In any type of course it is important for students to get frequent feedback on how they are doing. Are they learning what they are supposed to be learning? Are they achieving the learning outcomes? The most effective way to ensure that students get the feedback they need to stay on track is through a comprehensive, balanced assessment strategy that includes both formative and summative assessments.
Keep in mind that summative assessment doesn’t necessarily mean “graded” nor does formative assessment necessarily mean “non-graded.” For example, a mastery quiz on reference formatting may not provide a grade that counts toward the course final grade, but passing it may be required before the student can turn in a first paper. Alternatively, a first draft of a paper may count toward the final grade in the course, but the formative feedback on the draft is used to improve the final draft later in the semester.
Courses with online activities lend themselves to the use of automatically graded multiple-choice or short-answer “Understanding Checks.” After completing one, students can receive feedback based on the answer they chose in a multiple choice section or compare their answers to those of an expert in a short answer section. Although a grade may or may not be recorded in a grade book, such activities provide students with feedback on how well they understand course concepts.
These sorts of frequent, low-stakes assessment opportunities where students self-test their knowledge and understanding of concepts can be very helpful, especially in situations where mastery is the desired outcome. They allow both instructors and students to catch misunderstandings and misconceptions early before other learning is built on a shaky foundation.
For more tips on using online activities for assessment you may be interested in Assessing Student Learning Online: It’s more than multiple choice.
As part of a comprehensive and balanced assessment strategy, you will want to develop both formative and summative assessments. Smaller, lower-stakes assessments are good opportunities to provide formative feedback for students as they work through the course.
In addition to your “homework” and “in-class” activities Classroom assessment techniques (CATs) such as:
- A poll or survey
- Muddiest point,
- Pro/con grid,
- Focused paraphrasing, or
- A concept map.
These translate well to online tools both inside and outside Canvas and provide opportunities for gathering formative assessment data.
As you incorporate these techniques, it’s important to ensure that you’re assessing more than whether or not your students remember individual facts. Many of these CATs ask students to use what they remember by applying it, evaluating it, or creating something new with it. For more on online CATs you may be interested in Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs).
Student presentations (whether regarding cases or other projects) are another way to leverage online multimedia resources to support student learning and motivation. In addition to in class presentations students can record and share video or narrated presentations asynchronously using a tool like Canvas Studio or you can gather students together in a video conference using a tool like Zoom that allows them to present live to the class.
When having students turn in papers or analyses or similar items in Assignments, having a rubric for those assignments provides students an opportunity to self-assess their work in a formative way.
If you do use online testing tools (such as those built into Canvas), one benefit is that they also allow you to create feedback that students can see after they take the test. It’s sort of like an automated review. When you write each question, you can also build in information that directs students to where in the class readings they can find more information about a particular topic and/or explains why detractors are wrong.
As the test creator, you have the option of when you want this automated feedback to become available. Most faculty make the feedback available only after everyone has taken the test, as a review. Some faculty use mastery tests to encourage students to study the material for understanding. As soon as the students finish the test, they can see the answers and the feedback to check their own learning. They can then retake the test until they pass with a given minimum score signifying mastery of the content. It is recommended that online proctoring services not be used in most cases due to associated cost and ethical concerns.
Assessments that are aligned with your learning outcomes provide reliable feedback about student learning. Clearly aligning assessments to desired learning outcomes also reinforces to students what needs to be mastered and helps them track their progress in the course.
Basic Assessment Options in Canvas
Assignments Overview Video – Learn how to use the Assignments feature in Canvas to allow students to submit papers, videos, and text entries.
Discussions Overview Video – Learn how to use the Discussions feature in Canvas to allow students to participate in asynchronous discussions through text or video.
New Quizzes Overview Video – Learn how to use the Quizzes feature in Canvas to allow students to take quizzes and exams through various types of questions.
The content found here was designed by Indiana University and adapted for use by the Institute for Faculty Development at Vanguard University. This material is offered under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license and should be considered under this license unless otherwise noted. The original content was imported from “Designing and Teaching for Impact in Online Courses” from within Canvas Commons.