Appropriate, effective, meaningful, and "do-able" assessment is one of the greatest challenges in designing and teaching online. Your assessment strategies must be a part of your overall course design from the beginning. What will you teach, how will you teach it, and how will you assess learning? These are basic questions an instructor must deal with from the very beginning of building a course.
So why not just give online quizzes and be done with it?
Online quizzes, including multiple choice questions and essays, certainly have their place, and most courses include at least some of these. But effective assessment must go beyond these traditional methods because online learning requires more than conventional, in-class teaching methods. As discussed elsewhere, good online teaching involves the design of assignments where students use information they have learned to demonstrate higher levels of thinking. These demonstrations are forms of further learning themselves as well as means of assessment. For instance, in a science class you might have students read about and access other learning experiences about our solar system. You certainly could then have them take a quiz about the solar system. But in keeping with good practice principles for online teaching, you might present small groups of students with this challenge:
You are planning a manned space flight to planet X (assign each group a different planet). What special challenges might your planet present in planning this mission? Be specific in detailing the how your planet's physical properties, atmospheric conditions, size, and other things we know about it would affect the mission.
The process of completing this assignment is a learning experience in itself. But is also gives you the opportunity to assessment your students' understanding of the material.
Here is a quick list of various assessment strategies you might employ in your class:
- Case studies and problem-based learning
- Concept maps
- peer reviews
- collaborative projects
Current "best practices" in higher education encourages the use of rubrics to grade assignments and guide students in completing their assignments. Learn more about rubrics.
Other Assessment Resources
One of the biggest issues in designing effective online courses is the development of effective assessments for students. Here are some resources to help you design appropriate and effective assessments.
Here is a very useful article on creating "Authentic Tasks."
Presentation at Georgia Tech on Student Learning Assessment.
All the way from Australia, a guide for designing multiple choice questions