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How To Create Online Assessment – Three Golden Rules

Assessment is always a big question, especially when it comes to online assessment. There is more to assessment than I could possibly cover here but here are some golden rules.


Of course assessment is directly related to how the course is structured and what you want people to learn. So tie your assessment in with your course objectives.


Please don’t ever have a 100% test at the end of a course. This went out of fashion in the 1980s (which was more than 30 years ago).


People learn differently and having different types of assessment means that you can cover most learning styles and give everyone the opportunity to achieve great feedback.


REMEMBER at the start of the course be completely transparent on how (or even if) assessment will occur.


Here are my THREE GOLDEN RULES to help you get through any online assessment conundrums.


1. Formative Assessment

2. Ongoing Assessment

3. Summative Assessment


 1. Formative Assessment


Formative assessment is done at the start of a course. Formative assessment gives a starting point to progress from and also something to look back at when you reach the end of the course.

It does not have to be formal but rather more of starting point for any learning.


This is all information that YOU as the course designer / trainer / facilitator can use to discover what the participants know already, what you may need to focus on in more depth and also use as a good source of reflection when you get to the end of the course.


Formative assessment gets the participants thinking about the course and what they’re going to learn.


Ideas for formative assessment:

– Ask a few questions “What do you know already about (the topic)?”, or be more specific. Have a list of questions relevant to the course content.

– Draw a mind map on the topic, this can be done online using a web 2.0 tool. You could also do this as a group activity, have people collaborate on a mind map.

– Start a forum discussion that everybody HAS to contribute to and focus the discussion on the course.


 2. Ongoing Assessment


Ongoing assessment provides continuous feedback on how the participants are learning in the course. Once again, this can be formal or informal.


If you are formally assessing a course ongoing assessment gives you the opportunity to gather information to use for an overall result.


Ideas for ongoing assessment: 

– Encourage group discussion each week. If the participant has contributed then recognise this in the assessment.

– Give participants recognition for simply doing the course. You can also use your LMS to check out if participants have gone into the course and opened up the pages, including how long they’ve spent with the content open. With formal face to face learning if you don’t make the classes you won’t be allowed to pass the course.

– If you’re into quizzes, ask a few questions throughout the course.

– Make any homework count towards the overall assessment.  Homework could also contribute to an overall cumulative project.


 2. Summative Assessment


Summative assessment occurs at the end of the course and is generally used as an overall appraisal of what has been learnt.

In a traditional old fashioned style of learning this is usually a test or exam. Nowdays we try to avoid final exams but some professions stick with the learn-it-all-and-repeat-it-in-an-exam approach.


Ideas for summative assessment:

– Projects

– Written documents

– Quizzes

– Collection of anything worked on throughout the course,.

– Repeat the formative assessment and see what the difference is.

– Explore how you would apply what you have learnt in a real life situation – this is the ‘doing’ component.  Ask people to actively ‘do’ something they have learnt.


The best summative assessment is to reflect on what has been learnt and understood throughout the course.


Academic research is constantly coming up with new ideas and ways of assessing. If you want to stay on top of the latest findings you need to be looking at publications and case studies.




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