Module 3: Assessment Strategies for a Virtual Environment

Overview of High-Quality Online Assessments


High-Quality Online Assessments

Assessment is a process that helps us gather information about learner performance.

The choices we make in assessment design guide the design and delivery of lessons and learning activities in face-to-face and online contexts.[1]

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

A well-planned assessment strategy is essential to learner success in virtual environments. This strategy includes a variety of assessments that are:

1. Authentic
2. Culturally Responsive
3. Aligned Strongly with Course Learning Goals
Constructive curriculum alignment cycle. Description in caption.
Caption: The Constructive Curriculum Alignment cycle involves Learning Goals, Assessments and Learning Activities. In this diagram, “Learning Goals” is at the top with double-headed arrows to “Assessments” at the bottom right and “Learning Activities” at the bottom left. Additionally, there is a double-headed arrow between “Learning Activities” and “Assessments.” Source: “Constructive Curriculum Alignment” by Seneca College, The Teaching & Learning Centre, CC BY-NC-SA

Tip: When designing an assessment, make sure that the skills and knowledge you are measuring align with the learning goals of the course.

Through frequent and ongoing assessment, we not only see the progress of student learning, but we also see opportunities to reflect on and improve the quality of learning experiences for students.

Criteria for Effective Online Design

Kumar et al. (2019) analyzed data related to the online course design of eight award-winning online teachers in the United States. The goal was to shed light on what factors influenced these faculty in “exemplary online course design” (p. 161).[3] These award winners shared their attitudes, experiences and approaches to online course design. All of these elements refer to module design, which includes assessments.

The researchers determined the following criteria for effective online design:

  • authenticity and relevance
  • use of multimedia resources
  • student creation of digital content (individual and collaborative)
  • student reflection on learning
  • clearly articulated purpose of activities, technologies and assessments

As you read through the online assessment strategies presented in this module, consider how each assessment meets these broader criteria for effective online design.

  1. Elbow, P. (1993). Ranking, evaluating, and liking: Sorting out three forms of judgment. College English, 55(2), 187–206.
  2. Montenegro, E., & Jankowski, N. A. (2017). Equity and assessment: Moving towards culturally responsive assessment [PDF]. (Occasional Paper No. 29). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment
  3. Kumar, S., Martin, F., Budhrani, K., & Ritzhaupt, A. (2019). Award-winning faculty online teaching practices: Elements of award-winning courses. Online Learning, 23(4), 160-180.


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Designing and Developing High-Quality Student-Centred Online/Hybrid Learning Experiences 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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