Description | Process | Resources


Online assessment, as part of an assessment process, is subject to the Assessment Policy and Assessment Procedures 2011. Key elements such as the clarity of directions given to students, security, records management, and the ability of staff and students to use the technology need to be considered. For example students need to have been given a chance to experience both the form of the assessment and the technology used to manage it at some stage before they are asked to participate in a summative assessment process. 

The adoption of online assessment is often prompted by academic staff seeking to diversify assessment tasks, integrate assessment with online delivery, respond to student desire for timely and informative feedback on their progress and generate more efficient and more effective assessment processes by managing large volumes of marking and assessment-related administration efficiently.

While online assessment is associated with automated multiple-choice assignments, and these can provide opportunities for enhancing student learning through adding formative assessment, it can also offer diversification of learning, making possible rich experiences to students through individual or group project work and the exploration of scenarios. An ePortfolio, for example is essentially a collection of items in electronic form rather than a single piece of work.  Like other portfolios, it differs significantly from other forms of assessment insofar as it attempts to produce multiple sources of evidence to verify claims for achievement of learning outcomes.


1. Objectives, modes and learner characteristics of on-line learning

This table provides a list of considerations for use in assessing whether to use particular kinds of online assessment.   If the goal or purpose is to:

develop/assess… one might use… but also need to consider, for example…
(objective) (mode) (learner characteristics)
A body of knowledge An on-line exam
  • The likelihood of cheating
Learner autonomy

An on-line quiz with formative feedback
  • That some students’ ICT-related anxiety will dissuade them from using this mode
Group work skills On-line study groups
  • Learner comprehension of how to contribute effectively
  • Learner understanding of group product/process assessment
  • Varying learner commitment to collaborative learning
Understanding of basic concepts Web-based, self-paced, interactive modules with automated responses and no recorded marks or grades for students
  • Learner interest, motivation and engagement with modules/material given absence of marks/grades
  • Effects on learners of heavy traffic at peak times
Student problem-solving skills On-line ‘role-play’ where students adopt allocated roles and then solve a problem in role, with a minimum participation requirement only
  • Learner comprehension of how to contribute effectively
  • Learner interest, motivation and engagement with role play/material given absence of marks/grades
Ability to think critically and articulate critical analysis On-line scenarios and information with accompanying prompts and a discussion board, with a minimum participation requirement
  • Learner comprehension of how to contribute effectively
  • Varying learner commitment to collaborative learning
  • Possible variation in starting and completion times for distance and other students
Learner ability to reflect Rhetorical, ethical or other questions and a web forum which learners must use to share their reflections, with a minimum participation requirement
  • Learner comprehension of how to contribute effectively
  • Varying learner commitment to collaborative learning
  • Possible variation in starting and completion times for distance and other students

Table adapted from Leask (1999) and the University of South Australia, 2001.

2. Types of online assessment

The many ways of assessing on-line include, but are not restricted to:

  • Electronic submission of written assignments
  • Parallel print and on-line assessment options where students are given the choice of whether and how they use on-line tools in assessment tasks
  • Publication of documents on the web
  • Labelling of on-line diagrams
  • Manipulation of on-line graphs
  • Completion of on-line quizzes
  • Completion of short-answer and multiple choice questions
  • On-line exams with monitored and controlled start and stop times
  • Any formative or summative task carried out in a web-based environment.

3. Using on-line multiple choice quizzes

These quizzes can be very useful for formative assessment which the students can access in their own time and with marking and feedback being supplied automatically. While these can be used to assess a wide range of learning outcomes they are especially useful for testing outcomes such as understanding or applying concepts or procedures.


  1. The pitfalls, advantages and possibilities for on-line assessment are described, along with 34 strategies for developing effective on-line assessment,
  2. The strategies are summarised in three checklists:

    1. An access and usage checklist
    2. A quality of teaching and learning checklist
    3. A technical and administrative checklist.

  3. Using technology for online feedback
    1. Increasingly technology is being used to tackle the problems in providing feedback  for large classes as Adam Bridgeman and Peter Rutledge (University of Sydney) illustrate in their article, “Getting Personal; Feedback for the Masses”, in Synergy (2010 pp.61-68).
    2. Another University of Sydney example is Alex Eapan’s article, “Delivering High Quality Individualised Feedback Reports to Large Classes of Students”, also in Synergy pp.69-74.
    3. Sheffield Hallam University’s best practice guide for academic staff on using technology to help students engage with their feedback.