Module 3: Assessment Strategies for a Virtual Environment

Authentic Online Assessments

Introductory Brainstorm Activity

Before we move into this section on authentic online assessments, please think about a course you teach and consider these questions:

  • How does the course support learners in becoming industry ready?
  • How does the course help students to become community-minded citizens?
  • What real-world tasks are common in this industry and/or community?

Please respond to at least five questions below that relate to you. Then export this data and save the file. You will revisit these ideas at the end of this module.

From Traditional Assessment to Authentic Assessment

Authentic assessment supports the belief that students need to perform meaningful tasks in the real world in order to become productive citizens. To help students become proficient in the real world, they should build competency in tasks by taking on “real-world challenges”[1] in collaborative, multidimensional ways.

Through authentic assessment, learners demonstrate achievement by applying their knowledge. Authentic assessment measures the application of knowledge rather than the content knowledge itself.

Learners also become more acutely aware of their own skill development and learn to clearly articulate their skills and how they might work to improve in certain skill areas.

Authentic Assessment is Experiential

Learners become immersed in meaningful tasks that build relevant skills and help them meet their personal and professional goals. Learners can take ownership over their learning experience and develop an awareness of their skill development over time.

Examples of authentic assessments [2] include:

  • public-facing presentations, videos, posters, podcasts, infographics
  • systems mapping
  • sharing circles
  • proposals
  • and more

Review Activity: Traditional vs. Authentic Assessment

Consider these contrasting approaches.

For the dialogue cards below, read the traditional assessment, and consider an alternative authentic assessment. Then, select the card to flip it over to view an option we’ve come up with. Use the arrows to view all six cards.


Challenges to Authentic Assessment

Transforming from traditional to authentic modes of assessment may seem daunting and counterintuitive for some faculty. Here are some common concerns expressed by faculty.

Select each quote to review a response/counterargument. Use the arrows to view all four cards.

Tip: As you go through the types and examples of online assessment in this module, consider how each assessment meets these criteria for effective online design.

Four Types of Authentic Online Assessment

In this section, we will overview four types of student-centred online assessment. For each assessment type, review examples of techniques that help to improve the quality of our assessment design to improve student learning.

All four types of assessment should be frequent and ongoing throughout your course. However, when planning your assessment strategy, prioritize formative low-stakes assessment over high-stakes assessment to limit burnout for students and instructors alike. For graded assessments, ensure that the expected workload for students is reasonable for the weighting of the task.

Select a topic below, marked with an arrowhead, to reveal more information.

Prior Knowledge Assessment
Formative Assessment
Demonstration of Learning Assessment
Reflection as Learning Assessment

High-Quality Online Assessment Strategies

Here are some online assessment strategies that:

  • encourage authentic learning experiences
  • reduce barriers to learning
  • support learner variability

Most of these strategies offer learners a choice of modalities to share their knowledge and demonstrate skill. Consider offering a choice of digital tools to present and submit work. Try to integrate authentic opportunities for learning while doing the assessment.

Tip: Be prepared to conduct a quick Google search on free and accessible digital tools that can facilitate the design and delivery of assessment activities and practices.

Review these strategies. Which ones are most intriguing to you? Visit the various links to explore further.

Select a topic below, marked with an arrowhead, to reveal more information.

Prior Knowledge Assessment Strategies
Formative Assessment Strategies
Demonstration of Learning Assessment Strategies
Reflection as Learning Assessment Strategies

Reflection – Applying Your Knowledge

Now that you have reviewed some online authentic assessment ideas, return back to your brainstorming notes from the beginning of this section. Look at your five examples of industry and community tasks and identify an online authentic assessment idea that can support this industry/community task.

Key Takeaways

Authentic online assessments encourage students to demonstrate their knowledge through real-world tasks. Ask yourself what skills are valued in the industry and communities in which students will live and work. Assignments such as public-facing collaborative projects using relevant digital tools will allow students to develop real-world skills and apply their knowledge and reflect on their learning. Make sure to use a variety of assessment techniques, with an emphasis on low-stakes formative assessments.

  1. Mueller, J. (2018). How is authentic assessment similar to/different from traditional assessment? Authentic Assessment Toolbox. Retrieved December 15, 2021, from
  2. Authentic assessments. (2020). Seneca College The Teaching & Learning Centre. Retrieved on December 15, 2021, from


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Designing and Developing High-Quality Student-Centred Online/Hybrid Learning Experiences Copyright © 2022 by Seneca College; Humber College; Kenjgewin Teg; Trent University; and Nipissing University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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