“We are not like the social insects. They have only the one way of doing things and they will do it forever, coded for that way. We are coded differently, not just for binary choices, go or no-go. We can go four ways at once, depending on how the air feels: go, no-go, but also maybe, plus what the hell let’s give it a try.”  Lewis Thomas

When you think about assessment in your own online classes, what do you think of? Midterms? Finals? Quizzes? Caryn Bird, GCC’s Co-Assessment Developer, suggests conducting a rhetorical analysis on those assessments. What is the purpose of this particular assessment? And how does the purpose drive the structure and content of the assessment?  Who is the audience for the assessment? In what ways might the audience change the assessment? What is the modality for the assessment? Asking and answering these types of questions really forces us to examine if we’re getting the right assessment for the right moment.

college student at computer

In online classes, the need for more assessment is crucial. Online instructors don’t get to see a puzzled student face in class. A hand raised might take a day or two to get resolved via email and possibly more than one email. In an online class, everything an instructor sees from a student is assessment, and allowing ample opportunities for formative assessment prior to a high stakes assessment is important because that online student will readily become discouraged when they do poorly on those significant assessments, and that discouragement leads to disengagement and, ultimately, withdrawing from the class. So what could more frequent formative assessments look like? Here are five suggestions for low stakes assessment that can easily be added into a class:

1. Try giving a short quiz where you give the answer/solution, and the options the students have to select are possible reasons why that answer/solution is correct. Follow up with a question that asks students to judge how sure they are of that answer–positive, somewhat sure, not sure, no idea. 

2. Try giving a short quiz with a wrong answer to a question, and the options the students choose are possible reasons why that answer is wrong.

Image by Jerry Kimbrell from Pixabay

3. Ask students to apply one item from their weekly reading to a real life situation in a short paragraph. Have them integrate quoted, paraphrased, or summarized material from the text 1-2 times with citations.

4. Instead of a traditional quiz, ask students to use Flipgrid to do a 3-2-1 on the week’s reading or lectures.

5. Instead of a traditional quiz, have students create an infographic that organizes the week’s material in a new way.

There’s a bonus to all five of these strategies–it’s harder for students to cheat because all these types of questions eliminate “Google the answer” and the need for a proctor. But the best bonus of all? Instructors can see what students are learning more frequently with short, easy assessments and can make corrections to the online course to better help students master the material. Taking advantage of our coding and drawing on our skills as educators means we can try new things, and in online teaching, we really have to.

What strategies can you share that you are using for short, quick assessments in your online classes?

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