Roadmap to Authentic Assessment: A Proactive Approach to Academic Integrity in Quality Online Learning

Concurrent Session 1 & 2 (combined)

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Come join us in our exploration of authentic assessment in online learning.  We will share a variety of examples in various formats. This interactive workshop will use role-playing and scenarios to make the case authentic assessment provides accurate evidence of student learning and is a more equitable, student-centered strategy.


I am an educator, scholar, online learning enthusiast, community college leader, and champion of Open Education. With teaching experience from middle school to community college, I bring a myriad of skills and career's worth of perspective to my online course design and work with faculty in professional development workshops. My most recent work with Regional Leaders of Open Education (RLOE) has connected me with colleagues from across North America and Canada who are committed to using Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Pedagogy (OP) as a means to center, empower, and amplify the voices of our students, especially our underserved students. I have also worked with CCCOER and the College of the Canyons in California on a grant-funded project called Open For Anti-Racism (OFAR), which facilitates faculty use of OER and open pedagogy to create antiracist curriculum and pedagogical approaches in their California community college learning spaces with their students.

Extended Abstract


Authentic Assessment, a term first coined in 1989  by Grant Wiggins, requires learners to demonstrate their understanding, using higher-order thinking and complex problem-solving skills. An authentic assessment differs from a more traditional notion of a “test” in that students are directed to demonstrate their learning through a finished product of their creation. Authentic assessment is realistic, requires judgment and innovation on the part of the learner who is asked to “do the subject, and often replicates or simulates the contexts in which adults are “tested” in the workplace, in civic life and in personal life.  

Authentic assessment can be further understood as more process-focused than traditional “tests” or “exams,” assessing the learner’s ability to efficiently and effectively use a repertoire of knowledge and skill to negotiate a complex task and allowing for appropriate opportunities to rehearse, practice, consult resources, and get feedback on and refine their performance/product (Wiggins, 1993).

Why relevant or important to the community

Authentic assessment is not a new concept,  K - 12 educators have implemented forms of authentic assessments throughout their careers, but higher education has not seen wide adoption of the practice until more recently. The COVID-19 pandemic forced higher education administrators and faculty to address the proctoring problem. Out of the trauma and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic came opportunity. Our higher education institutions understand that each student is unique and has a personal perspective. They also understand that these unique students have various individualized learning needs. Authentic assessment meets many of those needs. 

Traditional assessment based on selected-response test questions rarely assesses the application of gained knowledge from the course. The traditional exam does not contribute to the classroom community as students are not able to share their unique perspectives and skills to demonstrate their knowledge in a real way.  Furthermore, the setting in which these traditional exams take place is rarely conducive to the human condition. Neurodivergent students, for example, find great difficulty in the traditional testing format as it requires laser focus and, when using monitoring proctoring software, little to no ability to move around. 

We make the case that authentic assessments potentially provide more accurate evidence of student learning than the more traditional exam. In our exploration, we will share performance assessments, essays, and reflections on portfolios as potential alternatives to the traditional exam format. Authentic assessment provides more equitable approaches to assessment and course design allowing multiple means of expression (CAST UDL, 2018) to empower students to share their personal experiences while demonstrating the skills and knowledge acquired throughout the semester. Because authentic assessment is baked into the learning from the outset, it provides a more aligned set of learning experiences, scaffolded throughout the course. This also provides opportunities for faculty to meet the Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) guidelines for online learning.  Such intentional design circumvents cheating and motivates students to invest in the work, empowering them with the agency to make decisions about their learning. 

Plan for interactivity

In this session, the speakers will present a brief overview of authentic assessment, defining and providing examples. The speakers will emphasize the importance of rubrics for evaluating student work and lead a discussion about the efficacy of authentic assessment in online learning, citing current and salient research (Barkatsas, et al., 2021; Fook, 2010; Gonzalez, 2014). Rubrics will factor into the discussion. (15 minutes)

The bulk of the workshop time will be spent in small group activities and whole group discussions/report backs. Using scenarios, role-playing, and sample assessments, the speakers will provide participants the opportunity to contrast authentic assessment to traditional forms, transform a traditional assessment into a more authentic assessment, and make the case for authentic assessment to various stakeholders such as administrators, faculty, students, and design thinkers.

Participants will have an opportunity to transform a current more traditional assessment into an authentic assessment. (60 minutes) 

Here are two sample activities that we will facilitate during the workshop: 

Sample Activity #1: Crowdsourced appropriate criteria for a rubric

We will present a sample authentic assessment and crowdsource criteria for the rubric.

Sample Activity #2: Scenario -- The Ambivalent Math Professor

You are working with a math professor to update a 100-level math course. The professor is open to ideas about how to make the course more engaging for the students; however, the professor does not believe that authentic assessment is something that can happen in a math class. You are the assigned ID. What strategies might you use to get this math faculty on board with authentic assessment?

Two Players: ID and ambivalent math professor

Time: five minutes


At the end of the workshop, participants will come away with a better understanding of authentic assessment and a toolkit of resources to help make the case for, create, and evaluate authentic assessments. (15 minutes debrief and close)

Key takeaways:

  1. Interpret and describe individual learner needs and apply principles of UDL to authentic assessment.

  2. Identify key markers of an authentic assessment and apply.

  3. Evaluate the differences between authentic assessments and traditional assessments 

  4. A toolkit of resources to use when creating  and evaluating authentic assessments

We will work through key questions together such as:

  •  Which assessments need to be proctored and which don’t? Why or why not? 

  • How do I develop student-centered assessments that address student privacy concerns in quality online learning?

  • How can I encourage Academic Integrity in virtual environments?

  • How can I avoid unconscious bias and build equity into my assessment design?

  • What other ways are there to assess student learning, verify student identity, and ensure academic integrity in online learning instead of proctored environments?


Barkatsas, T., & McLaughlin, P. (2021). Authentic Assessment and Evaluation Approaches and Practices in a Digital Era A Kaleidoscope of Perspectives (Vol. 5). Koninklijke Brill NV.

CAST UDL. (2018). [Educational]. Universal Design for Learning Guides.

Fook. (2010). Authentic Assessment and Pedagogical Strategies in Higher Education. Journal of Social Sciences, 6(2), 153–161.

Gonzalez, J. Holistic, Analytic, and Single-Point Rubrics. The Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved August 16, 2020 from

Wiggins, G. (1993). Assessing Student Performance. Jossey-Bass Publishers.