Unit 5 Assessment

Overview and Objectives | Required Activities | Commentary | Study Questions

Overview and Objectives

The goal in assessment is to give learners an opportunity to provide an accurate representation of how well they have mastered the stated learning objectives. Assessment includes

  • assignments submitted and retrieved online
  • projects
  • quizzes/tests for credit delivered online or by telephone and graded online
  • examinations that are externally invigilated (arranged by the student through the Office of the Registrar.)
Unit 6 prepares you to:
  • align assessments with learning objectives.
  • choose the most appropriate assessment tool for the skill being mastered.
  • state the basis for student evaluation clearly and accurately.
  • write clear and comprehensive instructions for learners completing the assessments.

Required Activities

  • Read all the notes for Unit 5.
  • Read Attwood, R. (2009, January 29). Well, what do you know? Times Higher Education [online publication]. Retrieved February 25, 2009, from http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=405152
  • Look at the Assignment 1 (online assignment) and Assignment 2 (off-line assignment) examples on the course homepage.
  • Download and review the Word doc Word template for a typical assignment.

As you complete the required activities for Unit 5, consider the following questions (you may want to write about your idea in the blog, wiki, or discussion forum for this course):

  1. What are the best assessment strategies and tools for my particular course content?
  2. Have I encouraged learner-tutor interaction in my assessment design?
  3. Are my planned assessments reasonably demanding for a 3-credit (or 6-credit) course?
  4. Are my planned assessments appropriate for the assumed academic level of the course?
  5. Will tutors be able to effectively grade my assessments in the 3 hours allotted to marking for a 3-credit course?


Designing Assessment

It is a good idea to work with your course team early in the writing process on designing assessment. They have both the experience and expertise to help. Generally, project-based assignments are considered preferable to high-stakes exams, but this varies with the subject matter. You will need to:

  1. Decide on the number and kind of assessments on which students will be graded (assignments and/or examinations).
  2. Assign grade-point weight to each assignment or examination according to its importance in establishing learners’ mastery of specific content.
  3. Provide detailed grading rubrics/answer keys for each assessment. Tutors appreciate clear marking guidelines.

Looking over your learning objectives is a good place to start—what essentials do you want learners to take away from this course? As an experienced educator, you may have a clear idea from the start on how you want to assess learner progress. To get an idea of how other courses in the same discipline are assessed, you can browse the AU course syllabi and websites. However, keep in mind that most will have fewer assignments than is ideal, and an assessment for each unit is desirable (see, for example, Computer Science 470: Web Management).

Writing Assignments


Here are some basic guidelines on writing assignments:

  • Tutor-marked exercises are designed not only to test learners’ mastery of the course materials, but also to guarantee regular contact between students and tutors.
  • Align assignments with learning objectives.
  • Choose the most appropriate assignment for the skill being mastered.
  • Describe the basis for student evaluation clearly and accurately.
  • Write clear instructions.
  • Grading time for all assessment in any 3-credit course should not exceed 3 hours of tutor time.
  • Assignment instructions should encourage learners to select an essay topic or term project in consultation with the tutor and to seek tutorial assistance in the research phase. For a 3-credit course, tutors have a total of 17 hours available to each student in addition the 3 hours for marking assignments.
  • Take into account learners’ ease of access to reference materials. If you do assign particular reference works to be used by all students to complete essay and similar assignments, make sure the Library has multiple copies, or that they are included as an online link to the Library journal database or a PDF copy of materials cleared for online use.
  • If a research project is a requirement, please refer to the Research Policy at http://www.athabascau.ca/policy/research/ethicpolicy.htm or contact the Research Ethics committee.

Grading Rubrics

The assignments are a point where learners gets feedback from tutors. Providing grading rubrics helps tutors give clear and consistent feedback to learners. These can also be helpful to students, especially in long projects. Rubrics break down the large task into smaller ones and assign a weight to each one, which helps learners direct their energies to where they will receive the most benefit.

Here are some sample rubrics:

Writing Examinations

Here are some basic guidelines on writing examinations:

  • Align examination questions with learning objectives.
  • Choose the most appropriate questions for the skill being mastered.
  • Describe the basis for student evaluation clearly and accurately.
  • Write clear instructions for learners completing exams.
  • Provide three versions of your exams, which are kept on file in the Registry. Exams are updated and revised regularly under the direction of the course coordinator and in accordance with the Examination Currency Policy.
  • Total assessment grading time should not exceed 3 hours. Three-credit courses may include one supervised exam, while six-credit courses (these are rare) may include two supervised exams.
  • Consider using a take-home test instead of a mid-term examination. Students request take-home tests from the administrative assistant for their course and complete and return them within a designated time frame, usually about a week.

See Unit 3 on instruction for ideas on learning activities that could be completed for credit.

Study Questions

  1. How are learning objectives used in designing assessment?
  2. How much time is alloted for marking assessments in a 3-credit course?
  3. What are the benefits of grading rubrics?
  4. What institutional policies affect assessment design?


Last modified: Wednesday, 10 October 2012, 1:18 PM MDT