Innovative E-Assessment in the Virtual Classroom

August 17, 2022

By Dr. Harjot Dhatt
Educational Psychologist, Radius Global

Teaching-learning process is heart of any education system, similarly assessment is heart of any teaching-learning process. In the era of e-learning and e-teaching (online teaching), to compliment these two the obvious next big thing is e-Assessment. The current lockdown on educational institutions due to Covid-19 pandemic has escalated the speed of adaptation to e-education (e-teaching, e-learning and e-assessment).

E-assessment involves the use of digital devices to assist in the construction, delivery, storage or reporting of student assessment tasks, responses, grades or feedback. E-assessment, according to its widest definition (JISC 2006), includes any use of a computer as part of any assessment-related activity, be that summative, formative or diagnostic. So its scope includes the online submission of an assignment for marking by a human, the assessment of an e-portfolio or reflective blog, feedback delivered by audio files recorded on a computer and, most commonly, online computer-marked quizzes. Other terms with similar meaning include technology enhanced or technology-enabled assessment and computer-assisted or computer-aided assessment.

Along with the development of information technology, e-assessment technology has gradually come into maturation and been widely applied to teaching practices and educational studies. Its general advantage is that it reduces paper consumption and quickly collects and analyses data. Moreover, electronic test items and examination paper make it easier to exchange, save and modify test item resources. Digital assessment provides the machine scoring function, which allows examinees to get their scores and feedback immediately after answering the items and to know promptly whether they answered correctly. Thanks to this design, e-assessment not only provides examinees with instant feedback but also reduces teacher’s work load, assists digital learning, and helps to develop student’s ability to do self-assessment. Another advantage of digital assessment is that test items can be presented in a multimedia animation format. If multimedia animation can be applied to developing test items, it will be able to work with the animations and multimedia teaching materials which are widely applied in e-learning to assist teacher’s teaching and student’s learning to develop a teaching, learning, and assessment environment which is closer to real-life situations and provides more situational context.

Pen-and-paper pop quizzes can no longer cope with growing e-education options, even in kindergarten, thumbs-up/thumbs-down, hand signals, online polls, discussion boards, and chat boxes have become the new mainstays of formative assessments in virtual classrooms.

Popular E-Assessments Techniques:

  1. Concept Maps: Concept maps provide a visual representation of connections between concepts that students have learned. These concepts are connected by directional, labeled links to show the relationships between them. Concept maps are excellent tools that can provide instructors with a formative assessment of students’ learning and misunderstandings, after the students were introduced to the new material. For example, the instructor can post an incomplete concept map where students are asked to fill in the blanks to build a complete map, which is then submitted to an instructor in class or via an online drop box.
  2. Concept Test: Concept Tests are multiple-choice questions designed to test understanding of a single concept. They are effective at identifying common student misconceptions surrounding traditionally difficult concepts in science and engineering and have been shown to enhance student comprehension of fundamental concepts. The questions are posed during the lecture immediately after the key concept has been described or discussed. Students work independently to arrive at an answer and then try to persuade their neighbors in the lecture room that they are correct. Finally, all the students offer their answer. The instructor confirms the correct answer, and the class can discuss why it is correct and how some students were misled. This form of peer instruction that offers students and their instructor insight in how well they understand the various key concept and allows them to identify and address popular misconceptions.
  3. E-Portfolios: An ePortfolio is an online space where students can store and organize artifacts that they have produced in the course, such as written assignments, images, videos, etc. They then use the ePortfolio to reflect on their learning experiences. An ePortfolio requires students to pause and reflect on their learning, often by making explicit connections between different learning experiences. This process deepens their learning, and has the added benefit of helping them to chronicle their learning: they can look back on earlier work in their ePortfolio and readily see how much they have learned and how far they have progressed in the course. An ePortfolio helps students to “see” connections within various components of a course, or among their various courses.
  4. Podcast/Vlog: A podcast or vlog project encourages students to take their identifications, analyses, reports, diagrams, etc. to a real-world, digital level by creating a visual/verbal file for submission that activates and authenticates their learning. This can be done individually or collaboratively. Podcasts and vlogs are similar to poster presentations in terms of the content-based orientations of them, yet they take it to a different level by creating and facilitating an extension of the classroom for audiences beyond the students’ immediate classmates and immediate teacher. This type of assignment encourages professional writing and presentation processes (such as oral and visual communication skills), but it also fosters networking and the building of connections for the students and their subject matter.
  5. Class-Room Talk Shows: A Talk Show Performance is an authentic version of the more traditional in-class presentation as it directs students to take on and embody their learning for an interactive, live or record discussion. It can be character-based (i.e. students taking on and acting as an individual in their discipline would, talking about the issues, analyses, diagrams, etc. and answering questions as this person would) or it can be self-based (i.e. students perform as themselves, presenting the materials and answering questions as they themselves would based on their developing knowledge).
  6. Virtual Exit Tickets: Using exit tickets, or students’ responses to prompts or questions on a slip of paper at the end of class, is a popular formative assessment practice that easily transfers online. Teachers can keep a running Google Doc for each student to keep the information private or broaden it to the whole class by posting questions on a platform like Flipgrid so that students can see and comment on others’ responses. To get a wider view into students’ thinking, use open-ended prompts like these:
  • What I found most interesting today was…………
  • Today was hard because…….
  • What do you understand well?
  • What’s something that’s still shaky?
  • What’s something I [teacher] don’t realize?
  • What takeaways will be important three years from now?
  • How does this relate to [something learned before]?
  • How would you have done things differently today?

Providing students with interactive tools allows for the possibility for them to explore existing knowledge from a different perspective. Rather than attempt to mimic paper-based assessments, e-assessments should offer authentic problems that require students to manipulate authentic tools in order to respond to a question. The tools described in this paper provide new opportunities for teachers and students to move beyond the traditional question types associated with assessments. It is essential for teachers to provide educational scaffolds that allow students to improve their learning outcomes through diagnostic and formative assessment coupled with appropriate feedback.

The ability to provide tools that can enrich the assessment environment and allow exploration of the concepts under investigation should assist in improve student learning. As interactivity is paramount to engaging students, e-assessments should be designed so as to provide students with an opportunity to show capability development as well as content recall. Although more research is clearly needed in this area, a review of the impact on students and teachers of the use of e- assessment of creative and critical thinking skills has indicated a positive relationship between the use of computers for assessment and the development of critical thinking skills.

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