What teachers need to know about conducting assessments online

Shantanu Rooj

With the world reeling under a severe health crisis, schools will have to rethink their assessment strategy. Most will need to shift out from closed-books, time-limited, center-based examinations to remote online assessments. The choice of online assessment should not be an after-thought as it may define our response to the current crisis and will affect academic standards. Schools play a critical role in shaping future academic prospects and their career paths for most students and we owe it to them to set up a fair assessment in line with learning outcomes. Given that students engaging in academic malpractice is one of the most common concerns for a school, proper planning and structuring of the assessment can help mitigate several of these risks. Here is a 10-step guide on how to prepare an effective and efficient online assessment system for your school:

  • Plan for the structure: Assessments should really be about measuring learning outcomes and learning objectives — about students demonstrating what they know, and more importantly, how they apply that knowledge (skill demonstration). You will need to set up your assessment appropriately depending on what you are testing – lower-level learning outcomes (recalling information) or high-level learning objectives (analyzing information). Bloom’s taxonomy offers a time-tested resource to help us understand the various levels of learning which we can then assess.
  • Decide on question types: There are many different types of assessments from MCQs to projects to performance-based tasks to essays, each with a specific function and appropriateness depending on what we want to assess. While creating your questions ensure that they are brief and concise. Most assessment platforms will be able to handle a variety of question types – MCQs, fill-in-the-blanks, matching answers, true-false, comprehension type, mathematical questions, descriptive questions, short answers, numerical questions and calculative questions – choose your question type depending on what you want to assess. If your platform permits, you should also be able to conduct audio-visual interactive assessments for some of your subjects.
  • Preparing your question bank: You must ensure that you have an adequate number of questions in your bank to provide for randomization and shuffling by the software. Your question bank must have minimum 5x the questions that you want for each student. The questions must be properly categorized into topics, subtopics and even difficulty levels. Once your question bank is set up, the platform will create unique question papers for each student based on the algorithm (rule) provided.
  • Use of virtual labs: If your online assessment requires the student to use a virtual lab, do ensure that they have had enough practice on this platform before the final exams are set. Different virtual labs work differently and it is absolutely essential to familiarize the student with the environment in advance.
  • Creating explanatory student videos: Most students would be attempting online assessments for the first time in a ‘not-so-conducive’ environment. Prepare a short explainer video to help them understand the platform and the rules of the assessment. This shall take away some of the stress from the students.
  • Conduct mock tests for students: It is absolutely essential to conduct a few rounds of mock tests for the students before they take their final assessments. This helps familiarize the students with the platform and acquaints them with the tools and controls that they will need to use during the exams.
  • Set up a helpdesk: Students may face technical glitches during their examinations and may need to reach out to a helpdesk. Speak to your service provider to set up a dedicated helpdesk for your students during the entire duration of the assessments. Support can also be provided via a chat system built into the examination platform.
  • Understand the proctoring – Do ensure that all your all your human proctors are trained on the new invigilation process. Most proctoring platforms run their own AI engine to do system level proctoring – however, human proctors are expected to look into specific student activities once prompted by the AI proctor.
  • Grading and feedback: If all your questions in the assessment are not objective type, you will need to manually grade some of the answers and provide feedback to the students. Do ensure that the entire team of paper-checkers are trained on the grading process and methodology. You can either use system generated feedback or individual customized feedback for each student.
  • Review the analytics – Once the examinations get over, the platforms provide extensive analytics on the overall assessment, student performances and the question bank – do review them properly as they provide valuable insights and can help you make your future assessments more insightful.

Under the current scenario, conducting remote online assessments are fraught with multiple challenges. Proper and timely communication and managing students’ expectations are very important in the current times. We need to remember that the conditions under which students will take these assessments are not normal, and therefore there could be possible impacts on their performances. All students do not have equal access to key resources at home: they may not have the textbook, or even when available, online material may not be always accessible to students with restrictive access to internet. A proper planning, timely communication and a little empathy can help soothe tensed nerves!

The author is Founder and CEO, Schoolguru Eduserve.

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