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Teaching Online Key Issues - Assessment

Key Issues: Assessment

This section of the Key Issues contains answers questions related to assessment in blended or online learning, such as how to combat plagiarism, how to proctor online tests and examinations, and how to use Learning Management Systems for formative assessment.

  1. What formal assessments are being used in blended or fully-online courses?
  2. How can I incentivise students' online participation?
  3. How can I check for plagiarism and the originality of student writing?
  4. How can I reconcile/adjust attendance or DP requirements in an online teaching environment?
  5. How can I give students feedback online?
  6. How do I discourage students from cheating on online tests or assessments?
  7. In what ways can I use technology to facilitate formative assessment?

If you don't find the information you're looking for in these questions, please check the other sections of the Key Issues (Getting started, Creating resources, Teaching online) or email CILT at cilt@uct.ac.za and we'll do our best to add it to the guide.

 


1. What formal assessments are being used in blended or fully-online courses?

The most commonly-used assessment tools in online courses are assignments and quizzes. Concerns about dishonesty are important considerations when developing tests and exams. Some have used individual assignments, in-person proctoring, question banks & randomised questions to address the possibility of dishonesty.

Getting started

Teaching online

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Last year what we did is we actually got some of our junior staff in the College to travel to Bisho in the Eastern Cape, and to Durban and to Pretoria, to invigilate. It’s a travel risk, it’s a travel cost, and so forth. So, this year, we still don't have a solution from UCT. UCT said they’re addressing it, so I’ve actually asked students to give me an indication of where they’re located, and I can’t discriminate against students because they’re not located in South Africa. I’ve got one student in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania that applied and he meets the entrance requirements, And I can’t now say ‘I can’t accept you because you’re living in Dar Es Salaam’, I did mention to him that this programme is very much for the South African public sector, but if he wants to enrol for it he should be given that opportunity. Now how should I do the assessment? The only default at this stage that I can go to is a proctor. And then is that allowed within UCT, you know. So I hope that UCT … will be accommodating in this regard.
- A/Prof Ilse Lubbe, College of Accounting

(Or you can listen to the audio below)

  • Navigate to Vula help and search for ‘tests and quizzes’ or ‘assignments’. These can be set as tests or exams in a UCT labs or remotely online. Before setting up an online exam please first contact the UCT Examinations Office well before the exam with information on how this will be conducted. Please notify Vula help at least a week in advance of scheduling exams through Vula.

  • Summative assessment are intended as a measure of what has been learnt after a cycle of learning, such as:

    • Tests and assignments
    • Examinations in controlled conditions
    • Examinations not requiring invigilation
    • Practical examinations

    Formal examinations remained a feature of the assessment profile of most courses. However, the very term “examination” is undergoing some stretching with exams taking a variety of forms and accruing varying levels of weight as a result. Read more...

  • Blog

    Documents and templates

    Video

    Readings

 


2. How can I incentivise students' online participation?

There is no formula for incentivising participation, which generally requires exploring options to find ones that work for your class. Many different approaches to incentivising students' online participation have been tried. Interesting topics and gamification can help to 'break the ice' - which are a examples of an intrinsic motivation without a material reward. Extrinsic rewards are where participation in say online forums or blogging is made compulsory either specifying a minimum number of posts; or by awarding marks. Where appropriate one may use assessments such as regular short online quizzes as a way of keeping students engaged with the learning material through a course. Whatever the motivations are, first work out how you will monitor participation and respond to students, since with a large class it can become onerous. Vula statistics reports provide a breakdown of participation but not the quality of engagement and learning. There is a risk that participation becomes a tickbox exercise - simply posting in a forum or doing a quiz to comply with the requirements - if the motivation is not clearly identified and no feedback provided.

Getting started

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In this video, Stefan Britz from the Department of Statistical Sciences discusses the general lessons learned during the running of the STA1000 course, including how the teaching staff used incentivisation to promote student participation.

In this video, Aditi Hunma and Janet Small discuss how students responded to the changes in their learning materials from standard lecture-based experiences to a more blended approach incorporating more multimedia resources.

 

 


3. How can I check for plagiarism and the originality of student writing?

Technology cannot decide in questions of plagiarism but can be used to identify where text appears elsewhere. Both Vula and Canvas have integrated Turnitin functions in the Assignments tool that can be used to check for originality. The Turnitin guidance page has more information on how to use Turnitin and the limitations with using an automated measure. It is suggested where appropriate that students can see Turnitin reports for a draft submission prior to their final submissions. For non-written forms of assessment, different approaches to check for originality will be needed as Turnitin only works for text-based submissions. Vula may provide some information on logins and submission time that might be useful.

Getting started

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One of the things that comes up in the assessment context is the whole issue of cheating, of verification of who's doing the work, and to what extent is that our job, to police it, to put huge effort into making sure that does or doesn't happen... and what are the policies around plagiarism, or working together, working in pairs or groups, and that sort of thing.
- A/Prof Leanne Scott, Department of Statistical Sciences

  • Understandably, plagiarism is a serious concern for online assignments. The most widely used text matching tool at UCT is Turnitin, a web service that can match submitted texts to other texts stored on its database, from which it derives reports on the degree of similarity between two texts. It is integrated into Vula as part of the assignments function, which means it can optionally be activated to help spot potential instances of plagiarism in assignments. Turnitin refers to this as an originality check, as quotes and references may be flagged as matching other texts. Read more...

 


4. How do I reconcile/adjust attendance and DP requirements in an online learning environment?

It is not uncommon for lecturers to require compulsory participation or participation which earns actual grades. While this may help to ensure students are keeping up, it can place a severe administrative burden onto the course convener to monitor participation. If there are to be compulsory online participation elements, it would be best to build a quick/easy to operate compliance monitoring system. Most lecturers prefer to encourage participation through incentivisation (for example, offering a few percentages) which students can add to their final results.

Getting started

Teaching online

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We initially thought of going the route of incentivisation. Again, this is not something we even thought about the first time we did this course, this was after about the third instance of this course if I remember correctly. We started introducing bonus marks, where we’d have cut-off times at certain times in the semester, about two weeks apart, and if students are up-to-date with their quizzes, having completed their quizzes getting the required 90% for each quiz at that point then they get a bonus mark on their class record at the end of the semester. This semester I’ve altered it slightly, I’ve sort of been experimenting, because we have a little bit of a lag in that they sort of have to be up-to-date with the work from the week ago. So we give them a week’s leeway. But I saw that there were a couple of students who were actually very diligent on every single day completing the required work. The natural thought was ‘you have to keep this going,’ you have to reward them for doing that. So for the students who were up to that specific day up-to-date with all their work, I gave one and a half bonus marks on their class record. So in the end it doesn’t make a huge difference, if you have six bonus marks throughout the course and semester, it’s an extra six percent or in this case a possible nine percent on their class record, in a course where the exam weighs 70%. That’s not going to make a massive difference. But students respond incredibly well to that. If there is something to reward them, if there is a pot of gold at the end of the task then they are a lot more willing to actually do it than if it’s just something that’s set, that they have to do. So a nice piece of advice is to use incentivisation as much as you can without going overboard, without making it affect your course’s assessment and learning outcomes, just always dangle a carrot, always give your students something to work towards, throughout the semester. - Stefan Britz, Department of Statistical Sciences
 
(Or listen to the audio below)
  • To learn more about how technology can be used to track user engagement with your online materials or course site, read the section on Tracking participation using Learning Analytics.

    To read about how UCT lecturers have used incentivisation to encourage student participation, read the section of the Teaching Online Portfolio on Forum participation.

 


5. How can I give students feedback online?

There are multiple ways in which to provide student feedback using technology online. Some examples include voice notes and simple videos recorded on your laptop, which provide students personal feedback on assignments. Some lecturers have made use of group feedback after an assignment to comment on some of the common types of problems which are coming up after the submission of an assignment. Participation 'marks' may be awarded for taking part in online discussion topics or online groups.

Getting started

Teaching online

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In the podcast below, Stefan Britz reflects on the best ways to give feedback to students who learn in a blended Statistics course (from 06:00):

 


6. How do I discourage students from cheating or online tests or assessments?

Certain kinds of assessment are more suitable for online modes, such as MCQs and essays. If you can set assignments that require the students to include reflection on their own learning, the opportunities for cheating are reduced. Different institutions have used in-person proctoring or proctoring technology services for exam invigilation (but this has high cost implications). For more effective MCQs, question banks & randomised questions help to reduce the effectiveness of cheating.

Getting started

Teaching online

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7. In what ways can I use technology to facilitate formative assessment?

With lower-stakes formative assessment, there are many opportunities to make use of the affordances of online technologies - ranging from online collaboration for group work; preparatory MCQs as part of a flipped classroom model; requiring students to produce content via an online wiki tool to writing weekly reflective blog posts and asking students to submit audio, video or visual assignments.

Getting started

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And then obviously online assessment is big in Health Sciences. What we’ve seen in the last couple of years is that people … continue to do the same things in the same way. So to show the alternatives or possibilities when it comes to online assessment, and that it doesn’t just have to be summative. So a lot of them now are using it for formative as well, so which are the ways in which you can do that.
- Gregory Doyle, Department of Health Sciences Education

  • The following tools can be used to create small formative assessment exercises for your online classes:

    • Mentimeter - Create live polls displaying results from questions or challenges
    • Socrative - Getting live responses or feedback in the classroom
    • Kahoot - Gaming through quizzes
    • Padlet - sharing visuals
  • Formative assessment is intended to gather evidence of learning and happens during a course, such as in tutorial activities or a portfolio. Active assessment (assessment as learning) is a form of formative assessment intended on engage students in an assessment process, setting success criteria, using peer and self-assessing, using activities and feedback to clarify student learning and understanding. In many cases the same text or object for assessment, can be engaged with in various ways more or less suited to various purposes by considering the analytic tool that an educator makes use of to assess the student’s text or object. Read more...

 


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