Creating Online Assessments for the First Time

This is a post that needs to be written as it is a F.A.Q. — one that I often get. Even when I’m not directly asked to address this, many instructors would appreciate having this range of assessments upfront when they are creating online assessments for the first time. Some of the questions I get asked are:

What type of assessment can I create? 

How should I create them? 

Why should I create this assessment and not that? 

How do I measure …? 

So, I’ve put together some information, especially for first-time online instructors, based on a literature review I came across that was completed some years back by Donnan (2004), an Australian doctoral student. The table information began with Traditional Assessments as this type of assessment is what instructors are used to — outcome or product-based assessments. The assignments are the same as those instructors expect from their students in regular oncampus courses, but instead of dropping them off in class or emailing them to their instructors, students upload or submit their work via the LMS. Lower down the table are assessment types that make use of the affordances of online learning technologies, and types that move away from the older paradigmatic way of just assessing student learning products.

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Assessment Type Example Learning Technologies Pedagogical Tips
 Traditional Assessments Submitted Online Essays



Case Studies

Assignment/File upload

Online grading/feedback


[all via LMS or electronic means]
Set grading criteria/rubrics to establish clear standards and expectations

Include milestone reports to indicate cumulative progress

Consider peer review to support elaboration of topic & build student capacity for self-assessment

 Automated (Machine Graded) Assessment Quizzes including MCQs, fill-in the blanks, T/F, Y/N responses, matching, ordering options



Online Exams including MCQs, short answer

Quizzes; short answer responses built within LMS or use external apps

Additional LMS online plugins such as Respondus or Questionmark, etc.

Socrative, Kahoot

Onsite proctors at exam centers or ProctorU etc

Provide general and specific feedback options for self-assessment, diagnosis, and formative feedback.

Use scenarios and case examples to address higher order critical thinking skills if using MCQs.

Attempts to address concerns of plagiarism

More commonly used as assessments that seek to meet professional accreditation standards

 Interactive Learning and Co-Construction of Knowledge Contributions to discussion forums

Reading summaries/critical reviews

Group projects

Collaborative annotation of readings

Discussion forums

Online Polls


Theme-based Tweets (using Twitter)

Align with learning outcomes, e.g. communication, teamwork, critical thinking, problem solving

Encourage social learning

Assess engagement with readings and peers

 Authentic Assessment Scenario-based learning

Project-based learning

Laboratory/Field trip reports


Critical incident analysis

Case studies/Role play

Online oral presentations/debate

Live Sessions via webconferencing tool e.g. Zoom

Learner-generated products/makes, e.g. slideshows, podcasts, YouTube videos using online apps

Virtual worlds, augmented and virtual reality

Experiential learning

Theory/Work integration, e.g. consultancy projects; work-related projects

Engage students in developing criteria

Self and peer review supports real-world experience

 Reflective and Meta-Cognitive Assessments Electronic portfolios documenting evidence of learning/competencies

Online journals, logs, blogs, wikis

Embedded reflective activities

Peer and self-assessment

e-portfolio technologies

Padlet, Carbonmade



Assess learning processes, not just products

Provide options for self-assessment and peer assessment

Use of rubrics for self-assessment and metacognitive checks

Adapted from:

Donnan, P. (2004). e-Learning Assessment: Instructional design pathways. Paper presented at International Conference on Computers in Education (ICCE). In E. McKay (Ed) Acquiring and constructing knowledge through human-computer interactions: Creating new visions for the future of learning. RMIT, Melbourne, Nov 30th – Dec 4th, 2004. CD-ROM. Altona, Victoria. Common Ground Publishing, Melbourne.

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