May 4, 2009

Online Assessment: Tips on Rubrics, Discussion Boards and Gradebooks

By: in Educational Assessment, Online Education

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Even the most experienced educators can feel overwhelmed when they teach their first hybrid or fully online course. On top of dealing with the time and space constraints of asynchronous learning, there are so many different tools to learn. Tools, it seems, that all of their students either know how to use or master very quickly.

Yet for all the differences between teaching a traditional class and teaching online, when it comes to educational assessment the same principles apply: clarity and consistency.

In the recent online seminar Online Grading Tools: Six Steps to Efficiency and Quality, Tim Bristol, PhD, nurse educator, consultant and technology specialist, talked about the importance of clear communications and guidelines as well as a consistent use of terminology throughout a course. When possible, that consistency can extend across courses within the same program, or an entire system.

Bristol provided an overview of the following online tools, and the different ways they can be used to facilitate discussion/interaction and assess student learning:

  • Online grading rubric
  • Track changes and review
  • Discussion boards
  • Online group tools
  • Assessment/Exams
  • Online gradebook

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Once you learn how to use the various tools, you will find they actually can make your life easier, and provide a rich learning environment. For example, once they’re set-up, online quizzes are easy to administer and provide immediate feedback to students. Likewise, online gradebooks not only give students a real-time view of how they are doing in the class, but by having students submit their work to the course management system both the instructor and student know when an assignment was turned in. In other words, no more debates about when a student slid an assignment under your door.

As a final bit of advice, Bristol encourages faculty who are new to online teaching to take a measured approach to implementing the various tools available at their disposal, and to not be afraid to ask questions of colleagues and others.

“Don’t feel you have to do it all today,” he says. “Ease yourself into it. Try a few different things to see what works and what doesn’t in your course.”

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