Testing and Grading

Brief Description:

Almost any college course will involve some form of testing and grading. Technologies like online testing and gradebooks can make testing and grading more effective and more efficient for instructors and for students. Some tools designed to be used for surveys are included in this category because they can be effectively used for online testing as well.

Possible Instructional Uses:
When an instructor enters student grades in an online gradebook, such as the one available in Canvas or CTools, students can see their grades immediately. Confidentiality is ensured because each student on sees his/her own grades. Students have a chance to see and digest their grade outside of class, reducing the amount of in class time spent on returning papers and discussing grades. Students who have a chance to see their scores quickly have the opportunity to adjust their strategies and improve their performance. For example, if a student sees that their weekly participation grade is low, they can be aware before the next class meeting and prepare to participate more actively.  The Canvas and CTools gradebooks also have an option to calculate a student’s overall course grades, so students can track their progress in the class, reducing the chance of a surprise at the end of term. Canvas and CTools gradebooks are integrated with the Assignment tool and the Quizzes (Canvas)/Test Center (CTools) tool, so grades recorded there can automatically appear in the gradebook.
At the beginning of the term or the start of a new unit, an online test or survey can be used to assess how much students already know on a topic. The level of student interest in the topic can also be gauged using these tools. This information can be used to tailor lessons to areas of greatest need and/or highest interest. If the data collected this way is shared with students in aggregate, it can help individual students see the diversity of backgrounds and interests among their classmates. If the instructor shares with students how the course has been customized based on the pre-test or pre-survey, it communicates the instructor’s commitment to creating a relevant and engaging learning experience.
Frequent practice and feedback improve learning, but students often struggle to keep up-to-date with course readings or problem sets if they are not required to demonstrate mastery until a major exam or assignment. Frequent, low-stakes online quizzes can provide motivation for students to engage with course material more regularly throughout the term, rather than cram before exams, and get regular feedback on their performance. They can also be a chance to get practice with the types of questions they will face on exams. Reviewing student performance on online quizzes is a great way for instructors to identify areas where students are struggling. Those areas can then be targeted for review in class or for other supplementary resources such as screencasts.
Some Available Platforms:
  • Canvas Gradebook
  • Canvas Quizzes
  • Google Forms
  • Qualtrics
  • UM.Lessons
  • Survey Monkey

Tips for Using Testing and Grading Tools

  • Align practice with your course goals Online quizzes should reflect the important understandings and skills you want students to derive from your course, rather than trivia questions designed only to show they did (or at least skimmed) the readings.
  • Make an investment in question banks that you can reuse over time. Many instructors note that students save copies of the online quiz questions for later studying. Often, these study resources are shared a within study groups and among friends. If this is a concern for you, consider creating multiple versions of a question that test the same basic idea, so that a student is unlikely to encounter a questions he/she has seen before. This is a time-intensive task, but question pools can often be re-used from one year to the next, and even shared among instructors.
  • Clearly communicate to students what resources (if any) they can use while taking an online quiz. Are the quizzes open book? open note? open to all resources on the net?
  • Provide accommodations or alternatives for students with disabilities. Canvas has simple options to extend time for individual students who need it, for example. If screen readers or other assistive technology do not adequately render your quiz content (e.g. images), another option may be necessary.