All tools for free, for the rest of your career. Get selected →

4 strategies for effective assessment in online/hybrid learning

Nhi Nguyen
January 17, 2022

One of the biggest challenges for facilitating assessment in an online/hybrid course is coordinating assessment practices that fosters active learning, inclusivity and accessibility, while reducing academic dishonesty. In this article, we will elaborate on how instructors can elevate the assessment practices in online, blended classrooms, with the assistance of teaching technology.

Table of Contents

1. Cheating: The challenge of assessment in blended learning

2. 4 assessment practices that encourage active learning, inclusivity and accessibility in blended classrooms

    1| Using technology to support a triad approach to assessment

    2| Maximize the power of online discussion

    3| Refreshing summative assessment practices

.   4| Performance-based tests go online

3.  Conclusion

Cheating: The challenge of assessment in blended learning

It is a fact that cheating remains a huge concern for faculties, especially during the transition to remote learning. Online examination presents the risk of unmonitored conditions where students have access to outside sources while taking their tests. Accordingly, many institutions reported a significant increase in academic misconduct throughout the 2020 - 2021 school year.

With the persistence of hybrid and remote learning in this new semester due to the omicron variant, concerns regarding academic dishonesty once again emerged and continued to trouble educators in higher education.

To prevent cheating, many colleges chose to tighten exam procedures, apply disciplinary measures and continue to deliver traditional assessments. However, students still find ways to “game the system”, as stated by education writer Gregg Toppo, in his reflection on assessment in hybrid learning.

Instead of relying on a proctoring system to monitor students' exam behavior, or simply posting an exam online for students to complete, it is time for faculties to rethink: to innovate learning and assessment.

The new assessment should ideally be competency-centered, rather than credential-centered. In other words, evaluation in hybrid/online courses need to allow for development of lifelong skills and prepare students for the real world, while still ensuring inclusivity and accessibility.

However, innovating assessment doesn’t mean neglecting the traditional methods. In fact, instructors can definitely tailor the pen-and-paper tests to online examinations with a change in approach and the help of available teaching tools. In the next section, we’d like to share 4 strategies to facilitate assessment in online/blended classrooms, by harnessing pedagogical technology. Each of these will be exemplified through use cases where teachers took advantage of different teaching tools to elevate their online assessment methods.

4 assessment practices that encourage active learning, inclusivity and accessibility in blended classrooms

Assessment is considered one of the key components for successful blended learning. To facilitate assessment practices that evaluate students fairly and inclusively while contributing to the transfer of lifelong skills, instructors need to use the right assessment tools. Pedagogical technology can significantly elevate the benefits of formative and summative assessment within the online/hybrid classrooms, if used correctly.

Cheating: The challenge of assessment in blended learning

It is a fact that cheating remains a huge concern for faculties, especially during the transition to remote learning. Online examination presents the risk of unmonitored conditions where students have access to outside sources while taking their tests. Accordingly, many institutions reported a significant increase in academic misconduct throughout the 2020 - 2021 school year.

With the persistence of hybrid and remote learning in this new semester due to the omicron variant, concerns regarding academic dishonesty once again emerged and continued to trouble educators in higher education.

To prevent cheating, many colleges chose to tighten exam procedures, apply disciplinary measures and continue to deliver traditional assessments. However, students still find ways to “game the system”, as stated by education writer Gregg Toppo, in his reflection on assessment in hybrid learning.

Instead of relying on a proctoring system to monitor students' exam behavior, or simply posting an exam online for students to complete, it is time for faculties to rethink: to innovate learning and assessment.

The new assessment should ideally be competency-centered, rather than credential-centered. In other words, evaluation in hybrid/online courses need to allow for development of lifelong skills and prepare students for the real world, while still ensuring inclusivity and accessibility.

However, innovating assessment doesn’t mean neglecting the traditional methods. In fact, instructors can definitely tailor the pen-and-paper tests to online examinations with a change in approach and the help of available teaching tools. In the next section, we’d like to share 4 strategies to facilitate assessment in online/blended classrooms, by harnessing pedagogical technology. Each of these will be exemplified through use cases where teachers took advantage of different teaching tools to elevate their online assessment methods.

4 assessment practices that encourage active learning, inclusivity and accessibility in blended classrooms

Assessment is considered one of the key components for successful blended learning. To facilitate assessment practices that evaluate students fairly and inclusively while contributing to the transfer of lifelong skills, instructors need to use the right assessment tools. Pedagogical technology can significantly elevate the benefits of formative and summative assessment within the online/hybrid classrooms, if used correctly.

Cheating: The challenge of assessment in blended learning

It is a fact that cheating remains a huge concern for faculties, especially during the transition to remote learning. Online examination presents the risk of unmonitored conditions where students have access to outside sources while taking their tests. Accordingly, many institutions reported a significant increase in academic misconduct throughout the 2020 - 2021 school year.

With the persistence of hybrid and remote learning in this new semester due to the omicron variant, concerns regarding academic dishonesty once again emerged and continued to trouble educators in higher education.

To prevent cheating, many colleges chose to tighten exam procedures, apply disciplinary measures and continue to deliver traditional assessments. However, students still find ways to “game the system”, as stated by education writer Gregg Toppo, in his reflection on assessment in hybrid learning.

Instead of relying on a proctoring system to monitor students' exam behavior, or simply posting an exam online for students to complete, it is time for faculties to rethink: to innovate learning and assessment.

The new assessment should ideally be competency-centered, rather than credential-centered. In other words, evaluation in hybrid/online courses need to allow for development of lifelong skills and prepare students for the real world, while still ensuring inclusivity and accessibility.

However, innovating assessment doesn’t mean neglecting the traditional methods. In fact, instructors can definitely tailor the pen-and-paper tests to online examinations with a change in approach and the help of available teaching tools. In the next section, we’d like to share 4 strategies to facilitate assessment in online/blended classrooms, by harnessing pedagogical technology. Each of these will be exemplified through use cases where teachers took advantage of different teaching tools to elevate their online assessment methods.

4 assessment practices that encourage active learning, inclusivity and accessibility in blended classrooms

Assessment is considered one of the key components for successful blended learning. To facilitate assessment practices that evaluate students fairly and inclusively while contributing to the transfer of lifelong skills, instructors need to use the right assessment tools. Pedagogical technology can significantly elevate the benefits of formative and summative assessment within the online/hybrid classrooms, if used correctly.

1 | Using technology to support a triad approach to assessment

There has been a major shift in how learning and assessment are viewed in higher education. Instead of positioning learning as an acquisition process and assessment as grade assignment, educators now believe that students should actively construct their own knowledge and skills, and assessment is a critical contributor to this process.

In other words, assessment should and must empower students, as well as help them develop skills needed for learning outside of the classroom and throughout life. The triad approach, which combines self, peer and teacher assessment, was therefore developed to help achieve this goal.

Self-assessment allows students to reflect on their own performance, and it is a key tool to empower students in the assessment process.

Peer assessment refers to the evaluation of students by their peers to encourage autonomy and responsibility in learning. Most importantly, peer assessment is considered an effective strategy in addressing free-riding, ensuring fair, accurate assessment of individual performance, as well as identifying potential conflicts within groups.

Teacher assessment in higher education was previously restricted to summative practices like midterm or final exams [1]. However, instructors have begun to integrate formative assessment into their curriculum to increase transparency and participation, motivation and attention, as well as cultivate a student-centered learning process where they can actively construct knowledge and skills.

Combining these 3 assessment types is proven to help students develop lifelong skills, while reducing the workload for teachers.

However, three major concerns when facilitating this approach in an online/hybrid environment are 1) students’ lack of skills and experience to self-reflect and provide peer feedback; 2) the time-sink of facilitating the 3 assessment types; 3) a lack of motivation and engagement among students.

However, digital technologies (when utilized correctly) can be a wonderful sidekick to help instructors overcome these barriers. According to Dr. Norman Vaughan, “collaborative digital technologies such as blogs, wikis, and other social networking applications in higher education” are key to quality assessment. In online/ blended learning, technology becomes “an enabler for increasing meaningful personal contact", thus fostering a personalized learning experience.

So how exactly can we exercise this combined approach in online/hybrid classes, with the help of pedagogical technology?

Replacing intense, stressful testing sessions with self/peer grading assignments, e-portfolios, or written reports significantly fosters higher-order thinking skills and in-class collaboration. These activities can be easily designed and implemented by employing pedagogical tools.

Teachers can rely on different teaching tools to design projects (portfolios, presentations, videos, etc.) where students can submit assignments and then review their peers’ work, as well as reflect on their own performance. Finally, instructors provide comments on students’ submitted work on the digital platform, identifying misconceptions and providing explanations to help students.

As an example, using Group Member Evaluation, Griffith University issued self-to-peer grading as an alternative assessment among medical freshmen. Instead of taking individual exams, students worked in groups to produce and present an academic poster, then evaluated their group members' evaluations based on a given rubric. Scores given by peers contributed to 15% of the total final grade.

Two instructors of Boston University also successfully utilized teaching tools to facilitate peer assessment. For an MBA online course of 400 students, the teachers wanted to incorporate elements of peer feedback, group work, and automated grading. FeedbackFruits Peer Review was chosen to help instructors reduce the manual workload in grading for this large student cohort, while still allowing students to work both individually and in teams to provide meaningful feedback.

The course curriculum was structured with asynchronous lectures in the first half of the week followed by live sessions in the second half. A Peer Review assignment was arranged after each live session. For this, students submitted and conducted formative evaluation of each other’s submitted Executive Memo based on a 3-criteria rubric designed by teachers in Peer Review. At the end of the course, they were asked to write a Formal Memo which was marked by the instructor as a summative assessment.

2 | Maximize the power of online discussion

Asynchronous and synchronous discussion is another effective method that instructors can use to establish effective dialogues and communications in online/hybrid settings. The opportunity to provide clear, concise responses to both teachers and peers allows students to cultivate critical thinking, and evaluation skills, while further reducing teachers’ workload.

Pedagogical technology, again, allows teachers to create “seamless discussions in online classes” [2]. For example , instructors can design discussion group project activities in which students work collaboratively to create a project (a presentation, a video, or a paper), upload their work, then provide feedback on other groups’ work based on a given rubric.

In an engineering course at the bachelor’s level, instructors at Deakin University successfully implemented online discussion as the alternative assessment. Using FeedbackFruits Discussion Assignment, the Deakin team created an online poster conference for students to showcase, view, and comment on each other’s posters. These posters are results of the thesis project conducted throughout the school year. In total, around 75 students uploaded their work and about three quarters of them actively contributed to discussions in the tool, writing about 2-4 comments each. The Discussion tool was found to be effective for stimulating a discussion among students, “They were willing to go out of their way and discuss with no pedagogic push”, stated by Catherine Fraser, Teaching Scholar at Deakin.

Online discussion with support from technology was also adopted for an open-enrollment course issued by MIT. Students were required to produce a report based on the face-to-face lectures and then give feedback on their peers' work. This feedback was used as input for an online discussion in which instructors and learners together elaborate on outstanding comment points. Not only did this activity foster critical thinking and self-regulated learning, but it also motivated students to focus on improvements instead of the end results.

3 | Refreshing summative assessment practices

In a face-to-face setting, knowledge-based tests like quizzes, tests, or exams are favorite methods to measure students’ progress and performance. In the online/blended classrooms; however, there are major constraints to how these assessments can be conducted. As students’ use of outside resources can’t be monitored, knowledge-based tests need to be redesigned to focus on developing higher order thinking skills and delivering constructive feedback, rather than rote memorization. And there are multiple tools available to help you upgrade the traditional pen-and-paper exams.

FeedbackFruits Quiz tool: Assess students in an engaging way that encourages active learning.

Assessment in the form of quizzes or short exams are considered convenient ways to evaluate students’ comprehension of the study materials. Creating and formulating in-class quizzes is easy; however, it is much more challenging in an online context. There is a need for technology that allows for flexibility creating quizzes, and helps instructors engage their students in this activity. FeedbackFruits collaborated with MITx to develop and introduce the Quiz tool to help teachers optimize your online testing experience.

Quiz enables instructors to ask both multiple choice and open questions to students and keep track of level of understanding. It also presents Scratch-off question mode feature: (also known as the Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique (IF-AT)) which provides students with multiple attempts to answer the question and only reveals whether the answer is correct after submission.  

AI-powered tool for writing checks: Automated Feedback

Reviewing written work, whether between peers or from teacher to learner, can be an arduous process, exponentially more so with larger student cohorts. It turns out that a lot of time spent reviewing is mainly focussed on correcting spelling, grammar, style, and semantics, rather than content and argumentation. It is therefore time-consuming and less efficient for teachers as they should focus on addressing higher-order thinking skills namely critical thinking and reasoning. FeedbackFruits Automated Feedback tool aims to address this problem for instructors and learners in higher education. It enables students to receive almost-instant formative feedback on their academic writing skills based on criteria set by teachers. Students can iterate on their assignments before they hand-in a final version, incorporating the actionable, inline AI-generated feedback suggestions as much as they like.

4| Performance-based tests go online

Performance-based strategies like presentations, videos, or podcasting are great ways to measure multiple learning objectives and allow students to apply and showcase what they learned [2]. These assessment practices also challenge the learner to put together information bits to demonstrate concepts, which is a higher order thinking skill.

In online/blended learning, it is more difficult to assess performance-based assignments due to the lack of physical interaction: students need a platform to deliver the presentations and receive immediate feedback from teachers.

There are plenty of great teaching technologies that allow instructors to implement these assessment strategies in a blended environment. And FeedbackFruits tools are among these. Many teachers have used our teaching solutions to easily set up the activities where learners are flexible in presenting their work, thus demonstrating their ability to apply knowledge and information learned. 

For his 2nd-year bachelor's course of 250 students, Dr. Adam Cardilini at Deakin University issued a final assignment in the form of a portfolio submission to communicate students’ understanding of a controversial issue. FeedbackFruits Automated Feedback was chosen to provide detailed, real-time, and personalised feedback on students' work. In detail, students uploaded their portfolios, then chose whether to use the Automated Feedback tool to receive instantaneous feedback on their writing, according to criteria which the instructor determined. The tool parsed each uploaded document and highlighted areas of potential conflict with the established criteria, giving an explanation and suggestion to the user, and letting them rate whether the feedback was helpful or incorrect.  Students were reported to have been happy to take the AI-generated feedback 'with a grain of salt': where the generated comments were not accurate, they still encouraged students to think critically about their writing.

"Ultimately I'd like to provide detailed feedback for every single assignment but that's unrealistic. Automated Feedback did something I couldn't provide for students." - Dr. Adam Cardilini, Lecturer, Deakin University

Conclusion

Assessment should be the driving factor behind effective, lifelong learning, rather than a constant source of fear for students. We must all do better than relying on surveillance and control to ensure academic integrity. What we should and must do, is strive to employ alternative assessment forms that promote a constructive learning community, both online and in-person.

References

[1] Boud, D. J. (2000). Sustainable assessment: rethinking assessment for the learning society. Studies in Continuing Education, 22(2), 151–167. Retrieved from http://www.education.uts.edu.au/ostaff/staff/publications/db_28_sce_00.pdf.

[2] Koç, S., Liu, X., & Wachira, P. (2015). Assessment in online and blended learning environments. IAP.

[3] Feldstein, M., & Hill, P. (2016, March 7). Personalized learning: What it really is and why it really matters. EDUCAUSE Review | EDUCAUSE. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2016/3/personalized-learning-what-it-really-is-and-why-it-really-matters

FeedbackFruits Educators Initiative supports educators with lifelong free access to our pedagogical tools.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Join the community of innovative educators.

Subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter and fill your mailbox with exclusive EdTech content of educational articles, practical pedagogical tips & tricks, event updates, invites and more. Unsubscribe anytime.