Introduction

In this module we will focus on the basic principles of student assessment. To set the stageWoman outside with a laptop, we introduce two online course evaluation tools:

Both documents provide an overall robust set of standards for online courses and for instructor evaluation. They define what constitutes excellence in all facets of online course development and instructor best practice.

We will highlight what both documents have to say with respect to assessment practices in the online classroom. Along the way we will provide practical tips and strategies that can help both teachers and students find success.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this module, participants will be able to:


Glossary of Key Terms

Picture of a dictionary definition Authentic Assessment – The opportunity to demonstrate understanding of acquired knowledge and skills as opposed to testing isolated skills or retained facts.

Learning Objective - Describes what you intend the student to be able to accomplish once he or she has completed a course, lesson plan or learning activity.

Muddiest Point – A teaching technique devised by Frederick Mosteller, who advocated using the last three or four minutes of every class to ask students three questions: What was the most important point in the lecture? What was the muddiest point? What would you like to hear more about?

Paper Mill - A term used to describe online databases that offer research papers on thousands of topics.

Plagiarism – The use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author, and the representation of them as one's own original work.

Rubric - A scoring tool that lists the criteria for a piece of work. Rubrics generally specify the level of performance expected for several levels of quality.

Big Idea: Student Assessment

Teaching pointing something out to young girl at a computer. In focusing on how to develop a solid assessment strategy for the online classroom, our discussion centers on assessment standards highlighted by two organizational bodies:

We will review the standards from both organizations with respect to providing quality student assessment in the online classroom.

Big Idea – Student Assessment

Quality Matters™

Based on national standards of best practice, research literature and instructional design principles, the Quality Matters™ Rubric outlines 8 broad standards central to effective online learning.

With respect to Assessment and Measurement the QM Rubric states that educators should:

QM Assessment Standards

1. Align assessments to learning objectives. (Considered Essential - 3 pts)

2. Clearly state the course grading policy. (Considered Essential - 3 pts)

3. Outline criteria for the evaluation of student work and participation. (Considered Essential - 3 pts)

4. Provide a sequence and variety of assessment instruments appropriate to the content. (Considered Very Important - 2 pts)

5. Provide "self-check" assignments, communicate effectively and provide quality feedback. (Considered Very Important - 2 pts)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Idea - Student Assessment

National Standards of Quality for Online Courses

According to Susan Patrick, President and CEO of iNACOL, "The National Standards of Quality for Online Courses offer an important measuring tool to help policy leaders, schools, and parents across the nation evaluate course quality and implement best practices."

The National Standards of Quality for Online Courses is available online. This comprehensive document outlines 13 broad standards for instructor review, which are further organized into individual standards. Each is measured using the following criteria:

 

Rating Scale

 

0

Absent—component is missing

1

Unsatisfactory—needs significant improvement

2

Somewhat satisfactory—needs targeted improvements

3

Satisfactory—discretionary improvement needed

4

Very satisfactory—no improvement needed

 

Big Idea - Student Assessment

National Standards of Quality for Online Courses

With respect to teacher review and assessment, iNACOL outlines the following four broad standards (H through K). Click on each heading for a list of the individual standardsStudents standing outside of a school that apply:

H - The teacher demonstrates competencies in creating and implementing assessments in ways that assure validity and reliability of instruments and procedures.


I - The teacher develops assessments that meet standards-based learning goals. Assesses learning progress by measuring student achievement of learning.


J - The teacher demonstrates competencies in using data from assessments to modify instructional methods and content, and to guide student learning.


K - The teacher demonstrates effective strategies that enable both teacher and students to complete self- and pre-assessments.

Big Idea - Student Assessment

Photo of young students around a teachers desk. Whether you are teaching in a college or K-12 learning environment, the QM and iNACOL standards provide a blueprint for what is considered best practice for assessment in an online course.

In the interests of space, (coupled with the fact that the QM standards focus more on course evaluation, rather than teacher evaluation), for the rest of the module, we will focus on the five assessment standards outlined in the QM Rubric.

We will provide practical tips and strategies for each, as well as reference iNACOL along the way.

Discussion icon

Discussion Question – Which list of standards might be more helpful to you in the planning and honing of your current assessment practices? Explain.

Here's How - Student Assessment

1. Align assessments to learning objectives

Quality online instruction begins with careful planning and preparation prior to the beginning of any term. Assessment is no exception. A well-designed course is framed around measurable learning objectives.

Assessment measures the degree to which students are able to accomplish what you want them to learn. The key is to design and align assessment materials that are consistent with what you want to measure.

In the following video, Dr. Marilyn Rice, Associate Professor of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX explains.

Here's How – Student Assessment

1. Align assessments to learning objectives cont'd

Aligning assessment materials to your learning objectives may seem like common sense. However, we cannot reinforce enough the importance of using measurable verbs when creating your own objectives. The more precise you are with stating your learning objectives, the easier it is to design assessment materials and communicate expectations to students.

 For example, a common mistake is to use the verbs understand or know when writing learning objectives:

At the end of this lesson, the student will be able to

- Understand the following terms …

- Know how to do the following steps…

There are many ways for a student to demonstrate that he or she understands or knows any given term or step-by-step process. Restating the objectives with a measurable verb is much more succinct:

At the end of this lesson, the student will be able to

- Define the following terms …

- Chart the following steps…

 

Here's How - Student Assessment

Three teachers standing in front of a chalk board.

1. Align assessments to learning objectives cont'd

If you are asking students to be able to define terms, as Dr. Rice suggested, then you will then choose as assessment method that is consistent with this objective.

In the following DragNDrop exercise, match the assignment or assessment method to each learning objective.

Look for a plausible 'fit' for each learning objective.

 Hyperlink to DragNDrop Activity 

Here's How - Student Assessment

2. Clearly state the course grading policyMiddle school boy with a laptop.

Posting your course grading policy in the course syllabus ensures students have a clear guide as to how their grades will be calculated.

According to QM, a course grading policy should include:

Since students are likely to focus efforts on course elements that affect their grades, consider what is going to be most valuable to their academic growth in your course.

For example, if you want students to meaningfully participate in online discussions, be sure to include participation as part of the grading policy.

Here's How – Student Assessment

2. Clearly state the course grading policy cont'd

In the following video, English Professor Michael McFarland from Lone Star College - North Harris, Houston, TX discusses the use of rubrics and his grading policy in the online classroom.

Here's How – Student Assessment

Photo of True/False checkboxes 2. Clearly state the course grading policy cont'd

In the following handout, sample course grading policies are provided, along with sample late policies.

Sample Grading Policies

Please note we have included sample testing and academic integrity policies. Check to see what your institution's policies are with respect to these matters.

You will likely want to include them in your course syllabus to ensure students have a clear perspective of all issues that could impact their course grades.

Complete the Self Check below to review the concepts in this section.

 Toggle open/close quiz question 

Here's How – Student Assessment

3. Outline criteria for the evaluation of student work and participationPhoto of a lighthouse

Communicating expectations for the evaluation of student work and participation is critical for student success.

At the beginning of the course, students should be provided with clear and meaningful, descriptive criteria that will be used for evaluative purposes. For example, rubrics or a list of criteria with associated point values.

As Professor McFarland suggests, rubrics provide students with clear guidance regarding your expectations and required elements of work and participation. They also let students know how marks will be calculated.

For example, things to consider with respect to participation and online discussions might include:

 

Here's How – Student Assessment

Young student doing math at a white board. 3. Outline criteria for the evaluation of student work and participation cont'd

When it comes to finding rubrics, there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. Here are some websites that can help:

Another option to consider is building your own at RubiStar. RubiStar is a free tool where you can customize your own rubric or search for others that have already been created.

Activity
Go to RubiStar and enter your subject area in the search box.

Customize your own rubric using their online tools.

Here's How - Student Assessment

4. Provide a sequence and variety of assessment instruments appropriate to the content

Both QM and iNACOL suggest educators should provide multiple assessment strategies appropriate to the content being measured. This provides multiple ways for students to demonstrate mastery of concepts, as well as accommodates multiple learning styles.

In the following video, Dr. Rice talks about the need for diversity in assessment practices.

 

Here's How - Student Assessment

4. Provide a sequence and variety of assessment instruments appropriate to the content cont'd

Photo of Drs. Palloff and Pratt Designing a range of alternative assessment methods, such as authentic assessments, not only helps students build upon skills and demonstrate knowledge in a variety of areas, but also helps mitigate opportunities for students to plagiarize.

In the following audio recording, Drs. Palloff and Pratt discuss various assessment strategies and practical steps educators can take to help curtail the incidence of cheating and plagiarism in the online classroom. Scroll down and click the gray arrow to begin. (Recording is 4:00. There is no video component.)

 

 

Here's How - Student Assessment

Photo of a library 4. Provide a sequence and variety of assessment instruments appropriate to the content cont'd

To fully grasp the extent to which plagiarism is prolific, check the list of paper mill resources the Kimbel Library at Coastal Carolina Library has amassed.

The sheer number of links to paper mill sites, where students have the opportunity to purchase anything from term papers to graduate dissertations, is astounding.

Activity
Select several paper mill sites from the list provided by Kimbel Library. Search for your subject area and grade level to see the number of papers and resources available to students.

Discussion icon Discussion Question: What are some of the strategies you use to help mitigate the likelihood of plagiarism in your online classroom?

 

Here's How - Student Assessment

5. Provide "self-check" assignments, communicate effectively and provide quality feedback

The final guideline suggested by Quality Matters™ with respect to student assessment is to provide students with multiple opportunities to measure their own learning progress.

Students learn more effectively if they receive frequent, meaningful and timely feedback.

Feedback might come from:

Feedback is a vital component of online learning. On the following pages, we will present some example strategies.

Here's How - Student Assessment

5. Provide "self-check" assignments, communicate effectively and provide quality feedback cont'd

In the following video, Dr. Rice discusses the importance of instructor feedback to online students and some of the forms it can take. More strategies are provided on the following pages.

 

Here's How - Student Assessmenticons

Feedback Strategies

1. Include pre-assessment surveys to assess student readiness for course content and method of delivery. Free online tools to try: Survey Monkey and Zoomerang.

2. Consider having students submit multiple drafts of written assignments. Instructors can make comments and suggestions for improvement and let students know if they are on the right track.

3. Include self-mastery tests and practice quizzes that provide feedback with each selected response.

4. Provide interactive games or simulations with built-in feedback.

5. Have students review each others' work. Colorado State has some wonderful Peer Review Resources for writing assignments.

6. Provide model papers or essays for student viewing. Research the web for sample papers in your subject area and grade level.

7. Consider sample test bank answers or answer keys if you have access. There may be some available to you through your textbook publishing company and/or on the Internet.

8. Ensure students have a way to let you know if they are having difficulty understanding course materials. Consider implementing the Muddiest Point technique, (discussed in detail on the next page).

From the Field - Student Assessment

Photo of students discussing The Muddiest Point

In 1989, Frederick Mosteller's article, "The 'Muddiest Point in the Lecture' as a Feedback Device," appeared in On Teaching and Learning: The Journal of the Harvard-Danforth Center, Vol. 3, 1989, pp. 10–21.

Mosteller, a statistics professor at Harvard, advocated using the last three or four minutes of every class to ask students these three questions:

This can be adapted to the online environment in a variety of ways. Read Dr. David Brown's adaptation from Campus Technology Magazine >>


Discussion Icon

Discussion Question: What feedback strategy do you find most effective in your online classroom?

 

Conclusion

In the course of this module we have outlined basic principles of student assessment in the online classroom.

We have introduced the K-12 iNACOL and Quality Matters™ standards, and highlighted what both documents have to say with respect to assessment practices in the online classroom.

In particular, we focused on the five QM standards regarding assessments in online courses.

Both of these instruments provide a far more robust overall evaluation tool for online course and instructor evaluation than was presented here. We urge you to download both sets of tools for a closer look at what constitutes excellence in all facets of online course development and instructor best practice.

Student assessment cannot be discussed in a vacuum. Overall, student success is inextricably tied to a well-designed course, and the effective teaching practices of an online instructor.

For a review of the concepts discussed in this module, complete the activity below.

 Hyperlink to DragNDrop Activity 

References

Brown, D. (2001). The Muddiest Point, Campus Technology. Retrieved July 29, 2009 from http://www.campustechnology.com

 Edelstein, S. & Edward, J. (2002).  If You Build It, They Will Come: Building Learning Communities Through Threaded Discussions, Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 5(1).

Florida TaxWatch Center for Educational Performance and Accountability (2007). Final Report: A Comprehensive Assessment of Florida Virtual School, Retrieved August 17, 2009 from http://www.inacol.org

Mosteller, F. (1989). On Teaching and Learning: The Journal of the Harvard-Danforth Center, 3, 1989, 10–21.

MarylandOnline, Inc. (2008). Quality Matters Rubric for Online and Hybrid Courses 2008-2010 edition, Pasadena, MD: MarylandOnline, Inc.

North American Council for Online Learning, National Standards for Quality Online Teaching. Retrieved August 17, 2009 from http://www.inacol.org

University of Massachusetts, Teaching and Learning Online: Communication, Community, and Assessment, Eds. Poe, M. & Stassen, M. Retrieved July 29, 2009 from http://www.umass.edu

Final Assessment

Please complete the following before proceeding to the next module. Click on each question to begin.

 Question 1

 Question 2

 Question 3

 Question 4

 Question 5