ARCHIVED: Assess student learning

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The information here is part of a series intended to help instructors Keep teaching in online or hybrid formats.

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It is fairly easy to give small quizzes to hold students accountable or do spot-checks on their learning, and this might be ideal to keep students on track.

General tips for assessing student learning:

  • Embrace short quizzes: Short quizzes can be a great way to keep students engaged with course concepts, particularly if they are interspersed with small chunks of video lecture. Consider using very-low-stakes quizzes to give students practice at applying concepts, with just enough points to hold them accountable, but not so many that the activity becomes all about points.
  • Move beyond simple facts: It is good to reinforce concepts through practice on a quiz, but generally it is best to move beyond factual answers that students can quickly look up. Instead, write questions that prompt students to apply concepts to new scenarios, or ask them to identify the best of multiple correct answers.
  • Check for publishers' test banks: If you are already using a publisher's textbook in your course, check to see whether the publisher has question banks that can be loaded into Canvas; see How to Connect Your Canvas Course with Various Publisher Tools. Even if you don't use these questions for your exams, they can be useful for simple quizzes. Some textbooks also have their own online quizzing tools that can help keep students engaged with the material.

    Some publishers and educational technology vendors may offer last-minute deals on technologies and homework platforms due to the current COVID-19 situation. However, most often these platforms are not appropriate for use with IU student data. To ensure the security and privacy of student data, and to ensure that you and your students receive the technical support you need, only use tools that have been approved for use at IU (for example, those listed in External tools available in Canvas). If you're unsure whether a publisher's content or tool is approved for use at IU, contact your campus teaching and learning center.

  • Update expectations for projects: Be ready to change assignment expectations based on the limitations imposed by the current situation. Possible options include allowing individual rather than group projects or adjusting the types of resources needed for research papers.
  • Consider alternate exams: Delivering a secure exam online can be difficult without a good deal of preparation and support, so consider giving open-book exams or other types of exams. They can be harder to grade, but you have fewer worries about test security. For more about alternate exams, including tips for moving exams online, see About online proctoring at IU.

Tools for online student assessment

Canvas Quizzes

The Quizzes tool, despite its name, can be used for both low-stakes assessments (for example, quizzes, practice quizzes, or surveys) and high-stakes assessments (tests or exams). Its strength lies in the ability of Canvas to automatically grade many question types, including multiple-choice, true/false, matching, numeric, and fill-in-the-blank. You can also include short-answer and essay questions, and grade those manually using SpeedGrader. The quiz questions themselves can easily incorporate images or video, in addition to text.

Other useful quiz options include the ability to scramble answers for multiple-choice questions, allowing multiple attempts (and keeping only the high score, or average score of all attempts), and showing one question at a time. Canvas can also randomize quiz questions for you, if you set up a question group.


Canvas Quick Check

Quick Check is a tool that makes it easy to program low-stakes quizzes that appear at the bottom of Canvas content. They're best used for formative feedback, helping students determine if they've understood the content.

As with other Canvas tools, you can enable Quick Check from the course navigation menu; see How do I manage Course Navigation links? Similar to the Quizzes tool, Quick Check includes multiple choice, matching, fill-in-the-blank, drop-downs, and numerical question types. These questions are meant to be automatically graded (no essays) and taken multiple times. The results are passed to Canvas.

After enabling the Quick Check tool in your course in Canvas, you'll want to create sets and subsets of questions. Many instructors create sets based on a course or group of courses, and subsets based on modules or chapters within those courses, but you can organize them in whatever way suits your course. Once you've created a few sets, you put them into action using the Assignments tool. Place the content that you want your students to learn in the Assignments instruction area, choose External Tool as the submission type, select Quick Check, and then choose the one you want to associate with that content.



Examity offers proctoring for online exams. For availability and cost, see About online proctoring at IU.

Because taking a higher-stakes exam online with proctoring can add to anxiety, try to schedule a low-stakes, participation-only practice test using Examity before scheduling a high-stakes exam. This allows students to confirm that they have the required equipment (a computer with a camera and a microphone) and sufficient internet speed. It also gives them a chance to get familiar with the process beforehand.


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Last modified on 2023-10-20 14:38:31.