What tools can I use to measure understanding?
What are Assessment Mechanics?
Assessment Mechanics involve the various frameworks (tools/software) that facilitate our assessment activities and how they are implemented. If your assessments are given online, whether a quiz, discussion, or multimedia presentation, there are tools available to help you distribute, collect, and grade student work.
How Can I Use Assessment Mechanics in My Course?
Quizzing and Collecting Answers
Google Forms – Use Google Apps to create a Google Form; Collect answers to your questions (multiple choice, essay-answer, matching, etc.) in a Google Spreadsheet, exportable as an Excel file; automatically collect the usernames of the students submitting answers.
Blackboard Quiz – Blackboard Quizzes and Tests can be customizable down to the type of question and when it becomes available, if it is available without a password, etc. Automatically loads into the Blackboard Gradebook.
Adaptive Release – With Blackboard’s Adaptive Release framework, you can unlock materials or assessments based on individual student performance. This is one way to personalize the student’s learning experience.
Assessing Essays/Complex Assignments, and Providing Feedback
Dropbox – Dropbox is a filesharing tool that allows you to share files and folders among students (and them to share files and folders among themselves) in which assignments can be both turned in and bundled with feedback.
In-Line Grading Feature of Blackboard – Blackboard’s in-line grading feature allows you to open up word documents, mark them up with comments/feedback and link that submission/feedback bundle to a grade, all within Blackboard.
WordPress Sites for Presentations – Essays and complex multi-media presentations can easily be uploaded onto the course website or blog. The comment feature allows for faculty feedback in the open (as long as it is general and not grade-specific), which can allow for a revision cycle to take place if the student is asked to revise their presentation.
Students can assess each other for you. Probably the most natural medium for peer assessment is discussion, where students can present to each other in a low-stakes environment, positing new ideas and receiving a great deal more feedback than the teacher, by herself, can provide.
Blackboard Discussion Boards – Recently revamped to encourage more discussion, Blackboard Discussion Boards have the benefit/downside of being private. The Discussion Boards in Blackboard still aren’t as easy to navigate as most website comments fields, but their improvement is promising.
WordPress and Blog Comments Fields – One of the best options for student discussion is free and open-source: the comments sections beneath a page or post on a WordPress site. Discussions can branch within WordPress while continuing to evolve in a more-or less linear fashion, making the discussion (in my opinion) very manageable and encouraging for both students and teachers.
Auto-graded quizzes or peer review – If you allow students to engage in an iterative assessment process, their final outcome can be improved. Providing a way for self-assessment (non-graded) to happen is one way to encourage practice towards greater mastery.
Considerations for Online Courses
There are many tools now available, and more developing every day, for assessing your students’ understanding. First, you should ask yourself what evidence of understanding you wish to assess. If it is intelligence of term definitions and formulas, rote memory of certain facts, exhibition that the student can solve basic mathematic problems, etc., then maybe self-grading quizzes available through Blackboard can best serve that purpose.
If you’re looking for evidence of more comprehensive understanding, however, then there are a number of tools available. The technology you choose depends on your outcome goals.
History of Alaskan Ungulates
Greg Finstad’s “History of Alaskan Ungulates” asks students to develop research projects that are later incorporated into the course as learning materials for subsequent semesters.
Ćukušić, M., Garača, Z., Jadrić, M. (2014, March). Online self-assessment and students’ success in higher education institutions. Computers & Education, 72. 100-109.
Khawaja, M., Prusty, G.B., Ford, R.A.J. (2013). Can more become less? Effects of an intensive assessment environment on student’s learning performance (PDF). European Journal of Engineering Education, 38 (6). 631-651.
Kihlstrom, J. F. (2014). How students learn and how we can help them. University of California Berkeley.
Pennebaker, J.W., Gosling, S.D., & Ferrell, J.D. (2013). Daily online testing in large classes: Boosting college performance while reducing achievement gaps. PLoS One, 8(11): e79774.
Watch: Effective Assessment and Measurement
UAF Instructional Designers
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