Re-imagining assessment strategies in the transition to online instruction

Concurrent Session 2 & 3 (combined)
Streamed Session

Watch This Session

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Designing quality assessments involves understanding a complicated web of factors which is further complicated by the recent rapid shift to online teaching. In this workshop, participants will rethink their current assessment strategies to improve their understanding and use of online teaching strategies and assessments in small and large classes. 


I have been in the Instructional Technology field for 10 years, focusing online course design and faculty collaboration. I am currently an Instructional Technologist and Designer at the Queens College Center for Teaching and Learning, I received my MA from TC, Columbia University in their Instructional Technology, Media and Design program after focusing on the various macro and micro factors that are essential to successful online course design, as well as a mechanism for collaborative faculty development. This work is essential to my work with collaborators. It was remarkably timely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which this framework was utilized in part as we moved hundreds of faculty online. I am a firm believer that online learning and education must be designed with the modality in mind- one cannot just copy and paste in-person materials into an online frame. We must take into account the limitations and affordances of a modality, and how that works in concert with the human element- prior knowledge, cognitive load and the like. I also believe that for design to be successful-one must be flexible with the mechanisms. For today’s learning to be successful, we must analyze and utilize the most effective learning framework, modality, and methodology. Each circumstance should take into account the goals, prior knowledge, motivation, affordances and limitations of the modality, and learning framework. We must adapt and change as we collaborate.

Extended Abstract

Quality assessment that accurately evaluates mastery of a subject while maintaining academic integrity has always been challenging. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, strategies to maintain academic integrity while remaining accessible to students is an especially complicated topic. 

Student cheaters have always innovated ways to thwart teachers' attempts to curtail academic dishonesty. Some techniques used to inhibit online cheating include limiting time on an exam or the use of external softwares that prevents external resources from being opened on the computer. While these options may inhibit certain cheaters, there are strategies to circumvent them. Further, there are serious ethical considerations that come from the use of such technologies. Overly restrictive timers can impact students who may not have a stable internet connection, English language learners, and other at-risk populations. In addition, many anti-cheating Softwares require students’ webcams to be on all the time, which could impact a student who is uncomfortable with such personal details such as their home environment being open to such scrutiny. 

One effective and often appropriate assessment strategy can be project or essay type assessment. Such assessments can be implemented to effectively assess learning objectives and minimize concerns around academic integrity. However, these can be challenging to implement in large classes in any modality (online or face to face), as it is more difficult to design quality assessments of that type that can be handled at that scale. As academic professionals, we must bear in mind the complex web of factors that come into play regarding assessment. This workshop will focus both on proper mechanisms of designing a quality assessment (primarily using “backward design” type assessment) through the lens of what is effective, accessible, inclusiveness, and ethical in the current climate.

This session will be an active workshop allowing participants to rethink their current assessment mechanisms and consider ones that are more suited to online environments in general, while also taking into account the ethical, technological, and pedagogical factors that play a role in quality assessment. We will discuss best practices for assessment in online courses and how to design quality assessments for courses of all types (large courses, writing-intensive, etc.), and disciplines (STEM, humanities, social science, etc.), and the different considerations that come in play when designing assessments for them. 

Level of Participation:

This workshop is primarily participatory, with the organizers serving in a  “guide on the side” role. Participants will first listen to the assessment framework and the essential components that assessments must have to be fair, ethical, and accessible.

The session will be broken up into three sections:

  • Overview-
    • The presenters will identify specific areas of consideration, strategies, and issues that come into play with online assessments.
  • Breakout Groups-
    • Break-out groups will focus on the different nuanced aspects that the participants want to explore in greater detail (STEM, large classes, project based assessments  etc.). Participants in each group will collect ideas in a collaborative Google Slide presentation through which they will share key takeaways with the session at large. 
  • Assessment Design
    • Grouped according to their specific needs, participants will take an existing assessment strategy or course and actively work it through using the resources provided during the overview, the collaborative knowledge gained from the previous break-out groups, and the "guide on the side" organizers to develop a quality assessment strategy specific to their needs that is compatible with online education.​

Session Goals:

Participants who attend this session will emerge with:

  • An understanding of the different factors that one must bear in mind when designing assessments for online courses, especially in the wake of the current pandemic.
  • An assessment strategy suited to their specific course structure and needs. 
  •  While everyone who plays a role in course assessment can benefit, session participants will particularly benefit if they come into the workshop with an idea of what they hope to assess that can be actively developed during the workshop.