Q. What is the best way to assess students in the online environment?


Updated: May 22, 2020

Some forms of assessment can relatively easily move online, others are more complicated. Many organizations have provided advice and recommendations for assessing learners' progress during distance, remote or online learning, here is a brief summary of some of their advice followed by links to resources where you can find out more: 

The first consideration is matching your assessment method with the outcomes you are trying to measure. Other considerations include:

  • Timeliness, frequency, specificity
  • User-friendliness, clarity, and ease of understanding
  • Balancing feedback about what is going well and where there is room for improvement
  • Considering the long-term learning goals in addition to the immediate task goals


For assessing students in remote or online learning environments, think about:

  • Setting up clear rubrics or assessment criteria ahead of time. 
  • Using short online quizzes or polls to do “temperature checks”
  • Having students assess their own work using reflection exercises etc.
  • Using conversations to have students explain their thinking
  • Using technology options to track who has and has not accessed assigned content, watched assigned videos etc.
  • Using “performance tasks” which require students to apply their knowledge to produce an end-product
  • Planning for students to receive regular feedback from both you and their peers – via videoconference, phone-call, email, comments in discussion boards etc. as appropriate
  • Teaching academic honesty/integrity, trusting students, and acknowledging that there is no fool-proof way to ensure academic honesty


  • Discuss with students how you are planning to capture participation ahead of time.
  • You could record student comments, questions, etc. in your video conferencing platform during live sessions.  This could be verbal participation captured in the video itself, or participation via text in the chat window.
  • In asynchronous learning environments, participation can be captured in online comment boards, questions posed to the group, answers offered, reflection exercises, feedback from small-group work teammates, etc.

What about exam-based assessment?

  • Find out from your school what options exist for your learning management system for putting exams online, and what tools or functions are built-in or available to add-on.
  • Think about how your students will sit the exam at home and the learning goals you are assessing and consider:
    • Possibly planning for exams to be open book
    • Possibly using tools that would block access to other websites and online content while the exam is open
    • Setting time-limits

For More Information:

Assessing Learning
from Teaching Online/Remotely, Preparing for Next Term from the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, University of Toronto

Teach Remotely Best Practices: Online Pedagogy
This guide provided by Harvard University covers topics like effective lectures, preparing for online teaching, engaging and assessing learners, accessibility issues, tips for different modalities of teaching, and more.

Online Teaching & Learning: Assessment Methods
Sheridan Library and Learning Services

Tips for moving a class online quickly 
Brief tips from Dr. Stephanie Tacquard at Pearson Education for a fast transition to teaching online.

Summative Assessment in Distance Learning
by Andrew Miller, April 28, 2020 – Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation

Formative Assessment in Distance Learning
by Andrew Miller, April 7, 2020 – Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation

Remote Learning Assessment Resources
Institutional Research, Analysis & Planning, Bates College

Answered By: Melanie Anderson
Last Updated: May 22, 2020 Views: 56

Comments (1)

  1. Here is a great article with resources that could help you You could also give your students access to past exam papers like what Bellview Institute of Distance Learning is doing for their Adult Matric students:
    by Zee on Dec 16, 2021

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