eLearning

What Are The Best Types of Assessments for Online Learning?

Androniki Koumadoraki
9 min

The assessment of learning is a complex yet necessary activity that completes the instruction process. Whether we’re talking about traditional classroom-based learning or eLearning, it’s essential to evaluate and reward student work – and assessments are the most effective way educators and online course creators can do that effectively.

Assessments also apply to all kinds of professional training. If your online course portfolio includes teaching new skill sets to individuals or upskilling your employees, and you want to gauge their performance, then this article is for you as well!

Today, we will focus on building assessments for online courses. We’ll also see the different types of assessment and use cases, the benefits of incorporating assessments into your course design, and best practices.

5 Types of Assessments

Let’s see 5 different types of assessment. These are most commonly used in student learning but can apply to any type of online learning as well:

Diagnostic

Diagnostic assessments take place at the beginning of the course. Their scope is to gauge the learner’s knowledge level, so the educator can place them in the course that fits them best.

💡 Use diagnostic assessment in your online school if you offer courses of different difficulty levels on the same topic. If you’re a coach, you can conduct an interview as a form of diagnostic assessment to evaluate your client’s needs better, develop an action plan, and work with the coaching model that works for them best.

Formative

Formative assessments measure learner knowledge and progress throughout the school year or over the course of an online program. Giving detailed feedback after a formative assessment is essential to help learners identify their strengths and weaknesses.

💡 From a business perspective, contacting the learners regularly to give them feedback helps engage with them more meaningfully. It’s the best way to show them that you actively support them in their learning journey and prevent them from dropping the course. You can offer feedback via a personalized email or even a video session if there’s much to discuss.

Interim

Interim assessments are mostly used in K-12 education to measure students’ academic progress across a school or district. These exams are administered throughout the academic year at specific intervals.

Benchmark

Benchmark assessments evaluate the knowledge level of large groups of learners against specific standards. They can take place across a whole school, a district, a grade level, etc.

Summative

Summative assessments are mid-term and end-of-term assessments that evaluate student performance. Learners are awarded a grade based on their performance, which is measured against set criteria (aka rubrics).

Summative are high-stakes assessments. The grade learners receive in these assessments is decisive towards the overall grade they get awarded for the course. They are applicable in both classroom-based and online courses.

💡 Summative assessment is essential in employee training and any other type of compulsory training (like health and safety, compliance, or cybersecurity) where you must ensure that the learning objectives are met.

If your summative assessment is elaborate enough, it justifies awarding successful learners a certificate. This, in turn, increases the perceived value of your course as the certificate will add to your learners’ resumes and increase the benefit they gain from taking your course.

Benefits of Using Assessments in Course Design

Why should you use assessment for learning evaluation? Below we explore 7 big-time benefits of using assessments in your course.

Measure Student Progress

The primary purpose of a learner assessment is to measure student understanding, as well as the overall learning progress. By creating assessments that match the course’s learning objectives, you can accurately picture how your learners are assimilating the content and whether they’re ready to move on to higher levels of difficulty.

Improve Your Course

Following our previous point, integrating assessments can help you identify issues with the course itself. If all learners fail or perform poorly in an assignment, perhaps the course content you’ve chosen or your mode of instruction fails to transfer knowledge effectively.

In any case, any negative patterns and collective drops in performance are red flags that something’s off. Time to start a discussion with your learners that might result in reevaluating your teaching strategy.

Offer Feedback

Assessments are not only a valuable tool for your benefit – but they’re also beneficial for your learners. Offering constructive feedback that focuses not only on mistakes but also on strengths helps learners identify where they stand and pinpoint their strengths and ways to utilize them. Therefore, learners feel more confident and motivated to continue their learning journey.

Feedback also opens a line of communication with students. It’s another way to actively support your students and increase their engagement with the course. This makes it more likely that they will be successful with their learning and keep learning with you in the future.

Address Lack of Engagement

By keeping an eye on the performance of individual students, you can spot warning signs that indicate they’re no longer engaged with the course. A lack of engagement is common in eLearning. It’s often associated with asynchronous courses where interactions are minimal to non-existent. It’s also one of the biggest headaches for online course creators and instructional designers.

Integrating assessments throughout the course (formative assessments) enables you to spot disengaged learners before they start to drop out. Aside from that – don’t forget that assessments are learning activities too. Adding quizzes here and there sparks learners’ attention and challenges them to retrieve information and not just passively watch a course.

Reward and Motivate Learners

Performing well at school or individual assignments is motivating, and so is getting a reward for it! So why not link assessment to a reward system to congratulate students for doing their best work?

In online learning, this reward system could be gamification. For instance, if you’re using a learning management system, you can create customizable badges that celebrate different student achievements.

Give Learners an Opportunity for Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is an important topic in education, as it encourages learners to think about how they learn and discover ways to learn more effectively and facilitate the learning process. This way, learners are in control of their own learning and feel empowered.

To encourage self-assessment and, subsequently, self-reflection, you can add a questionnaire at the end of an assignment (or a course) and ask learners to evaluate their performance, enabling them to think about what they’ve done well and what they could have done differently.

💁 A little tip – ask learners to complete these assessments during a live session. It’s more likely they’ll put genuine effort and thought into it.

4 Best Practices for Assessments in eLearning

The standard best practices for online assessments don’t differ from those in place for classroom assessments.

1Connect Assessments to Learning Objectives

When you think of an assessment, you must always consider it in tandem with the course’s learning objectives. This is why you must create precise learning objectives before you even start working on the course content.

Learning objectives guide all your decisions regarding which learning activities you will incorporate into the course, including learner assessments.

Let’s say you’re teaching an intermediate Spanish course that focuses on enhancing writing skills. In this case, your assessments should evaluate the learners’ ability to express themselves in writing. At some point, you’re torn between giving learners a text and asking them to write a summary or a word-for-word translation.

Now think – the first assignment will test their ability to rework a text and find alternative ways to convey the key points, while the second one tests whether they have an advanced vocabulary. But this is neither what your course is about nor what learners joined the course for. Therefore, the summary would be a much better fit for the course’s learning objectives.

2Integrate Assessments Throughout the Course

While adding a final exam at the end of the course is essential to evaluate the overall learner knowledge of the subject you’ve taught, there’s more to the story. Assessment best practices indicate that you should add several assignments during a course.

That’s because every assignment is a chance for practice and feedback at the same time. Learners recall what they’ve learned, boosting knowledge retention and realizing they’re making progress. This, in addition to the feedback they receive, helps them stay motivated and feel more confident.

3Offer Constructive Feedback

Assigning a grade, which usually happens automatically for certain types of assessment in online learning, is not enough. Even if a learner gets an “A,” you still need to congratulate and give them feedback. Tell them what they did particularly well, especially in open-type assessments where learners get creative and put significant effort.

Feedback is even more essential and needs careful handling when a learner doesn’t perform as expected. When this happens, feedback should be detailed, emphasizing what the learner has done well and what they need to improve. You can also address repeatedly low or decreasing performance with a one-to-one meeting.

4Bring Authentic Assessment Into Play

Apart from standardized tests, there are other forms of assessments. Authentic assessment, for instance, is essential to create opportunities for practice and enable real-world application, thereby evaluating student skills and knowledge more effectively.

Class discussions are an example of alternative assessments that can be considered authentic. You can do role-play exercises to enhance problem-solving skills together as a group or discuss different viewpoints.

Learner Assessment on LearnWorlds

With LearnWorlds, creating assessments is a walk in the park. You can build both graded assessments (exams) and non-graded assessments (self-assessments).

For exams, the following types of questions are available:

For self-assessments, most of the exam questions are available, in addition to some of the form question types:

✨More magic you can do with our features for even better assessments:

🤷 “So, Which Type of Assessment Should I Use?”

Feeling overwhelmed by the number of choices? Let’s clear the air a bit for you:

1. Multiple choice

Do you want to see whether your learners can tell A from B? Then use a multiple-choice quiz! Multiple-choice questions test whether learners are familiar with specific information they don’t need to elaborate on, like dates and terms. This type of assessment gives learners a quick win – it helps them get an idea of their progress, but it can’t evaluate deep learning.

✅ Use multiple-choice questions in ungraded, self-reflection quizzes and diagnostic assessments. Combine them with open-ended questions for a more accurate evaluation.

✅ An excellent choice if, for any reason, you don’t want to push your learners too much.

❌ Avoid relying on multiple-choice questions in summative assessments when teaching theoretical knowledge that requires analysis and reflection.

2. Multimodal assessments

Create multimodal assessments that contain video, images, or animations, as well as match & ordering activities, to add interactivity to your quizzes.

Besides being exciting, multimodal assessments are also very effective in boosting knowledge retention as learners have to recall information and link it to an image. By creating this connection, they will establish the information in their minds more firmly.

✅ Use multimodal assessments in creative courses. For example, if you’re teaching a course on creating the perfect flower arrangements, ask learners to submit a video where they make their own creation!

✅ Multimodal assessment also works well in language learning, especially in vocabulary testing at introductory levels.

❌ When they’re part of multiple-choice quizzes, multimodal assessments may not be the best way to evaluate learner progress. The only exception is video submissions where students can elaborate on a topic you’ve assigned.

3. Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions like short texts, text assignments, and file assignments provide educators a deeper look into learner progress. They can be used during any part of the course.

✅ Use open-ended questions if you’re teaching theoretical courses, like history or leadership.

✅ Open-ended questions are also the best way to evaluate written communication skills when teaching a foreign language, copywriting, etc.

❌ Open-ended questions might be unnecessary in any other case and cause stress to learners. Be especially careful with text assignments and make sure you take into account the needs of learners with learning disabilities, like dyslexia, as they may have trouble completing these types of assignments.

Learning Assessments Made Clear

A learning assessment doesn’t have to be complicated or a source of confusion for educators or anyone selling their courses online. Hopefully, this post has shed some light on how you can use assessments in your online courses to evaluate learners and how to use assessment and feedback to increase engagement.

Why not take a look for yourself? Try LearnWorlds with a 30-day free trial to discover how easy it is to create memorable learning experiences for everyone from start to finish.

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Androniki Koumadoraki
Androniki Koumadoraki

Androniki is a Content Writer at LearnWorlds sharing Instructional Design and marketing tips. With solid experience in B2B writing and technical translation, she is passionate about learning and spreading knowledge. She is also an aspiring yogi, a book nerd, and a talented transponster.