Mar 15 2010


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Ahh, Assessment!  There are few teachers that are unaware of the difference between formative and summative assessment.  The trick is using the right balance of both to encourage the student to reach the next level.  Feedback is essential in online courses.  Assessment provides feedback in a timely manner as long as instructors can mark the assessment quickly enough.

“In most forms of distance education, feedback on frequent assignments is the main interactive component of teaching and the Open University has placed great emphasis on frequent assignments, training and paying tutors to provide comprehensive feedback, and monitoring the quality of this feedback. For some Open University students this is their only contact with their tutor. They can cope without much, or even any, face-to-face teaching, but they cannot cope
without regular feedback on assignments.” (Gibbs & Simpson, p. 9)

This is a problem in both f2f and online courses.  Moodle is a useful tool in automating assessment and marking so as to provide feedback quickly and with less instructor input.  That is not to say that instructors are not involved in daily communication with the student, but rather that with carefully planned assessment, the instructor can manage to send feedback on formative assignments more regularly.

“Because regular assignments and comprehensive feedback is understood to be central to distance education, it has in
contrast largely been retained; as a result today’s Open University students may receive fifty times as much feedback on assignments over the course of an entire degree programme as do students at conventional universities.” (p. 9)

Our Moodle assignment this week directed us to create a quiz that included a variety of questions, some of which were corrected automatically.  I found this exercise challenging as I have little experience with Moodle.  Once I read the instructions from, it was easy to follow the step by step directions.  I did encounter some problems with assigning marks to each question.  I do not like using short answer questions as the variation in answer does not lend itself well to automated marking.  I also found that explicit instructions were necessary to make sense of the quiz.

My readings this week gave me much to think about as I tried to relate this information to previous and current experiences with online learning and assessment.  I used one of my students as a sounding board to inquire about how elearning had progressed in our board and province since I last designed a course about 4 yrs ago.  The final verdict was that much frustration exists as courses were designed for a very general audience and have not been adapted since then.  The student feels confused and isolated with no one to ask questions to.  Learning communities are not available and feedback is minimal.  I can only conclude that we never thought about such tools before web 2.0 was commonplace.

I think that my experience with collaborative spaces like wikis will change the elements that I will add in future courses I design.  And my readings have given me an insight on automated quizzes as a formative assessment, something I had never considered until now.


Gibbs, G. and Simpson, C. (2005).  “Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning.” Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Accessed online 11 March 2009

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