Navigating the Journey to Teaching and Learning Online

Step 4: Evaluation

Evaluation hand checklist icon After following steps 1 to 3 in your journey, you are now several weeks into teaching online. Your courses are established, resources are in place and communication lines are flowing. The final step to consider is evaluation. Evaluation is necessary to ensure students are meeting learning outcomes and preparing for promotion to the next grade level. In this post, we will talk about various methods of assessment to measure student growth and readiness. We will also look at how to evaluate the effectiveness of your courses based on student performance and the feedback you receive from parents, students, and peers.

Evaluation “of” and “for” Student Learning

In Step 2 of this journey, we talked about how important frequent communication is in the online environment.  You may have assessments you already created to use in your classroom, but in the online environment, you will often need more assessments, because assessment during the course is another critical component of communication with the student. 

Formative assessments are often considered assessments “for” learning because they occur alongside the coursework. They are used to evaluate learning needs, comprehension, and a student’s progress through a course. The main goal of formative assessment is to collect information that can help improve student learning while it is happening. A secondary goal is to compare data at the class level to help you determine if there are gaps in content that need to be addressed because a group of students is not demonstrating the appropriate skills or knowledge. Formative assessments are usually quick, and the sooner students can get results, the more impact it has on their learning process.  By taking advantage of technology to administer formative assessments, students can often receive immediate feedback that they can act on when it is most needed.

assessment computer keyboard hands typingOn the other hand, summative assessments are assessments “of” learning, because students are completing the assessment as a demonstration of what they have learned in a larger chunk of content, such as a unit or course. These often take the form of tests, projects, or assignments that are meant to determine if students have learned the major concepts of the material that has been taught. Summative assessments can also help inform placement decisions. Often when you are in a rush to create online content, you may only have one form of summative assessment. Many students appreciate the option to choose how they will demonstrate their acquisition of knowledge and skills, and many times, students perform better on alternative forms of assessment compared to a test. Adding more options for assessment will be helpful for your students and assess them at a higher depth of knowledge.  

Having a variety of assessment forms is important.  You can check out some examples of assessment in CourseArc here.

Example of assessment tool in Coursearc

Assessments are a critical part of the learning process. They should be woven into both the asynchronous course material and synchronous interactions. When selecting the type of assessment you will use, consider your intended learning goals and how students can demonstrate they have met the goals. Keep in mind that assessments are not only intended for gauging student performance, they also are a good indicator of course quality.

Below are some tools and examples:

Evaluating and Improving Course Quality 

The other side of evaluation is the course evaluation. Planning time for the evaluation of your course and your delivery of the content is important because reflective teachers are more aware of the ways their courses support student comprehension and also see ways to improve the content. This awareness leads to higher quality online courses over time and a better experience for the learner.  There are many ways you can evaluate your course.  

Information gathered from assessing your students can improve the quality of your online classes. Look for trends in your data. For example, there may be particular areas where many students lacked comprehension. Start by reviewing the area and ask yourself if the objective is clear. Did you include a formative assessment to help students self-assess and see if they understood what they were reading before they moved on?  Did they have enough opportunities to practice or study? Are there areas you think are weak or where you didn’t have enough time to develop them well? You can use this information to refine and improve these areas by including additional information about the topic or perhaps decide to present the material in another way. Here are seven questions to ask yourself as you revise your course, whether you have time now, or as you prepare your next version of your course. These K-12 and Higher Ed standards from Quality Matters can also be used to evaluate your online content.

Another way to get feedback is to ask peers to review your course. It is always a good idea to get additional sets of eyes on your material.  If time is tight, consider providing them with specific questions about the material or directing them to the areas where student comprehension is low.

man standing in front of whiteboard that says "feedback"

Similarly, you can look to students and parents to provide feedback. As you talk to parents and students on the phone or via email, take notes on the feedback you are receiving. Using an online discussion board with settings so only you can see responses or a survey to ask students about their experience in the course can be very helpful. Here are some sample course evaluation questions from the Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning. 

It is important to assess not only learner performance, but also the course quality as you continue to build and develop your skills as an online teacher. Fortunately, teachers tend to also be lifelong learners!  Good luck with the remainder of your semester as an online teacher and stay well!  

Need a refresher on the other steps in Navigating the Journey to Teaching and Learning online? Check out the steps below:

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 5

CourseArc was built as a tool and team to support organizations as they build online content. Check out our resource site to see how we can help your team. Check back to our blog and social media feeds for additional resources and case studies on how our clients are using CourseArc to move their classrooms online. 

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