Introduction to online assessment

Version 1.0, May 2014

Introduction to Online Assessment [DOCX 54KB]
Introduction to Online Assessment [PDF 390KB]


Designing effective online assessment provides an opportunity to reflect on what it is you are trying to achieve in assessing your students. Designing effective online assessment is rarely a matter of transposing existing assessment items to some online system or tool.  Effective online assessment is always informed primarily by pedagogical considerations, with technical considerations secondary to this.  A suite of online tools exists to support many different assessment modes, methods and approaches.

Benefits and challenges

The benefits of online assessment can include – depending on the implementation:

  • Automated marking can provide immediate and targeted feedback to students;
  • Feedback can be efficient and reusable;
  • Students can be given many opportunities to assess their own learning through self-paced formative assessment;
  • Students can be encouraged to take more responsibility for their own learning;
  • Assessment performance can be analysed to provide feedback on teaching effectiveness and areas for further development;
  • Different modes and methods of assessment can be accommodate through a wide range of online tools;
  • Equity and accessibility considerations can be built into the assessment design.

Online assessment rarely introduces new challenges, just new modes of presentation of existing challenges (e.g. identity verification, plagiarism detection).

Designing effective online assessment can be quite time consuming, particularly if time is invested in providing for automated targeted performance-based feedback.  However, well designed online assessment items can be reusable and scalable, requiring no more effort to administer to several hundred students than to a dozen.

Applications and technologies

Assessment type

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Essays, papers, reports, and case studies

  • Students can write and submit reports, papers, essays or case studies online – collaboratively or individually – using Moodle Assignment
  • Students could author or co-author an interactive eBook or iBook
  • Students might collaborate on a wiki to write a report or case study


  • Students could author or co-author an interactive eBook or iBook
  • Students might collaborate on a wiki to write a short story
  • Students can write their own "choose your own adventure"-style narratives using the hypertext tool Twine

Reflection and

peer review

  • You can use blogs or e-portfolios encourage student reflection on learning
  • Asking students to publish and share a weekly blog post on their studies or readings can greatly enhance both engagement, reflection and interaction
  • Students can conduct a peer review using Praze


  • Students might produce a video or audio essay and submit this via YouTube, Vimeo or Soundcloud
  • Practical skills can be assessed by requiring students to record a basic instructional or demonstration video
  • Students can construct their own role-play scenarios or simulations using the hypertext tool Twine
  • Alternately, scenarios or simulations can be recorded and submitted via YouTube, Vimeo or Soundcloud
  • Students can curate their own online module, create an playlist, curate a photographic essay or gallery, create a pin board or notice board
  • Performances or exhibitions for assessment can me recorded and submitted via YouTube, Vimeo or Soundcloud

Group work

  • Group work can be assessed using collaboration on wikis, eBooks or iBooks, or recorded presentations (video, audio, slideshow or screencast)
  • Students can curate their own online module, create an online playlist, curate a photographic essay or gallery, create a pin board or notice board
  • Students can conduct a peer review using Praze or Moodle Workshop

Quizzes, tests

and exams

  • Quizzes and texts (multiple-choice, short answer, etc.) can be conducted online using platforms such as Peerwise or Moodle Quiz
  • Exams can be conducted online, and can incorporate a mixture of question types as well as different interactive multimedia (video, audio, images, etc.)


  • Written feedback can be provided on word documents, using the track changes function in Microsoft Word, or in simple online forms
  • Audio feedback can easily be provided using platforms such as Soundcloud or Voicethread
  • Some types of assessment tasks can be set up to be self-correcting, such as simple multiple-choice and short-answer quizzes, or in more complex ways using choice-based online games
  • Badges and microcredit can also be used to leverage students' natural desire for competition and achievement – check out OpenBadges

The road map

Ideally each assessment task should represent a component of an overarching assessment strategy.  Some things to think about when designing an assessment strategy include:

  • the timeliness of each assessment task within the subject;
  • the constructive relationship between each assessment task;
  • the feedback you want to provide to students on each task and the time frame in which this can be achieved;
  • the alignment of the assessment strategy with the intended learning outcomes.

For each assessment task, consider:

  • the alignment of the task with the intended learning outcomes;
  • the mode and method of assessment (e.g. formative/summative, self-directed/submitted, individual/group, high/low stakes);
  • the relationship between the preceding task and the following task, where relevant;
  • whether you will be assessing the process, the product, or both;
  • the extent to which you are able to invest time up front to reduce marking time

LTLT can then advise you as to what type of online assessment might work best for what you are trying to achieve, and support you in designing and implementing the assessment.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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