Initial Publication Date: May 13, 2004

Assessment on the Web

The web grants unique abilities to educators to affect the amount and variety of what their students are learning, but also to assess how well they do so. From tracking student behavior in sophisticated online learning environments to embedding quizzes into web assignments, there are a number of ways to use technology to aid assessment. Just remember that technology does not automatically make anything into good assessment practice. If educators are not careful and deliberate, technology can be more stumbling block and stepping stone.

Adapted from 34 Strategies for Developing Effective On-line Assessment at Assessing Learning at Australian Universities: Online Assessment:
  • Has any inherent unfairness been avoided (for example, some international students and some older students might be less familiar with computer use than others)?
  • Does the on-line assessment assess anything that can't be assessed as well (or more effectively) in a traditional format?
  • Where a range of computers and software packages are in use, has the potential issue of compatibility and readability of files been planned for?

Embedded Assessment

One of the most powerful advantages to using Online Educational Resources is the ability to embed a means of assessing student progress directly into the exercise. One version is to make progress through a resource contingent on correctly answering questions about the material they are engaged with. This can aid the self-directed nature of online learning resources by giving the student immediate feedback about their performance. Alternatively, quizzes and tests with automated grading can be put online. This immediate feedback on performance can empowerment students to take charge of their learning, espeically in a "practice test" situation.

Course Management Software

There are now several different course management systems available. These systems enable faculty to package all their materials into one online experience for students. In addition, they usually give the instructor the ability to track student behavior and performance over time. This kind of longitudinal assessment of class learning can help the faculty member tailor the content to the needs of the class. Another aspect of these systems is they usually have a library of activities and classes that have been constructed by other faculty that is searchable and reusable.

A popular course management systems is Blackboard and more information can be found at their respective web sites: Blackboard: e-Education (more info) .


Many of the Classroom Assessment Techniques mentioned previously lend themselves well to an online format. ConcepTests can be administered on computers (check out the Starting Point example collection). Attitude Surveys and Minutes Papers could be done via email. Multiple Choice Tests have been an online standby for years. As long as the assessment itself is well designed, putting it online won't reduce its effectiveness. So don't be afraid to try an alternative method for assessing how your students are doing.

Additional Resources

Designing Assessments into Activities that Meet Learning Goals (PowerPoint 122kB Feb9 04): Presentation from the Workshop
WebCT and Online Assessment: The best thing since student online assessment program? (more info)