OSCQR – Standard #45RSI Dashboard illustration

OSCQR – Standard #45RSI Dashboard illustration

Course includes frequent, appropriate, and authentic methods to assess the learners’ mastery of content.

Review These Explanations

Consistent and regular assessments help learners demonstrate their progress and deficiencies. As learners move through an online course, they should encounter regular assignments, activities, and interactions designed to assess how well they have mastered the learning content, and how close they are to meeting program, course, or module learning objectives.

They key to establishing an appropriate assessment strategy is first making sure that established goals are measurable, and then mapping activities back to those goals to see which best lend themselves to conveying learner mastery. It comes down to one simple question – how will you know that learning has taken place?

According to Palloff and Pratt (2013), “A learner-centered assessment is an assessment that links what the student is learning in the course to the assessment process”. Multiple choice tests and quizzes may be easy to grade, but writing assignments, collaborative exercises, case studies, and interactive discussions provide a more authentic assessment of learner mastery by requiring reflection, synthesis, and the creation of new knowledge.

Learners can become lost in online courses that fail to measure mastery on a consistent or regular basis, as they have little to motivate their participation. Mastering competencies on a regular basis within an online course helps learners succeed by developing competence, understanding, and comprehension, which leads to the ability to demonstrate competence and elicit feedback (Hulleman et al., 2010).


Hulleman, C., Schrager, S., Bodmann, S., & Harackiewicz, J. (2010). A meta-analytic review of achievement goal measures: Different labels for the same constructs or different constructs with similar labels? Psychological Bulletin, 136(3), 422.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2013). Lessons from the virtual classroom: the realities of online teaching. Second edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI)

How This Standard Supports RSI

RSI Dashboard illustrationThis standard can support regular and substantive interaction by including a variety of ways to assess learning, and by ensuring that learners receive timely feedback on their work and course progress, and scheduled opportunities to review or discuss their work with the instructor. Authentic online assessment is an essential part of an effective high-quality online learning experience. Instructors can design online learning assessments and evaluations of student learning/mastery by considering approaches that are more effective and appropriate in online learning environments. With the understanding that some online assessments can be largely “take home,” open book, and potentially collaborative in nature, instead of relying on 1 or 2 high stakes multiple-choice-type exams, alternative methods can be leveraged to help learners make their thinking, understanding, and learning visible to the instructor, and others in the course for assessment, feedback, and guidance. Effective practices online include opportunities for more frequent self-assessments, peer evaluation, and formative assessments. Some suggestions include:

  • Place a higher value on online course interactions and discussions.
  • Provide learners with choices in how they demonstrate their learning/mastery.
  • Provide opportunities for learners to make their thinking and learning visible to you in ways that demonstrate how they can apply their learning and understanding. Instructors can establish this in the design of the course by providing explicit instructions and expectations, rubrics, models/examples, opportunities for peer evaluation and self assessment, and details on how they will provide feedback, and evaluate work.
  • Focus on the importance of timeliness, interaction, and feedback from the instructor.

Directing learners to ask questions and interact with the instructor about their understanding of course materials and concepts, and about course assessments, such as in an online discussion forum, further supports RSI, and is a good general practice. Scheduling specific instructor-facilitated discussion in groups, or in private Office Hours with individuals, to discuss course content, activities, assignment feedback, provide help, answer questions, and/or get clarification demonstrates compliance with RSI.

Refresh Your Course with These Ideas

General Suggestions

  • Break complex projects/assignments down into smaller components and provide feedback at each step.
  • Use rubrics to articulate and provide detailed expectations for assignments and student performance.
  • Consider using self-assessment quizzes formatively to help learners check their own understanding.
  • Incorporate self- and peer-assessments to promote student teaching presence and community, deepen their understanding of your rubrics, and reduce your workload.
  • To maximize your time and efficiency, consider where you may have opportunities to provide feedback to the entire class– be strategic in where you spend your time producing individual feedback. If you find yourself writing the same/similar feedback on a particular assessment/assignment, consider group feedback.
  • Review textbook companion materials for quizzes and activities that can be integrated into the LMS.
  • Learn to use the grade book, grading, and rubric features within the LMS to guide the development of your assessments, and to assist you to provide rich feedback.
  • Meet with a curriculum developer within your discipline to ensure your course learning objectives align well with your assessments, content and activities.
  • Explore tools that enable learners to interact with course videos, such as PlayPosit, Panopto, etc.
  • Prepare a roadmap of assignments and assessments to visualize the balance of work that learners will be taking on throughout the term.
  • Be explicit in instructions and guidelines about each course activity and its assessment aligns with specific course learning objectives.


Assessing Asynchronous Interaction

Supporting Academic Honesty

Explore More Refreshing Ideas from the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR) at the University of Central Florida (UCF)

This Pedagogical Practices from TOPR explores methods and approaches to creating assignments and assessments that enable instructors to assess learner mastery of course materials and concepts in online courses.

Individualizing Assignments in an Online Course
Individualizing assignments in an online course promotes student and instructor interest, challenges students to strengthen their research skills, and prevents students from paraphrasing other students’ work and presenting it as their own. (Read more …)

Explore Related Resources

As online education moves into the mainstream of the higher education ecosystem, one question still persists: “How do I know what my online students have learned?” There are no easy answers, just as there aren’t in face-to-face courses, but with a little creativity and flexibility, you soon discover that the online learning environment opens up a host of new educational assessment possibilities.
Ng, C. (2015). Learners’ Goal Profiles and their Learning Patterns over an Academic Year. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 16(3), 86-109.

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OSCQR has been developed by a community of online practitioners interested in quality course design. There are numerous opportunities for community members to offer suggestions, donate resources, and help with future development.

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