Bridget D. Arend


Perhaps the most promising and understudied aspect of online education is course assessment. Course assessment is important because it has a strong impact on learning and is an indicator of the quality of learning occurring in a class. In the online environment, methods of assessment can be very different. However, the online education literature is currently lacking empirical data about the general status of assessment practices or how those practices relate to student learning. This article lays the groundwork for future studies by providing a description of formative and summative assessment and learning strategies in 60 online courses and suggesting some ways that assessment practices lead to different types of learning. In this study, instructors appear to follow effective practice by using multiple and alternative
assessment methods, dispersing grades over time, and providing timely and frequent feedback to students. Students report focusing on relatively more complex learning strategies, such as elaboration and critical thinking over rehearsal. However, online instructors need to ensure that assessments are used strategically and that feedback is productive and able to be acted upon by students.


Course Assessment,Summative Assessment,Formative Assessment,Learning Strategies,Critical Thinking

Full Text:



Anderson, T. and F. Elloumi. Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Athabasca, Canada: Athabasca University, 2004.

Jarmon, C. Testing and assessment at a distance. In M. Boaz, B. Elliot, D. Forshee, D. Hardy, C. Jarmon and D. Olcott (Eds.), Teaching at a Distance: A Handbook for Instructors, 55–63. League for Innovation in the Community College and Archipelago Productions, 1999.

Brookhart, S. M. The Relationship of Classroom Assessment to Student Effort and Achievement in the College Classroom: Pilot Study Technical Report. American Educational Research Association Conference Proceedings, Chicago, IL, 1997.

Doyle, W. Academic Work. Review of Educational Research 53(2): 159–199, 1983.

Black, P. and D. Wiliam. Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education 5(1): 7–74, 1998.

Bull, J. and C. McKenna. Blueprint for Computer-Assisted Assessment, London: RoutledgeFlamer, 2004.

Gipps, C. V. Beyond Testing: Towards a Theory of Educational Assessment. London: Falmer Press, 1994.

Hynd, C., J. Holschuh and H. Nist. Learning complex scientific information: Motivation theory and its relation to student perceptions. Reading and Writing Quarterly 16: 23–57, 2000.

McKeachie, W. J., P. R. Pintrich, Y. G. Lin and D. A. F. Smith. Teaching and Learning in the College Classroom: A Review of the Research Literature. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, 1986.

Entwistle, N. Recent research on student learning. In J. Tait and P. Knight (Eds.), The Management of Independent Learning, 97-112. London: Kogan Page, 1996.

Meyer, K. A. Evaluating online discussions: Four different frames of analysis. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 8(2): 101-114, 2004.

Swan, K., J. Schenker, S. Arnold and C. Kuo. Shaping Online Discussion: Assessment Matters. The 12th Sloan-C International Conference on Online Learning, Orlando, FL, 2006.

Pintrich, P. R. A Process-oriented view of student motivation and cognition. In J. S. Stark and L. A. Mets (Eds.), Improving Teaching and Learning Through Research, 65–79. Jossey-Bass, 1988.

Marton, F. and R. Saljo. On qualitative differences in learning: Outcome and process. British Journal of Educational Psychology 46: 4–11, 1976.

Entwistle, N. and P. Ramsden. Understanding Student Learning. London: Croom Helm, 1983.

Biggs, J. B. Approaches to the enhancement of tertiary teaching. Higher Education Research and Development 8(1): 7–25, 1989.

Eley, M. G. Differential Adoption of Study Approaches within Individual Students. Higher Education 23: 231–254, 1992.

Gibbs, G. The CNAA improving student learning project. Research and Development in Higher Education 14: 8–19, 1993.

Ramsden, P. Learning to Teach in Higher Education. London: Routledge, 1992.

Prosser, M. and K. Trigwell. Understanding Learning and Teaching: The Experience in Higher Education. Buckingham: The Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press, 1999.

Pintrich, P. R. The dynamic interplay of student motivation and cognition in the college classroom. Advances in Motivation and Achievement: Motivation Enhancing Environments 6: 117–160, 1989.

Pintrich, P. R. and E. V. deGroot. Motivational and self-regulated learning components of classroom academic performance. Journal of Educational Psychology 82(1): 33–40, 1990.

Liang, X. and K. Creasy. Classroom assessment in web-based instructional environments: Instructors’ experience. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation 9(7): 2004.

Robles, M. and S. Braathen. Online assessment techniques. Delta Pi Epsilon 44(1): 39–49, 2002.

Comeaux, P. Assessing Online Learning. Boston, MA: Anker, 2005.

Meyer, K. A. Quality in distance Education: Focus on on-line learning. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report 29(4). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Periodicals, 2002.

Dirks, M. How is assessment being done in distance education? NAU/web.98 Conference, Flagstaff, AZ, 1998.

Galante, D. Web-based mathematics: An examination of assessment strategies implemented in the online mathematics classroom. Dissertation Abstracts International 64(04): 1202A. (UMI No.3088022), 2002.

Knight, P. T. Summative assessment in higher education: Practices in disarray. Studies in Higher Education 27(3): 275–286. 2002.

Banta, T. W., and Associates. Building a Scholarship of Assessment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002.

Ewell, P. T. An emerging scholarship: A brief history of assessment. In T. W. Banta and Associates (Eds.), Building a Scholarship of Assessment, 3–25. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2002.

Astin, A. W., T. W. Banta, K. P. Cross, E. El-Khawas, P. T. Ewell, P. Hutchings, et al. Nine Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning. American Association for Higher Education, (Also available

Angelo, T. A. Relating exemplary teaching to student learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning 65: 57–64, 1996.

Yorke, M. Formative assessment in higher education: Moves toward theory and the enhancement of pedagogic practice. Higher Education 45: 477–501, 2003.

Black, P. and D. Wiliam. Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan 80(2): 139–144, 1998.

Charman, D. Issues and impacts of using computer-based assessments (CBAS) for formative assessment. In S. Brown, J. Bull and P. Race (Eds.), Computer-Assisted Assessment in Higher Education, 85–94. London: Kogan Page, 1999.

Elwood, J. and V. Klenowski. Creating communities of shared practice: The challenges of assessment use in learning and teaching. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 27(3): 243–256, 2002.

Welschmeyer, D., J. Patrick and L. Cheney-Steen. Assuring Quality in Online Courses. Teaching with Technology (TWT) Conference, Denver, CO, 2004.

Pintrich, P. R., D. A. F. Smith, T. Garcia and W. J. McKeachie. A Manual for the Use of the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ). Ann Arbor, MI: Regents of the University of Michigan, 1991.

Pokay, P. and P. C. Blumenfeld. Predicting achievement early and late in the semester: The role of motivation and the use of learning dtrategies. Journal of Educational Psychology 82(1): 41–50, 1990.

Kerka, S. and M. E. Wonacott. Assessing Learners Online: Practitioner File. Washington, D.C.: Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 2000.

Morgan, C. and M. O’Reilly. Assessing Open and Distance Learners. London: Kogan Page, 1999.

Torrance, H. and J. Pryor. Investigating Formative Assessment: Teaching, Learning and Assessment in the Classroom. Buckingham: Open University Press, 1998.

Wolfe, W. J. Online Student Peer Reviews. Association for Computing Machinery’s SIGITE ’04, Salt Lake City, UT, 2004.

Palloff, R. M. and K. Pratt. Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.

Garrison, D. R. and T. Anderson. E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and Practice. London: RoutledgeFalmer, 2003.

Swan, K., J. Shen and R. Hiltz. Assessment and collaboration in online learning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 10(1): 45–62, 2006.

Weinstein, C. E. and R. E. Mayer. The teaching of learning dtrategies. In M. Wittrock (Ed), Handbook of Research on Teaching, 315–327. New York: Macmillian, 1986.

Boaz, M., B. Elliott, D. Foshee, D. Hardy, C. Jarmon and D. Olcott. Teaching at a Distance: A Handbook for Instructors. Mission Viejo, CA: League for Innovation in the Community College and Archipelago Productions, 1999.

Bloom, B. S., J. T. Hastings, and G. F. Madaus., Handbook on Formative and Summative Evaluation of Student Learning. New York: McGraw Hill, 1971.

Brown S. and P. Knight. Assessing Learners in Higher Education. London: Kogan Page, 1994.

Albright, P. If we don’t build it, who will come? Higher education, state workforce, and economic development. Western Policy Exchanges: 1–6, 2005.

National Research Council. Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press, 2001.


Copyright (c) 2019 Bridget D. Arend