Types of Assessment

How do I give an exam online? Will students be more likely to cheat? What makes for an effective assessment in the online learning environment? These are common questions from instructors when designing and developing their online course. There are numerous options for assessment, including discussion boards, assignments in which students upload a file, group work, self-assessments, and proctored and non-proctored quizzes and exams.

How to Get Started

Step 1: Examine your preconceptions about assessment.

  • Online assessment does not necessarily need to follow the assessment methods you would use for the face-to-face version of the course.
  • View online assessments as interactive mentoring opportunities (Runyon & Holzen, 2000).
    • Use assessments to enable students to evaluate their own progress in the course and to provide feedback on course components that need further development or explanation.
  • Projects, quizzes, and tests should be viewed as a means of promoting learning.
  • If a skill is important to you, assess it. Most students do not bother to learn something that does not count toward their grade; as Felder and Brent (2006) suggest, “that’s not laziness—that’s rational behavior” (p. 2).
  • Multiple-choice exams can be an effective option to assess student learning, as they allow for instantaneous feedback to students and efficient grading for faculty. Ensure that your questions assess higher-order thinking by visiting Multiple Choice.

Step 2: Review desired course learning objectives to ensure that they align with assessments.

  • An ideal learning objective (Mager, 1997) will include:
    • A measurable verb
    • The important condition (if any) under which the performance is to occur
    • The criterion of acceptable performance
  • Communicate learning objectives through the syllabus, course introductory module, each individual module, and in related activities and assignments (Runyon & Holzen, 2000).
  • Set up an Instructional Consultation to have an instructional designer review your objectives and assessments.
  • For more detailed information about learning objectives, visit Learning Objectives.

Step 3: In addition to major assessments, punctuate the course with short assessment opportunities.

  • These can include both graded and nongraded assessments. Self-assessments, such as quizzes, H5P Flashcards, or other methods, are extremely useful for students. For more detailed information about H5P Flashcards, visit H5P Resource Library.
  • Discuss how spacing out study sessions is much more effective than cramming right before an exam (Kornell, 2009). You could mention this in the “Getting Started” module, as well as throughout the course.

Step 4: Reduce opportunities for cheating (Sewell, Frith, & Colvin, 2010).

  • Include statements about academic dishonesty, definitions of cheating, and consequences of cheating in the syllabus. Also note the student monitoring capabilities of the learning management system (LMS).
  • Require incremental drafts for long-term written assignments and projects.
  • Discuss plagiarism and which citation style you would prefer for reference pages.
  • For high-stakes tests that constitute more than 20% of the course grade, consider providing  a proctored environment for the test.
  • For multiple sections of a course, administer the test at the same date and time.
  • Include a statement that students sign at the beginning of the test such as: “I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this test or assignment.”

Step 5: Set up logistics for assessments.

  • Consider any specific instructions you will need:
    • Are resources allowed during the exam (open-book/open-note/access to external websites)?
    • Will there be a time limit? What is realistic?
    • If the test is being completed at a testing center, will scrap paper, calculators, or other technologies be allowed?
    • Will students be required to test online, or in person at either a local testing location or a remote testing location?
    • Which method of submission will you use for non-exam assignments? Submitting an essay, for example, may involve simply instructing students to attach an electronic Microsoft Word file or sharing a Google Doc electronically.
  • Maintain a consistent plan for similar types of assignments to ensure clarity and avoid any missed or incorrectly submitted assignments.
  • Communicate logistics to students through the syllabus, the “Getting Started” module, and individual assignment instructions.

Best Practices

  • For a more streamlined experience setting up assessment activities in Moodle, educate yourself through a workshop recording about how these affect Moodle Gradebook.
  • Consider using a rubric for all assessments that require subjective judgment by the grader, such as essays, projects, and discussion board postings (Felder & Brent, 2006).
  • A discussion board (called a “Forum” in Moodle) is a great way to build collaboration and critical thinking into your course; for more detail, visit Discussion Board.
  • Consider the types of questions you will have on the exam (or objectives of projects, essays, and other assessments if you do not give exams). Will the assessment focus on gauging retention, comprehension, application, or other skills? Create self-assessments that point students toward the types of skills they should be learning (Appleby, 2013).
  • Implement an anonymous midterm evaluation to gauge the design of the course; by obtaining feedback from students at this point, you can alter any glaring concerns while there is still time. Tools to assist with this include Google Forms, or Qualtrics.


  • To add an assessment or resource, from your Moodle course homepage, click the “Turn editing on” button at the top right of the page.
To add an assessment or resource, from your Moodle course homepage, click the Actions menu (gear icon) in the upper right, and then select "Turn editing on."
  • In the topic/section where you want to add content, click “Add an activity or resource” to open the Activity Chooser.
In the topic/section where you want to add content, click “Add an activity or resource” to open the Activity Chooser.
  • Next, select the activity you need. For most assignments, you will choose the “Assignment” option, which allows students to submit any digital content (files), such as word-processed documents, spreadsheets, images, or audio and video clips. This feature may also be used to remind students of other work they need to complete that does not require submission of digital content. A detailed description of the activity you select is provided to determine if it is a good fit for your needs.
  • For course exams, quizzes, or self-assessments, you will choose the “Quiz” option. The “Quiz” feature allows various question types including multiple-choice, matching, short-answer, and numerical.


  • Appleby, D. (2013). A flashcard strategy to help students prepare for three types of multiple choice questions commonly found on introductory psychology tests. Society for the Teaching of Psychology. Retrieved from http://teachpsych.org/Resources/Documents/otrp/resources/appleby13flashcard.pdf    
  • Felder, R.M., & Brent, R. (2006). How to teach (almost) anybody (almost) anything. Chemical Engineering Education 40(3): 173.
  • Kornell, N. (2009). Optimising Learning Using Flashcards: Spacing Is More Effective Than Cramming. Applied Cognitive. Psychology 23 (9), 1297-1317.
  • Mager, R. (1997). Preparing objectives for programmed instruction. San Francisco, CA: Fearon Publishers.
  • Runyon, D. & Holzen, R. (2000). Effective assessment techniques for online courses. Northwest Missouri State University. Presented at EDUCAUSE. 
  • Sewell, J., Frith, K. H., & Colvin, M. M. (2010). Online assessment strategies: A primer. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(1), 297.