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Assesssment in Distance Learning Courses

Test or exam seem to be words that often cause stress in both students and instructors. Students need to be concerned about the learning they have acquired. Instructors are concerned about whether the students have been able to learn what they have set out to teach those students. Another concern for college instructors is cheating on tests and exams. How can instructors of distance learning courses use assessments to best reflect the learning of the students?

1. By making the objectives of the course available to the students and listing the content under those objectives, the students will more easily be able to determine if they are meeting the learning objectives. They will also be able to see the relationship between the assessment and the objectives of the course.

2. Always keep your objectives for the course in mind. Make sure that the assessment does determine whether the students have met those objectives.

3. Vary the type of assessments used in the course. There are two reasons for this. One is that you have different objectives and different types of assessments may be more appropriate for assessing learning in each one. The second is that different students do better on some types of tests than others so more of the students will have an opportunity to do their best work.

4. Make it clear to students what the purpose of the test is. If they know that the purpose is to recall the names of the important people and their contributions to the events of a certain period of time, then they will study differently than if they need to give arguments about who they feel was the most influential character in that period of time.

5. Since it is an online course, give all tests as if they are open book tests. You will not be there to see if someone uses their notes or books so use the time factor to ensure that they have learned the material well. Plan the test so that they do not have time to open the book to find the information. If they have studied well, they will know where to find the information and just have time to open the book to double check a fact. Open book tests and exams reflect real life situations in any case. Most people are not able to remember everything they have studied so they must look up the necessary information in a book at the time that they require it. If they are good at their jobs, they will be able to find the information very quickly.

6. Learn your studentsí writing styles so that you can recognize work that is not their own when they answer questions on the test or exam. If it is a totally different style, it may mean that someone else is doing the test for them.

7. Give the students access to previous tests so that they can get a good idea of what you are expecting. This will lessen their anxiety about the test and will also allow them the chance to talk to you about what type of answers you will be expecting if they are not sure.

8. Use fill in the blank or true/false tests and others which are less reliable and/or easier to cheat on, to give the students an opportunity for self-assessment. Since one objective of testing is to help students discover how much they have learned, this is a great way to help them to find out without it affecting their grade.

As an instructor you want your students to do well in your courses. You would like them to meet their own goals and objectives as well as those you have for the online course. Distance learning instructors have some different factors to think about than those in face-to-face classrooms. Planning your course assessments while keeping the above considerations in mind will help to bring about the results you are hoping for.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Elizabeth Stuttard. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Elizabeth Stuttard. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger for details.

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