Texas Tech University


Many instructors have questions about assessing student learning in online courses. While learning managements systems (LMSs) like Blackboard usually have a quiz tool, there are actually many ways to assess student learning in an online course. The choices might depend on course content, the instructor's teaching style, students' learning styles, class size, and the purpose of the course. Whenever possible, it is good pedagogy to use a variety of types of assessments. Instructors sometimes also have concerns about academic integrity and the prevention of cheating. You will find some information below that might be helpful in this regard.


  1. Your syllabus – Be sure to state your assessment policies clearly in your online syllabus:
    • Include clear course objectives (Student Learning Objectives) so students will know how to direct their efforts and understand how their work will be evaluated.
    • Include a clear statement of how you will assess student learning.
    • Include the institutional policy regarding academic dishonesty.
    • Include information on the weight of each assignment or exam in the overall course grade.
  2. Alignment - Be sure the assessments are aligned with the course-level objectives (Student Learning Outcomes), module-level learning objectives, and learning activities.
  3. Formative and Summative Assessment - Consider using formative assessment (informal assessment that is done along the way, without taking a grade) along with your summative assessments.
    Formative assessment can help the instructor know what is unclear to students and intervene accordingly. Formative assessment can also be used when you allow students to submit drafts and get feedback. They will use the feedback to improve the final versions of their assignments.
    Summative assessment is used at the end of a module, assignment, unit of study, or course for the purpose of recording a grade. Feedback can and should be given for summative assessments, too, although the grade is usually final.
  4. Variety - Be sure the types of assessments you use are varied and appropriately chosen for the type of student work being assessed. (In other words, a multiple choice quiz may not be appropriate if you are trying to assess your students' critical thinking or creativity.)

    By varying the types of assessments you use, you can provide opportunities for diverse types of students to demonstrate understanding in ways that are compatible to their learning styles and preferences. You can also deter cheating by assessing projects or assignments that can't be duplicated. In addition, varied assessment can give you a window into your students' thinking and assess learning at different levels of Bloom's taxonomy, from rote memorization to analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and creation.

Examples of Online Assessments

In the linked .pdf file, Possibilities for Online Assessment , you will find many ideas for ways to assess student learning in an online course.


Some instructors are concerned about the possibility of students cheating on online quizzes and exams. While there are strategies such as proctored exams, randomizing question sequences and answer choice sequences, and using Respondus LockDown Browser, there is no way to guarantee that students will not find a way to violate principles of academic integrity. To deter cheating, we recommend that instructors rethink the way they are assessing student learning. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Use varied types of assessment, as described above.
  • Use more frequent, low-stakes assessments, relying less on a few high-stakes assessments. This reduces a student's temptation to cheat on that all-or-nothing exam.
  • Develop a rapport with your online students. Build mutual trust.
  • Use formative assessments. Find out what students don't understand before the exam.
  • Give students some choice in their assessments.
  • Give open-book exams, but limit the time allowed for taking them. Students will need to be very familiar with the material to find it quickly enough.
  • Assign more projects rather than multiple choice quizzes and exams.
  • Get to know your online students' writing styles with threaded discussion postings, short written assignments, e-mail message exchanges, etc.

Securing a Qualified Proctor for Online Exams

Choosing the right proctor to administer your distance exams is essential to the academic integrity of the exam and the testing process. These FAQs are provided by TTU Academic Testing Services.

Resources for Assessment