Alternative Assessment

Methods of Formative Assessment for Online Learning

Compiled by the Campus Writing Program and the Teaching for Learning Center

University of Missouri 

Video-embedded short quizzes to keep students engaged during lectures

To allow users to track the progress of their Panopto interactive quizzes in Canvas, they can be synced to the grade book in Canvas. This will allow instructors to both see who has taken it, what they have scored, and to add those scores to the users grades for the course. Students enrolled in the course will be able to see and take the assignment through Canvas.

Using Online Discussion Boards to Assess Reading or Viewing of Content:

Introduction to this content 

Methods of Summative Assessment for Online Learning

Compiled by the Campus Writing Program and the Teaching for Learning Center

University of Missouri 

Using Summative Writing Assignments to Assess Understanding

Writing Intensive instructors at the University of Missouri use writing assignments to assess their students’ ability to interpret, analyze, and evaluate complex disciplinary content and writing. Campus Writing Program researchers have compiled examples of WI assignments in which students grapple with the complexity of content using disciplinary literacy practices. Feel free to download and adapt this scoring guide to assess writing assignments which require students to synthesize complex content. 

Using Canvas to Assess Summative Writing Experiences 

Speedgrader: MU Course Design and Technology developed this useful overview for navigating Speedgrader. Instructors might use the Speedgrader toolbar tools (highlight, strike-through, textbox, etc) to leave marginal comments which provide feedback on specific parts of the text and the assignment comments box to provide more holistic feedback covering the ways in which the writer attended to the objectives of the assignment. 

Canvas Commons: Canvas Commons is a repository for Canvas course materials from institutions across the world. Read about how to access the Canvas Commons in this guide. MU’s Campus Writing Program has developed the following rubrics available for upload to your course via the Canvas Commons: General analytic rubric, general research paper rubric, claim-evidence-reasoning rubric, rubric for abstracts, and rubric for oral presentations. Locate these rubrics by searching Canvas Commons for “CWP Mizzou.” 

Downloadable Rubrics: MU’s Campus Writing Program has developed three different rubrics for your use and download. 

  • Single-point scoring guides allow for flexibility in scoring assignments and presentations while also providing some structure for the assessment. 
  • Holistic rubrics help focus assessment on the overall product. 
  • Analytic rubrics focus assessment on the components of the written product to allow students to see both their strengths and their areas for improvement. 

Translating Content to Alternative Genres

Adapting content from Lab Reports into Press Releases, Brochures, or other documents for public-facing or industry audience: 

  • If students have completed research and lab work so far, then they could go back through what they have done, reading over lab reports and then reformulating that work into a different type of writing: a press release, a synthesis of the findings from the semester so far. 
  • Consider what types of writing might you find in your field, and use those as possible writing assignments. 
  • Require students to incorporate the course topics covered so far (that’s the assessment piece). 
  • Evaluate with a rubric to focus on the top 5-6 criteria. (See Canvas information).

Scenario-Based Assessment as Alternative to Summative Objective Exams 

Scenario-based assessments ask students to synthesize and apply the knowledge they’ve gained throughout the semester. This Faculty Focus piece provides a discussion of the benefits of scenario-based assessments in online courses and includes a listing of resources. Some tips for creating these assessments: 

  • Consider your course-level or program-level learning outcomes. What essential knowledge and skills do you want your students to leave your course with? Design the scenario around these outcomes. 
  • Provide students with multiple data sources (tables, maps, etc) to synthesize and include in their scenario response. 
  • Consider using real life scenarios from your field or industry to build these assessments 
  • One example: In an education course, one instructor provides a bit of context about a hypothetical school district, a specific classroom, and a literacy challenge and asks students to use the semester’s learning (i.e., course readings, course discussions, experiences in secondary classrooms, etc) to produce a viable solution. 
  • See other examples of scenario-based learning in higher education here

RAFT Assignments: Authentic End-of-Semester Assessments 

RAFT (Role, Audience, Format, Task) assignments provide a quick and easy way to create authentic assessments for your students. They can be written, oral (e.g., recorded and uploaded), or some other variation. 

  • Pick a Role. Let’s give our students a different role rather than a university student. We might ask: What kind of position/role uses the disciplinary knowledge I’m trying to help my students learn?
  • Pick an Audience. Something magical happens when we simply change the audience to be something else, particularly to a more authentic audience: Examples include: legislatures, fellow students, disciplinary experts, general public, or you could go more innovative and have it be specific authors, thinkers, historical figures.
  • Pick a Format. In the real world, our students may not write anything close to academic papers. Ask yourself: In what other formats will they write? Letters, policy briefs, speeches all dictate their own structure, style, and audience expectations.
  • Pick a Task. Given the role, what kinds of authentic tasks do they do? Is it to argue for passing a piece of legislation? Is it to provide a report to non-experts? 

Remember, you can get creative with formats. This assignment could certainly be a paper, but it could also be a speech, a screen capture recording, a digital creation, etc.

See RAFT Examples (Business Marketing; Social Science Research Methods)

Use or adapt this RAFT handout. 

Useful Practices for Online Exams 

Dr. Courtney Vengrid from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State provides the following short guides: Tips for online, open-book exams and Writing good multiple choice questions. And from Stanford, here are some brief notes on conducting traditional summative assessments (exams) online. 

Student Presentations and Peer Review

Just an overall fantastic resource, Teaching Effectively During Times of Disruption, provides extensive details as to how to implement student presentations and peer review online (both asynchronously and synchronously). Scroll down to the sections on “Student Presentations” and “Peer Review” in the comprehensive google document (and note all the other helpful topics along the way!). 

Laboratory Assessments

While assessing students’ learning on lab components in an online format may prove difficult, this site has some tips to consider. 

Classroom Assessment Techniques (collections of short assessments)

Drawing from the work of Angelo and Cross (1993), these resources describe shorter assessments that can be used in conjunction with, or in place of, more traditional assessments (like multiple choice exams). Some of the many advantages of these Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) include the following: they’re relatively simple to formulate; they can be designed to assess students’ understanding of very targeted skills and concepts both formatively and summatively; and, most of them should fit seamlessly in an online format using Canvas discussion and assignment functions (among others). Review a sampling of helpful hints and ideas below.

  • From the University of Kentucky, a list of 50 CATs from which to choose
  • From the University of Michigan, this list also includes estimated time to design the activities (e.g., from low to medium)
  • From Tufts, activities organized by assessment purpose. For example, to assess students’ application and performance skills, one activity, “Human Tableau or Class Modeling” could be implemented using student video or digital images uploaded to Canvas.
  • From Iowa State, activities organized in tabular format, with notes on implementation and evaluation 
  • For STEM courses in particular, this site lists several creative ways to assess student learning. For example, “structured” interviews can be used to assess the “extent of understanding…students have developed with respect to a series of well-focused, conceptually-related scientific ideas.”  Zoom could easily facilitate this alternative form of assessment. 

Video commenting

  • Voice-thread can be used for alternative assessments allowing students to better engage with their peers and instructors. Here’s a list of multiple ways to use video commenting in lecture, assignments, or collaboration
  • FlipGrid allows students and instructors to record short videos on their computers or phones. These short videos could be used for responses to short questions, incorporated into discussion boards, for mini-writing conferences, or for peer-review in group projects. Students can also use FlipGrid to create screencasts in order to share presentations for final projects, for example (see 

Other UM Campus Assignment Resources: 

Think about different types of Digital Assignments – This resource lists other ways to think about assessment in Canvas: