What did the last assessment that you took look like?
Perhaps it was a multiple-choice final exam or an essay-style test printed in double-spaced Times New Roman. Either way, we’d guess it looked quite different from the eLearning assessment types we’re going to discuss today.
When it comes to eLearning assessments, there is a wide range of possibilities when it comes to interactivity and engagement. When done correctly, these assessments both provide data about your members and help those members reach greater heights in their continuing education efforts.
At Web Courseworks, we specialize in both learning management systems (LMSs) equipped with assessment authoring tools and providing consulting services to help professional, medical, and trade associations create top-tier eLearning experiences for their members. Through that work, we’ve seen firsthand the various types of assessments that can be included in an eLearning course.
We’re going to cover types of eLearning assessments through the following questions:
- What is an eLearning assessment?
- What are the different types of online assessment?
- What eLearning assessment best practices can strengthen your courses?
Then, we’ll wrap up with a few best practices to take your assessments to the next level. Let’s dive in.
What is an eLearning assessment?
An eLearning assessment is a tool used to assess your members’ understanding of a topic and document that information in a measurable way.
Assessments are closely tied to learning objectives, or what you want members to have learned by the time they complete the course. These exercises can measure knowledge gained, skills learned, or even attitudes or mindsets changed.
For example, learners in a communication course might take a grammar test at the end of the course to measure how well they retained information about various grammatical rules and standards. This tests knowledge acquisition.
Or, individuals in a business course could complete an open-ended case study-based assessment to test how well they can apply the information presented, effectively testing skills acquired. They could even complete a ratings-based assessment before and after learning a topic, to test how their opinions, attitudes, or mindsets surrounding the topic changed.
The most important aspect isn’t necessarily what you’re assessing— whether knowledge was acquired, skills learned, or mindsets changed— but instead that the element is aligned with your defined learning objectives.
What is the importance of eLearning assessments?
As a baseline, assessments are important to ensure that the learning objectives of a course are achieved. Your association’s members aren’t completing continuing education (CE) credits because they simply enjoy sitting through a course— they’re doing so because they either:
- Want to learn something new for their own personal and professional benefit.
- Are required to learn something new to fulfill a licensure or accreditation requirement.
This is why the results of an assessment must be quantifiable in some way, as this quantification allows both you and your members to measure the change that occurred as a result of the course.
Measuring this change has benefits for both your members and your learning business alike:
- For your learning business, understanding this change gives you insight into both the knowledge of your members and the efficacy of your courses to instruct them. This empowers you to create courses and provide recommendations that will be most useful for your members’ ongoing professional development.
- For your members, measuring this change allows them to achieve certifications, licenses, and accreditation to build their professional profiles. Further, they can understand their own knowledge and areas of improvement that they should seek to alleviate.
eLearning assessments should only be used when there is a clear instructional imperative— so, only when they’re required for completion of the course or generally helpful for either of the two parties listed above.
What are the different types of online assessment?
There are a variety of types of eLearning assessments that you can use to evaluate your association’s members.
The assessments that you choose will depend on a variety of factors, including the learning objectives of your course and the assessment functionality of your LMS. Because your objectives will vary both across and within courses, you’ll want to have a variety of assessment types in your toolkit to use.
Let’s walk through 10 assessment options that you can incorporate into your next course.
Multiple-Choice and Multiple Response
Multiple-choice assessments are those that pose a question with three to five accompanying responses. Learners are asked to choose the one correct answer that aligns with the question asked.
In a similar vein, multiple-response assessments pose a question and a multitude of accompanying responses. In this scenario, however, multiple of the response options can be correct— so, learners are tasked with identifying all of the correct options.
These types of assessments are best for testing the basic memorization of facts. Of the two, multiple-response is slightly more challenging, especially if the number of correct answers isn’t specified in the prompt itself.
Sequencing assessments challenge learners to place elements in a specific order. For example, you could ask learners to:
- Create a timeline. For example, imagine you’re creating a course in which learners need to understand the history of developing a process they’re expected to use. You can present the key points in the history of developing the process out of order, and ask the learner to sequence them in the correct order.
- Detail a process. Now, let’s say you’re teaching learners to complete a specific task that requires following a number of steps in order. You can present these steps out of order and ask learners to sequence them in the correct fashion to test their memorization of the process.
Any information that involves ordering can be tested using a sequencing assessment. You could even ask learners to listen to characters speak within a course and have them rank the responses based on correctness to determine which characters handled a specific situation the most effectively.
Similar to the multiple-choice assessments, sequencing tests the basic memorization of a set of facts. So, if you’re looking to measure a learners’ deeper understanding of a topic, sequencing may not be the ideal assessment type.
Scenario-based assessments immerse learners in a situation and ask them to make decisions within the situation to bring it to a successful end. There are a variety of scenario types, including:
- Skills-based scenarios: In this scenario type, the learner is placed in a scenario and asked to apply the skills and knowledge that they’ve acquired to it.
- Problem-based scenarios: Learners are immersed in a situation that has gone awry and asked to apply their skills to identify and solve the problem at hand.
- Speculative scenarios: Learners encounter a situation and are asked to predict the conclusion of the scenario using deductive reasoning.
- Gaming scenarios: This scenario involves testing a learner’s skills using a gamified, perhaps less realistic application of the knowledge.
Because scenarios are immersive, learners can practice the application of skills in a no-consequence environment. For example, medical professionals completing CME credits via a CME LMS benefit greatly from this assessment type, as it allows them to practice medical skills in a risk-free environment before interacting with patients.
Group Collaboration with Feedback
A collaborative assessment involves learners completing a task alongside their peers and receiving feedback on their personal efforts within the group. If you think back to your time in school, you’ve probably experienced this type of assessment in the form of a group project that ended with a peer evaluation in which you rated each of your classmate’s contributions to the group.
In the continuing education context, a great example would be online discussion boards. Your association posts a prompt, asking learners to answer a question using their knowledge of the subject at hand. Then, other learners are able to comment on one another’s posts and provide feedback to their peers. They can then use that feedback to continue expanding their knowledge.
Of the various assessment methods in this list, group collaboration with feedback is easily the least quantitative method. While it will give you a general understanding of which topics are most interesting for your members and perhaps those that they could use a refresher course on, you’re not going to get numerical information corresponding to their understanding.
Open-ended assessments are designed to have a learner share everything that they know about a specific topic. These are often formatted with the question followed by an answer box in which learners type in a response that displays their understanding of the topic.
These assessments are graded on whether the learner has included key elements in their answer, whether vocabulary terms, descriptions of processes, or other measures of understanding. The key with this type of assessment is to provide feedback if the learner missed a few elements in their answer, as this will empower them to learn from that mistake.
Case study-based assessments challenge the learner to draw conclusions from a set of facts. These assessments follow a formula:
- The case study fact set is presented, often based on real-life scenarios.
- A set of questions about that fact set is asked, most often in multiple-choice format. Alternatively, this could be an open-ended assessment in which the learner is asked to write about their conclusions.
This type of assessment tests a learner’s ability to apply their understanding of a topic to a case study and draw logical conclusions from the combination of the two.
These are often timed, in that learners are given a set amount of time to analyze the set of facts before providing their answers.
Fill in the Blank
Fill in the blank assessments ask learners to provide one or two words to complete a sentence or statement.
Similar to multiple-choice and multiple-response assessments, fill-in-the-blank assessments test basic memorization of facts. Because of this, it’s not the most effective assessment for testing true understanding of a topic.
This type of assessment is most useful when it is used throughout the course as a quick knowledge check.
Within modules, you may ask learners fill-in-the-blank questions to ensure they’ve been paying attention to the course material covered.
Because these questions are so quick to answer, it doesn’t lead to a large disruption in instruction when they’re included within modules. And, if a learner gets one of these questions wrong, it signals to them that it’s time to go back a few pages and review the past material before moving forward.
Matching, Labeling, and Sorting
Matching, labeling, and sorting exercises involve organizing elements on a page, similar to sequencing assessments. For example, you could use a:
- Labeling assessment to test a learner’s ability to fill out a complicated form that’s integral to their role.
- Sorting assessment to have learners bucket items into groups, whether it’s separating “True” facts from “False” statements or sorting tools by type.
- Matching assessments to have a learner match terms with definitions or tools with processes.
This is another quick assessment type that works well when embedded within modules.
Gamification or learning games is an engaging way to test your learners’ understanding without them actually feeling like they’re being tested.
Gamification can be incorporated into assessments in a variety of ways, such as by awarding points for the number of questions answered correctly or providing badges to the highest scorers. This assessment type also draws on the healthy competition of your members, who may be motivated to achieve a higher score than their peers.
One of the greatest benefits of gamified assessments is that you can build in multiple levels that increase in difficulty as the learner progresses through the test, giving you a deeper insight into their understanding of the topic.
Oftentimes, proctored exams are required for courses that end in the awarding of licensing or accreditation.
Proctored exams are those that are overseen by an assessment professional, with the goal of providing the same amount of time and assessment experience to each learner completing the test. These assessments are more traditional, less interactive, and held to strict standards.
The ability to provide proctored exams for eLearning courses will be a strong selling point for your learning business as members will seek these assessments to earn their licenses or accreditation. However, the ability to provide these assessments is largely dependent on the association LMS you choose— so, you’ll want to choose carefully to ensure your solution can support proctored exams.
What eLearning assessment best practices can strengthen your courses?
Incorporating a variety of assessments into your eLearning courses isn’t enough to ensure these tests are valuable for both your members and learning business alike. Let’s walk through five tips to apply to your overall assessment strategy to ensure these experiences are high-value.
Assess learners before, during, and after courses.
If you think back to your own classroom experiences, you’re probably familiar with final exams that you were required to pass to progress to the next course level. While assessing your learners at the end of a course is a valuable practice to ensure they’ve learned the course material, it’s far from the only time you should assess learners.
Aim to assess learners before and during the course as well.
Before courses, consider providing an assessment designed to understand the learner’s base-level knowledge of the topic. This assessment should be comparable (or the same!) as the final assessment, so you can understand the change in this knowledge over time.
Throughout the course, include short assessments— such as fill-in-the-blank questions and sorting, labeling, and matching practices— at logical intervals. These assessments will allow you and your learners to understand which topics weren’t absorbed and need to be revisited before moving forward. This prevents a learner from getting to the end of a course and realizing that they’ve misunderstood the first few sections entirely.
Use assessments as a tool for testing and learning.
The overarching goal of your eLearning courses is to help your association’s members be more knowledgeable and impactful in their careers. While the purpose of assessments is to understand the knowledge of your members, they can also actively work to instruct your learners and help them improve.
Here are a few tips to use assessments as a tool for learning as well as testing:
- Provide feedback for correct and incorrect answers. Rather than simply marking an answer incorrect, provided a sentence or two of feedback noting why the answer was incorrect. This allows the learner to grow from the mistake. You should also provide feedback on correct answers, so that in the off chance that a learner simply guessed a question correctly, they can then learn why their guess was correct.
- Empower learners to practice. This could mean building in multiple levels in a learning game or repeating questions throughout the course— so, if a learner misses a question the first time around, they can learn the information and get it correct the second time around.
- Give learners access to their answers. If you have any multiple choice or more formal assessments, try to give learners access to their answers alongside their scores. When they can see which questions they’ve answered incorrectly, they can fix those errors and answer them correctly the next time they encounter that question.
Each of these suggestions is built on the idea of providing feedback for learners to allow them to grow through assessments.
Invest in an LMS with assessment authoring features.
We’ve briefly discussed how the LMS you invest in will play a large role in the types of assessments that you can offer. Just as you should invest in an LMS with course authoring features to author your own courses, you should invest in an association LMS that empowers you with assessment authoring features to create knowledge checks as needed.
Specifically, we recommend seeking an LMS with the following capabilities:
- Question banking, categorization, and tagging. This empowers you to use questions across assessments and keep your library of assessment questions sorted for easy navigation.
- Uploading existing questions and authoring new ones. You should be able to import existing questions into your LMS as well as create new ones from within the system, giving you a wide range of starting points.
- Providing detailed and informative remediation. This ties back to the feedback from the last question— your LMS should empower you to provide feedback for the various incorrect answers that a learner could provide.
- Creating adaptive quizzes. These are quizzes that adapt depending on the knowledge of your learner— for example, increasing in difficulty to match a learner that is speeding through the questions with high levels of correctness. This ensures that the quizzes match the proficiency of your learners.
- Proctoring high-stakes exams. With proctoring capabilities, your association won’t be limited from facilitating assessments related to accreditation and licensing.
Integrate your LMS with your AMS for effective assessment tracking.
Earlier in this piece, we discussed how assessments are valuable due to the fact that they empower you to understand your learners’ knowledge and use that information to continue improving your learning business over time. This could mean creating courses that target your learners’ knowledge gaps or even creating course recommendations and learning paths for individual members.
One way that you can elevate this process is by investing in an LMS that integrates with your association management software (AMS). By integrating your LMS with your AMS, all data from the former solution can be transferred directly to the latter.
With access to LMS data directly in your AMS, this information can be examined in conjunction with your other efforts— whether your membership data, event planning data, or otherwise. For example, you may plan events that align with popular courses offered in your LMS. Or, you can discover which members are most engaged with your learning program and offer new membership perks to them.
The idea here is that your LMS data can impact much more than your learning business alone, but your association as a whole.
Work with an eLearning consultant.
Last but certainly not least, consider working with an eLearning consultant to craft effective eLearning assessments for your members.
A consultant will have extensive knowledge of the latest and greatest strategies for eLearning assessments. They bring that knowledge to your learning business and can outline an effective strategy to test your learners.
A consulting partner will be able to examine your assessments in light of your overall learning business goals and help you craft both courses and assessments to meet those goals. This includes the creation of next-generation online learning courses and instructional design services.
To learn more about how a consultant can elevate your eLearning assessments and more, explore Web Courseworks’ consulting services.
The assessments included within your courses are just as crucial as the course material itself. With these tips and a variety of assessment options, you can create an enriching testing environment that both measures your learners’ proficiency and encourages them to reach greater heights.
To learn more about how Web Courseworks can bring your courses to greater heights through our consulting services, contact us today. To continue exploring eLearning topics, review the following additional resources:
- What Does an eLearning Consultant Do? The Complete Guide. An eLearning consultant can assist with much more than your assessment strategy. Explore the full range of eLearning consultant services in this guide.
- eLearning Pricing Models: 5 Ways to Price Your Courses. It’s crucial that the pricing of your eLearning courses reflects the amount of effort put into creating them. Explore tips for pricing your eLearning courses in this guide.
- Software for Associations | 16 Platforms to Consider. We’ve discussed how the assessments you can provide depends in part on the technology at your disposal. Explore 16 software solutions for associations to see the solutions available.