What Makes a Good Online Course?

January 14, 2021

Part 5: Assessment Methods


In part 4 of this blog series, you were asked to imagine a course that relied exclusively on text-only articles for its instructional content. By the end of that blog, you learned that instructional content comes in a variety of forms (including videos, infographics, and games) and that students benefit from having different instructional content to learn from.

The same concept can be applied to assessment methods. Assessment methods are how your instructor determines your understanding of the course material. Although assessments can be—and often are—the traditional quiz or exam, the world of online learning has made other types of assessment possible.

Assessment methods

Because assessment is the process of gathering information about what you know or can do, relying on a single type of assessment can be risky. Perhaps you have test anxiety that prevents you from doing well on a timed quiz, or maybe you are better able to demonstrate your understanding through a written paper instead of a verbal video assignment. Either way, participating in several assessment methods throughout the course will provide you with an educational challenge as well as the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge in multiple ways.

According to Dr. Meagan Sovine, an Assistant Speech Professor at St. Philip’s College, the benefits of multiple assessments methods can include prompting students to examine course topics from multiple lenses, increase student engagement, and encourage students to think critically.

Dr. Sovine states, “I find that not all of my students learn the same ways. As such, it’s important to use different assessments to reach all types of learners. For instance, the bulk of my course points in the Public Speaking class come from speeches. Before a major speech is due, students will analyze sample speech videos by writing their evaluations in a short paper, as well as engage in discussion boards with their peers about various topics related to the targeted speech type. By analyzing videos, discussing with their peers, and then delivering their actual speeches, students are able to explore the course topics from multiple viewpoints. When varying the types of assessments, I see that students are heavily engaged and ask meaningful questions that relate their assessments to their professional and personal lives.”

What types of assessments can be integrated into an online course?

  1. Formal papers are usually APA-style documents that require you to cite all the research and sources that you have used to support your ideas.
  2. Peer evaluation/review is an activity that requires you to utilize course concepts and additional research to evaluate and review the work of a fellow classmate.
  3. Reflection posts demonstrate that you have read and understand the course concepts.
  4. Simulations recreate situations that you will encounter as a professional in your field. They differ from videos in that it is a real-world activity that may include real-time interaction with your instructor or other classmates.
  5. Quizzes are usually short, timed, and multiple choice. They are an ideal tool to periodically check your learning and deliver immediate feedback about your subject knowledge.

Ideally, your instructor will balance objective assessments with more subjective assessments, providing opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge while still being engaged. Whether you prefer writing essays or taking multiple-choice tests, a quality online course should provide you with different ways to demonstrate your knowledge. At the same time, you will want to be prepared to tackle any assessment method selected by your instructor, so make sure to study well in advance so you are prepared for all future assessments.

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