for this interaction. Also check if you need to revise the standards for each grade level as recorded presentations allow for multiple-takes, compared to the one-off nature of an in-class presentation
    • For live online presentations on Zoom or Collaborate provide students with a practice online meeting room(s) to sort out technical issues, test their equipment and rehearse their presentation
    • If students are presenting in groups, due consideration must be given to how students will work together when they are physically separated or working in different time zones.
    • Ask students (individually or in groups) to submit an electronic presentation which can then be peer-reviewed and revised before being assessed
  • Portfolios, reflection journals and logbooks

    Students collect evidence of their activities on campus, out of class or in the workplace, and demonstrate achievement over time.

    A portfolio of student work can be used in a number of ways such as to:

    • Make visible student growth (using a timeline of work samples)
    • Showcase accomplishments (using samples of best work).

    Portfolios commonly

    • Ask students to synthesise, reflect on or analyse their work
    • Encourage creative use of different types of media

    Reflective journals and logbooks are also spaces in which students can document their progress through a Course and what they have learnt during the Course. A key element of this is how students record what they have done and provide commentary reflecting on how these experiences changed their attitudes and views and developed their knowledge.

    While reflective journals, portfolios and logbooks are the most common ways to encourage reflection in students, reflections can in fact be incorporated into a wide range of assessable activities such as essays, vivas and lab work. Exams can have a reflective component if the questions are structured appropriately. Online communication spaces, such as student Discussion Boards can also provide channels for students' reflections.

    To move this online:

    • Access to e-portfolio software is only available in some Schools, but there are other free applications, albeit limited in their capacities, such as Weebly or WordPress
    • Use Blogs to allow students to read and comment on peers’ experiences, reflections or to showcase their work
    • Use Journals to keep reflective writing private between the student and the teacher
    • Document-based portfolios and reflections can be submitted online via Turnitin

    To assure standards:

    • Assess progressively by introducing formative and small assessment tasks or allow submission of earlier drafts of reflective writing or smaller sections of the portfolio for feedback from staff or peers
    • Encourage submission of reflections on feedback and plans for how feedback will be used to improve the next submission stage
    • Provide exemplars of different portfolio formats and how assessors rated different kinds of submissions.
    • Provide a framework for reflection for example writing prompts or readings on reflection relevant to the discipline or profession
    • Use mock-marking activities with students on examples of reflective writing or portfolio sections
    • Pay more attention to online marker moderation as reflective writing and portfolios can be highly variable so clear criteria and standards need to be developed and used consistently to ensure marker reliability
  • Posters

    To move this online:

    • Students can potentially use a digital infographic, mind map or other visual software to create an e-poster
    • Students can submit their work via Blackboard assignments or post to a Blackboard Wiki or in other online shared spaces, particularly if peer review is required.

    To assure standards:

    • To confirm authenticity of the submitter, you can supplement this with a short online oral assessment
  • Self-assessment, peer assessment and teamwork

    Self and peer assessment are about revision and improvement as students provide, elicit and resolve feedback from multiple sources – such as their peers, themselves and their teacher.

    The strengths of self and peer assessment are that:

    • It progressively develops students’ abilities to understand assessment expectations, assess the quality of work and improve their own performance accordingly
    • By getting more actively involved in their assessment, students’ motivation and learning can improve
    • Staff can potentially save time in assessing work as they have a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses of students’ efforts
    • Staff can provide more focussed comments on students’ work

    Teamwork supports students to hone capabilities such as time management, cross-cultural communication and complex problem solving. It can develop students’ learning through interaction and discussion, through the use of complementary skills, or by engaging a range of perspectives to enhance critical thinking.

    For staff, the design of teamwork tasks provides more leeway for complex, creative and authentic assessment activities than individual tasks alone. It also generates new decision-points for educators about the design of the task – such as:

    • What will the groups be working on (a project, a presentation, a report or something else)?
    • How will the teams be selected, and will members have different roles?
    • How will team cohesion and productivity be encouraged?
    • What will be the breakdown of marks in the assessment?

    This resource from the Technological University, Dublin, provides a good primer for answering exactly these questions.

    To move this online:

    • Peers can email each other drafts for comments or use online spaces within Blackboard, e.g. a dedicated Collaborate session private to a particular group of students.
    • Set ground rules such as requiring students to post their work by a set time, respond to peers within a given timeframe, and the minimum number of peers to respond to
    • Make it clear that peer comments are to be directed to the quality of the work, not the individual responsible
    • Consider assigning at least two peers (or critical friends) for each student, so that they have a minimum number of commenters on their work
    • For teams, use Blogs, Wikis or Google docs for collaborative writing and peer commenting, particularly on early-stage work
    • Ask students to evaluate team function early, using relevant criteria, through Blackboard surveys
    • Ask students to help create or revise criteria, through channels such as a live Collaborate/Zoom session or asynchronously via the Discussion Board or Google Docs

    To assure standards:

    • Engage students in practice opportunities before using peer assessment as a graded assessment
    • Use good practice exemplars showing how to construct effective and helpful feedback to support students to provide productive feedback in a professional fashion
    • Discuss expectations with students, including their previous experiences with self and peer assessment to build students’ abilities

    For teamwork tasks see the assuring standards section for ‘Extended written response/assignments/projects’ above

  • Theatre, dance and other performances

    To move this online:

    • Individuals and groups (where social distancing permits) can be asked to work off-site to prepare and submit videos of their work, alongside reflective commentaries/accounts

    To assure standards:

    • Give consideration to workload as group performances may be complex to organise off-site
    • Videos cannot replicate the authentic live performance element but may augment the performance or support students’ development prior to the performance

Parts of this resource have been drawn from work shared by Sally Brown and Kay Sambell (Contingency planning: exploring rapid alternatives to face-to-face assessment)