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Choosing Assessments

Assessment and Teaching: On a Spectrum

When choosing assessments for your online course, think about assessment and learning as existing on a spectrum. Rather than only thinking about grades, consider assessment as any opportunity where students can demonstrate their learning to you.

The ALT Centre recommends using a mix of low-stakes and high-stakes assessments in your online courses (see definitions below). We can't directly watch students learn like we the face-to-face class. So, unless we actively ask students to demonstrate their learning to us, we may never know they need additional assistance until it's too late.

Low stakes: little risk to students if they 'get it wrong'; low investment of time

High stakes: large impact on students' grade; large investment of time


Backwards Design: Start With Your Learning Outcomes

Follow a Backwards Approach to your online course design. In support of Brescia's outcomes-based approach to education, the ALT Centre recommends that selecting course assessments that directly support students' achievement of your learning outcomes.

Need a learning outcomes refresher? Visit the ALT Centre resources on writing learning outcomes in consideration of our SOLO, four-level taxonomy.

Download our handout for a step-by-step approach in choosing online assessments using a backwards-design approach. 

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Assessment: Where the Magic Happens

Assessment is an opportunity to build classroom community when we ask students to work together in innovative ways. Collaborative class projects (e.g. podcast assignments) and innovative pedagogies (e.g. gamification) help us see the potential in online assessment. 

Online assessments can ask students to think deeply about course content. For example, it's easy for students to share examples of course content or upload mixed-media assignments. 

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Academic Integrity: It's in the Design

The best ways to mitigate students' temptation and ability to cheat include:

  1. Educating. Teach students about academic integrity. Ask students to take an honour pledge. Create a class netiquette together with students.
  2. Connecting. Explain how your assessments contribute to student learning outcomes. Ask students to connect assessments to lived experiences.
  3. Switching. Avoid using only high-stakes, multiple-choice exams. Re-weight assignments or add a participation grade. Integrate qualitative and reflection questions. Explore authentic assessments. Create open-book or take-home exams. Choice. Allow students choice in medium. Provide flexibility, such as 'due by' deadlines. Give choice between similar assessments. 
  4. Using the Tools. OWL Tests & Quizzes allows for question pools, randomized questions, timing windows. 
  5. Empathizing. Students are more likely to cheat when they feel they have no choice (or will not do well otherwise) Students are more likely to cheat when they feel like no one will notice.

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