Five Online Assessment Methods You Must Try This Semester

December 2021
6 Minutes

Whether you are teaching an online class or want to give take-home assignments, student assessments have changed in recent times. First, there is a focus on more inclusivity and accessibility in education, so the old-fashioned paper and pencil might not be doing the trick they used to. In addition, new methods of online assessments have emerged with the boom in new technology and a trend of using innovative ways to assess students, new forms of online assessments have emerged.

In this blog, we will look into different ways instructional designers and faculty can use modern methods and technologies to create online assessments that engage students of diverse backgrounds. Remember that our purpose is to design a curriculum with active learning strategies to make this a productive and fruitful experience for the students and not just a means to graduate them to the next level. 

But first, we need to understand the type of assessments, so we know which activities to use when:


As the word indicates, assessments aim to evaluate and improve the student learning experience. They cater to finding out whether the learning goals and objectives are being delivered as intended. They are basically two types:

Formative Assessments:

Formative assessments are carried out within the course or lesson. They are used to decide the comprehensibility and grasp of the subject matter. They help determine whether the students are engaging with the learning objectives as intended or not. 

These assessments work best when the purpose is to carry them out regularly. The instructor should be consistent and provide critical feedback to the students. 

Summative Assessments:

Summative assessments are generally known as final examinations. The ones we all dreaded as students. They are post-course analyses of the student’s progress throughout the semester. They intend to find out the students' understanding of the content and whether the learning goals and objectives were achieved.

Summative assessments are also a way for the instructors to validate whether the course content and the teaching material fulfilled their well-meaning purpose or not. The student result and data can help recognize if there was a lag in teaching style and pattern. 


For this blog, we will focus more on formative assessment and the effective ways to include it in the learning process. However, this list is by no means definitive, and these means can also be adapted for summative purposes depending on the course objectives.

Let’s look into our favorite five online assessment methods you should try this semester:

1- Online Quizzes

Quizzes are among the most famous traditional evaluation tools. However, when combined with modern technology, they can be one of the best ways of assessing the comprehensibility of the course content. 

Quizzes do not have to be boring. They can be of multiple types, including but not limited to MCQs, hotpots, and fill-in-the-blank. Furthermore, with the help of technology, you can time these quizzes and use the randomized shuffle order, so every student has a unique series, and there is no chance of exchanging answers.

In recent times, more and more online learning platforms have been making quizzes a standardized assessment tool. It is because they are ideal for measuring results and comparing the data across different sets of audiences, unique needs of learners, and various communities. 

Quizzes can be used as non-graded knowledge checks in the middle of the lectures, post-class learning evaluations for the concepts taught, and pre-lecture baseline measurements of the existing knowledge. Finally, quizzes are also one of those assessments that can be used as a summative means at the end of the course for final grading. But, be aware and discuss with your instructional designer to find out whether they would suffice as a standalone examination for your course type.

2- Drag & Drop

Another assessment that you can make use of when testing online. There are so many tools that can help you with it. Drag-and-drops are online assessments that allow you to gauge whether your students can link the information taught to the practical application of it. It is beneficial for courses with multiple complex interconnected elements that students find hard to interlink.

For these types of assessments, you can use pictures and text so students can build better relatability with the information mentioned. It will be mainly instrumental when you use challenging real-world cases to assess students. We recommend the drag-and-drop evaluation method when you want students to be able to apply knowledge in real-life situations and they need help to do so. At the end of the evaluation, you can ask students to comment on each other’s work so peer feedback can be used as an added active learning strategy for a better classroom experience

3- Discussion Boards

Discussion boards are one of the most effective ways of formative assessment. They can be used when your purpose is to assess the cognizance of the learners and not rank and rate them. The best part about these boards is that if you are teaching online, chances are that your course hosting platform or the LMS already has this feature. So, all you have to do is write a statement or include a question, and students can comment on the thread and converse on each other’s viewpoints.

The optimum way to utilize a discussion board is to ask a critical question that doesn’t have a right or wrong answer. The students have to then reflect on the question and respond based on their understanding of the topics taught and the readings suggested. When everyone can see their answer, it piques their interest and supports the learning process by trying to come up with their best explanation of the question. So, it fosters healthy competition conducive to a positive learning environment. 

4- Group Breakout Sessions

Thanks to online conferencing tools and the advancements they got during the pandemic, small breakout sessions during one meeting are now possible. Using breakout rooms to initiate group discussions between small groups is an excellent way of getting students thinking about different topics. You can either give one case to multiple groups and ask them to discuss it within a time limit decided by you and then present it to the class. Or you can give a separate topic to each group to cover more information in a limited timeframe. 

Breakout sessions are the best way of formative assessment for both pre and post-lectures. For example, before explaining the topic, you can introduce it and ask students to discuss what they think it is. Or, you can wrap up your lecture by holding these separate discussions in the rooms and asking students to present their key learning and summary. In short, the opportunities for assessments in the group breakout sessions are numerous. Depending on what you teach and what gets your students involved, you can decide what will work the best and hold these discussions multiple times across the semester.

5- Simulations

Simulations are a great way to train in real-life conversations and test students’ reactions. These are best used when the course aims to prepare students to deal with people in HR, Counselling, Customer Service, Public Relations, etc. Create a conversation activity closely based on situations students are likely to face in real-world problems. This help tests the practicability of the skills taught in the classes.

These can be used as formative and summative assessments. As a formative evaluation, you can prepare students for mastering skills and give them instant feedback on their simulation performance. For the summative assessment, you can use the dialogue simulations to assess whether the students are now confident to use their learned skills and implement them in practical scenarios. It is an exciting assessment to help students develop a conviction in their abilities and practice them before they are out in the real world. 


Assessments are about more than just grading students on their performance. Carefully crafted, meaningfully designed, and well-constructed assessments can help students drill the concepts better and prepare them to implement them in their life. It can help them appreciate the significance of what they are learning.

Online Assessments, especially for online courses, are critical to the entire learning experience. However, they should be designed cautiously and with the same level of rigor as the other course content. These examinations become even more critical when the courses are taught entirely online, and it isn't easy to evaluate the body language of the students to understand whether they grasp the concepts well enough. So, carefully choose which assessments align with the key learnings of your course modules and incorporate them throughout the semester. Best of luck!