Assessing Learning in Web-enhanced/Online Courses

"I just couldn't imagine how much I learned in this on-line course until I looked at my weekly journal entries and saw what I had written. I seemed so confused at first. I see how much I've really learned. I really see the value of portfolios." Earth System Science Education Alliance On-line Course participant
Because Web-enhanced courses and On-line courses are text based they are natural vehicles for the use of portfolios as an assessment tool. Portfolios can be used for displaying student content knowledge and as a way to make student thinking visible to all (including themselves). Learning on the internet isn't as simple as posting a syllabus on the web, asking students to read textbook chapters and then asking them to submit papers for evaluation. The internet is impersonal and without the visual cues students get from face-to-face classroom experiences it is easy to feel threatened or to appear threatening. The Ohio Learning Network website has modules that include encouraging contact between students and faculty, the use of active learning techniques and the necessity of providing prompt feedback. Each module includes information on:
  • Putting the principle into practice
  • Assesssing the benefits and resources
  • On-line and print resources

A Geoscience Assessment Using Portfolios

The Earth System Science Education Alliance and the Center for Educational Technologies have developed on-line Earth Systems science courses for K-4 teachers, Middle school teachers and High school teachers. The Middle School Teachers On-line Course was built using cooperative learning techniques and real-world events modules as vehicles for teachers to build their own Earth Systems science content understandings and to model the pedagogy. The development of each week's products within the course are guided and scored by rubrics. The entire course can be navigated from this page by using the navigation bar. ESSEA course participants are asked to use the rubrics to guide the development of group reports and to develop narrative entries for their own learning, The web-based weekly entries are essential to developing reflective thinking about the teachers own learning and documenting cognitive growth and confidence in learning the material.


  • Learning-for-Use: A Framework for the Design of Technology-Supported Inquiry Activities. Edelson, 2001 This article discusses a way to integrate the teaching of content with the teaching of process, which have in the past been seen as competing priorities. General guidelines are presented for the design of inquiry activities that support content learning taking advantage of modern technologies. (citation and description)
  • Real-Time Analysis of Student Comprehension: An Assessment of Electronic Student Response Technology in an Introductory Earth Science Course. Greer and Heaney, 2004 This article in the Journal of Geoscience Education describes a study that conducted a multi-faceted assessment of the use of electronic student response technologies in four sections of an introductory earth science class at Penn State University. Electronic student response technologies allow students to key in responses with remote control units to questions posed by an instructor in the classroom. They are used to assess teaching and learning methods in real time, and offer an exceptional means of introducing active learning protocols in classes with large enrollments. Quantitative and qualitative perception data from the students and the faculty are included. (Full Text Online)
  • They Love It, but Do They Learn from It? Evaluating the Educational Impact of Innovations. Gunn, 1999 The SECAL (Situated Evaluation of Computer-Assisted Learning) framework offers a broadly based method for evaluating learning with technology in its many forms and implementations. (citation and description)
  • CILT2000: Visualization and Modeling. Kali, 2002 This paper discusses the implications of the VisMod software used in educational environments. (citation and description)
  • Rethinking Course Assessment: Creating Accountability with Web-Based Tools. [Crippen, 2003] This article from the Journal of Science Education and Technology describes a learning environment where achievement targets are matched to existing Web-based assessment alternatives. The authors propose that choosing good web tools in a research supported assessment framework can result in courses that are more effective without adding significant work for instructors. They suggest that the keys to success are high standards for student learning, a good assessment model, and quality tools. (citation and description)
  • Internet Environments for Science Education: How Information Technologies Can Support the Learning of Science. [Linn, Davis and Bell, 2004] This book by Marcia C. Linn, Elizabeth A. Davis and Philip Bell synthesizes 25 years of research to identify effective, technology-enhanced ways to support students in becoming lifelong science learners. This approach to technology-enhanced inquiry takes advantage of global, networked information resources and socio-cognitive research on learning and teaching to better understand how to design responsive learning environments. (citation and description)
  • The Educational Potential of Multimedia Authoring as a Part of the Earth Science Curriculum — A Case Study. [Orion, Dubowski and Dodick, 2000] This article from the Journal of Research in Science Teaching assesses the potential of multimedia authoring as a learning tool. Grade 12 earth science students were provided with basic background information about earthquakes and then asked to do an in-depth independent project on a topic related to earthquakes. Once completed, the students presented their projects using the multimedia software ASTOUND. Assessment tools used by instructors to measure success were questionnaires, interviews, observations, concept mapping, and an analysis of the multimedia presentation. The findings showed that an integration of laboratory exercises, field trips, and an independent study project, could lead to meaningful learning. (citation and description)
  • Mapping to Know: The Effects of Representational Guidance and Reflective Assessment on Scientific Inquiry. [Toth, Suthers and Lesgold, 2002] This article from Science Education describes a study that evaluated of empirical evidence against multiple hypotheses. The article focuses on the effect of technology-based knowledge-representation tools and the effect of reflective assessment on learning to act and think scientifically. The technological tools of the framework allowed students to represent their developing knowledge of natural phenomena either in writing or with graphical mapping. The reflective assessment used was a form of inquiry rubrics that indicated specific assessment criteria for the various components of scientific inquiry. The results indicated that the use of evidence mapping is more effective than writing, and that evidence mapping was greatly enhanced by the use of reflective assessment throughout the inquiry process. (citation and description)
  • Customized Internet Assessments: Evaluating Another Dimension of Web Technology. [Wagner, 2001] This article from the Journal of College Science Teaching discusses educators' difficulty with interactive online assessment. Also discussed is a program that enables instructors to create their own online assessment with complete control over the content and structure of questions. (citation and description)
  • Virtual Field Trips in the Earth Science Classroom. [Woerner, 1999] This paper is from a workshop entitled “Preparation and Classroom Applications of Virtual Field Trips.” The paper discusses why a teacher might choose a field trip as an important educational strategy to the teaching and learning of earth science. Also discussed are factors that influence learning on a field trip and the components of an effective earth science field trip. A list of web sites that feature virtual field trips is also provided. (citation and description)

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