Evaluating Student Performance for Grading Purposes

In assessing online learning, it is important to create a “mix” of assignments that cover the multiple dimensions of learning that online courses can employ. Traditional tests become a smaller part of the grade as you move towards encouraging student interaction on group projects and other activities.

Different forms of assessment include:

  • End of semester paper
  • Weekly tests
  • Group projects
  • Case study analysis
  • Journals
  • Reading responses
  • Chatroom responses
  • Threaded discussions participation

Communicate  expectations

As was suggested in the previous chapter, students in online courses are in particular need of clear information about course requirements and instructor expectations.

Therefore, develop specific grading guidelines for course assignments and activities ahead of time so students know in advance what is expected of them. For example, articulate what are appropriate responses to questions in online discussions, what is a substantive answer versus a superficial response, etc. Providing students with specific examples of the kinds of work you are looking for is also helpful.

Keep track of student performance

The gradebook option in online software packages makes it possible to store all information about students’ performance in one place. Many also make it possible for students to look up their own progress on assignments.

Give prompt feedback

  • At the start of the semester, clarify the type of feedback you will be giving (regarding discussion participation, writing assignments, group work, ) so students have a clearer sense of what to expect from you.
  • Students want feedback on assignments, but it is often difficult to provide much feedback when you use a number of varied assignments throughout the One instructor uses a �,�+,�- system to provide a quick response to students.
  • A number of gradebook features have a comment section where the instructor can give specific feedback to a student on an assignment that can only be seen by the instructor and that

Design effective tests

  • Be clear from the start about what is allowed and what is not permitted when students take a test online (e.g., is the test “open book,” are there time limits on how long they can take to complete the test, ).
  • Because it is difficult to ensure that students taking an online exam are not using their books, some faculty encourage open book exams but place a time limit on how long students have to complete the test. These instructors believe that if a student knows where to go in the text book to get the information they need in a timely fashion then that student has clearly done the reading, and the issue of memorizing the information is less Some online course software allows you to limit the time that students may view test questions and post test answers.
  • Unlike many traditional classes where students never see their completed exams after they hand them in, students in online courses can usually go back and look at the exam questions at a later While this can be a useful learning tool for students, it can lead to additional questions from students about exam content or the wording of a question.

Encourage active learning

  • Help students become more reflective learners by asking them to set their goals for the course at the beginning of the semester. At the end of the course, ask them to return to their goals to reflect upon what they’ve accomplished.
  • The majority of students focus their academic effort on those elements of the course that will affect their grade in the Be sure that your grading policies reinforce the activities and assignments you value and that you take advantage of learning activities that are particularly suited for an online course. For example, if you want students to meaningfully participate in online discussions, be sure to include participation as part of the grading scheme.

Evaluate participation in threaded discussions

  • Require students to participate in specific numbers of threaded
  • Have interactive learning activities (e.g., threaded discussion) account for a high percentage of the course
  • Identify the qualities you look for in discussions and grade students according to those criteria

FROM:  Teaching and Learning Online: Communication, Community and Assessment – A Handbook for UMass Faculty

NOTES from John Gerber

I use objective quizzes and tests in my Botany for Gardeners class.  This is easy to set up on Blackboard and the computer does the grading.  It is helpful to provide feedback to students who get the wrong answer and this can be done on the Blackboard platform.

In addition, I require 4 original essays over a 6 week class.  These 4 essays are worth as much as a unit exam.  Here is an example of one of the essay assignments. 

After the student reads the article, they are given the following instructions:

And of course they are told how the essay will be graded.

Most students earn full credit for the essays so they can help with bad grades on the exams.  And quite frankly, this is the part of the class I like the best.  I have read some really thoughtful and creative essays over the years I”ve been teaching online.