UNF Center for Instruction and Research Technology

Cirt Knowledge Base

Online Assessment Best Practices


Creating effective online assessments can be challenging for even a seasoned online instructor. Here, we highlight seven components to consider when developing assessments for online courses. Visit the new Online Assessment Best Practices webpage for additional examples and resources for each of the areas identified.

Authentic Assessments

Authentic assessments provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of course content through real-world or simulated activities (Shaw, 2019). Students complete tasks that require them to engage with the learning material in different ways or contexts, often over a period of time, which helps to promote student learning.

To make this type of assessment effective, follow these tips:

  • Be explicit about how the assessment relates to real-world tasks.
  • Scaffold assessments to support student learning.
  • Use a rubric.
  • Focus more on the process than the result.
  • Provide specific, constructive feedback.

Academic Integrity

UNF is committed to creating a culture of integrity which is a key foundation of online assessment design. Instead of focusing on punitive measures, we can focus on creating meaningful and authentic opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning.

Follow these tips to promote academic integrity in your course:

  • Communicate your expectations clearly.
  • Use authentic assessments rather than multiple-choice quizzes to assess student learning.
  • Divide large high-stakes exams into smaller weekly quizzes.
  • Have students affirm their academic honesty at the beginning and end of each exam.
  • Utilize Canvas Quiz settings to promote academic integrity.

Collaborative Assessments

Collaborative assessments give students the opportunity to engage with their classmates, which can expose students to new ways of thinking and learning. Although there are challenges to conducting group work online, an organized and supportive assessment design encourages students to work with others to gain new perspectives as they apply their thinking. This results in both skill and social development on academic, professional, and personal levels.

When developing collaborative assessments, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Chunk or break up assignments into smaller activities when possible to support learning.
  • Explain why you’re having them work in groups and why they’re conducting the work assigned.
  • Create groups of five to seven students for more personal and approachable discussion spaces.
  • Allow students choice in how their work can be presented.
  • Group projects can be intimidating, so make yourself approachable and remind students that you’re available to discuss their ideas and approaches to group work.

Assessment Types

A well-designed course includes multiple assessment types and methods, rather than relying on one form of assessment (i.e., exams). There should also be a combination of formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments are designed to see what students have learned and to provide feedback to guide the learning process. These are typically low-stakes assessments and occur at multiple points during the course. Summative assessments are higher-stakes assessments that evaluate students’ learning at the end of a module, unit, or course.

Consider how you can include both formative and summative assessments in your course by reviewing the following tips:

  • Focus on intentionality and keep in mind the purpose of both types of assessments.
  • Allow Bloom’s Taxonomy to guide assessment creation. Lower-level cognitive skills (i.e., define, identify) in formative assessments lay a solid foundation in challenging students to utilize higher-level cognitive skills (i.e., apply, critique) found on summative assessments.
  • Keep it simple. Formative assessment can be as simple and informal as a quick poll or reflection activity.
  • At the end of the semester, reflect on the mix of assessments and decide if there are any revisions you want to make.

Adapting Assessments

When you transition to teaching a course online, it can often be challenging to reimagine how the assessments you perfected for your face-to-face courses will work in an online environment. This is especially true for group projects or other assessments that typically rely on classroom interactions. However, there are ways to adapt these assessments for online learning.

Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Review the related course and module objectives.
  • Use a variety of assessment methods.
  • Consider how to engage students with you, each other, and the content.
  • Make use of available technology.
  • Contact your Instructional Design liaison for additional support.


Substantive and timely feedback is a critical component of effective teaching and student success. The goal of feedback is to help students monitor their progress and to continue guiding their achievement of the course learning objectives by reinforcing concepts and clarifying misconceptions.

Following these tips can help you provide supportive and constructive feedback:

  • Structure your feedback to identify what was missed, clarify misunderstandings, and guide students toward the learning targets, not just to substantiate a grade.
  • Use your feedback to connect with your students and show them you care about their progress.
  • Incorporate technology when appropriate. Canvas provides tools for general comments, in-line annotations, and video responses so you can share constructive feedback.
  • Ensure your students know which feedback methods you use and how to access them.


Scaffolding is an instructional method that guides students towards greater self-reliance and a deeper comprehension of concepts as they progress through the learning process. Students benefit from scaffolding content in the same way construction workers use scaffolds to reach higher levels of a building project.

Here are some tips for incorporating scaffolding:

  • Teach within each student’s Zone of Proximal Development
  • Set learning goals and objectives and share them with students
  • Chunk complex content or assessments
  • Use formative assessment to gauge the effectiveness of instruction
  • Reduce support as students become more self-sufficient
Brought to You By
Picture of Laura Jackson
Laura Jackson
CIRT | Assistant Director of Online Course Development