Module 3: Assessment Strategies for a Virtual Environment

Evaluating Online Assessments

Assessment, Evaluation and Grading

What is the difference between assessment, evaluation and grading?

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A well-designed online assessment allows us to measure learning effectively, while also promoting learning with meaningful feedback and encouraging learners to reflect on their progress.

There are three steps to measuring learning.

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Rubrics, when designed effectively and presented clearly, can support learning and help students measure their own progress and set new learning goals for themselves. Rubrics are essential elements for any task-based authentic assessment.

Three popular types of rubrics are analytic, holistic and single-point.[1] No matter which rubric you select, ensure that it:

  • articulates clear criteria for success
  • is broad enough to allow for multimodality, accessibility and inclusivity
  • complements feedback and comments from the assignment

Since we have been focusing on authentic assessment in this module, consider how to measure skills that support learners in industry readiness and community engagement. For instance, ask yourself what skills are valued by industry experts and community leaders.

Here is a sample single-point rubric that aligns with successful demonstration of skills, knowledge and attitudes that lead to success in the workplace:[2]

Needs Improvement Criteria Successful Completion Feedback / Comments
Communication skills: States and explains positions clearly and concisely.
Collaboration: Makes a meaningful contribution to the team. Consider sharing your availability with teammates and decide on roles and responsibilities at an earlier stage of collaboration.
Critical Thinking: Demonstrates strong reasoning skills. Uses well-informed judgment to analyze and evaluate.
Digital Skills: Demonstrates effective use of digital tools.


What is the purpose of feedback? Is it to explain a grade? Is it to provide further detail that a rubric can’t capture?

Feedback is an opportunity to guide learners in their development. Feedback should be frequent, ongoing and immediate for it to make a positive impact on learning. In a virtual learning environment, feedback software allows for easy marginal comments and text-specific feedback.

Here are some tips for providing feedback in online environments:

  • Provide rich and meaningful feedback that remains focused on the overall objective of the assignment. Establish a dialogue with learners, and use a friendly, conversational tone that encourages reflection and acknowledges the process of learning, rather than the product.
  • Use the language found in the rubric so students will see connections between their performance and the criteria for success.
  • Take a “feed forward” approach. Focus on what two or three things students can do to improve next time.
  • Ask learners how they prefer to receive feedback (text, audio, audio/visual), and take advantage of suitable digital tools that make your feedback more accessible to learners.

Tip: Online feedback: Audio feedback applications are growing in popularity because of their ease of use and conversational approach.[3] Before committing to an app, make sure that it is free and accessible for all learners and is AODA compliant.

Peer Assessment

When designed carefully and delivered with clarity, peer assessment and feedback can be more reliable than grade-based assessments.[4]

The skill of giving effective feedback must be learned, modelled and practiced. Through peer assessment, learners develop the real-world skill of giving meaningful feedback. They also strengthen their critical reflection skills and deepen their awareness of core skills competencies developed through this assessment. By reviewing others’ work with a critical lens, they are reflecting on their own progress at the same time.

Digital Tools for Assessment in a Virtual Environment

Assessment tools previously used in in-person classrooms may not translate well to a virtual environment. However, there are many digital tools that have been developed and are frequently used. To help you start thinking about different types of tools you can use for online assessments, take a look at Cool Tools for Online Assessment[5] and Digital Tools.[6]

To help you curate your own list of digital tools that can be used to design and submit online assessments, download the fillable PDF Digital Tools for Assessment in a Virtual Environment [PDF].A table is provided for you; in each row, you will find an assessment strategy, along with the type(s) of authentic online assessment, and space for you to type in a digital tool example. Examples of digital tools have been provided for the first two assessment strategies (live polling and surveys/questionnaires); feel free to add more.

For each assessment strategy try to find a suitable digital tool. Research may be necessary. The best places to start are your Teaching and Learning Centres, your organization’s library team, and, of course, Google.

Tip: Keep your completed fillable PDF Digital Tools for Assessment in a Virtual Environment [PDF] handy as a reference when designing your assessments.


Key Takeaways

A well-designed online assessment allows us to measure learning effectively, while also promoting learning with meaningful feedback and encouraging learners to reflect on their progress. Choose the most appropriate and accessible digital tool that allows you to evaluate students equitably. Make sure to articulate reasonable criteria and a rubric that describes achievement standards that support assessment objectives.

  1. Gonzalez, J. (2014, May 1). Know your terms: holistic, analytic, and single-point rubrics. Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved December 15, 2021, from
  2. Ibid
  3. Stuart, D. (2020, August 20). How (and why) to leave audio feedback on student work this year, whether during in-person or distance learning. Dave Stuart Jr. Retrieved December 15, 2021, from
  4. McGill Teaching and Learning Services. (2021, March). Designing peer assessment assignments [PDF]. University of McGill Teaching and Learning Services. Retrieved on December 15, 2021, from
  5. Parkins, S. (2020, June). Cool Tools for Online Assessment. Seneca College. Retrieved January 25, 2022, from
  6. Digital Tools. (2021). Humber College. Retrieved January 22, 2022, 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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