OSCQR – Standard #46

OSCQR – Standard #46

46. Criteria for the assessment of a graded assignment are clearly articulated (rubrics, exemplary work).

Review These Explanations

Rubrics are recommended as a best practice for communicating criteria and achievement levels for assignments in online courses. Elikai & Schuhmann (2010) found that grading policies and associated rubrics motivated learning by associating levels of mastery and performance with a specific grade, and guiding achievement progress.

According to Worlf & Goodwin (2007), rubrics:

  • Make learning targets clearer;
  • Guide the design and delivery of instruction;
  • Normalize the assessment process; and
  • Give learners self- and peer-assessment guidelines.

Guidelines or rubrics for the assessment of graded work should include performance criteria, setting desired performance/proficiency levels for learners, and creating performance descriptions. This includes detailing out what constitutes a full continuum of accomplishment, from unsatisfactory through to exemplary, and include associated grades along with each level along the continuum. Criteria that sets apart specific grade levels should be clear (what gets and A, B, and so on), and tie directly to the goals and objectives of the assigned work that is to be graded.

Showcasing exemplary work provides learners with a clear example of what outcomes the assignment demands, and what mastery levels need to be reached. Before posting exemplary work, be sure to get permission from the learner whose work you would like to showcase.


Elikai, F., & Schuhmann, P. W. (2010). An examination of the impact of grading policies on students’ achievement. Issues in Accounting Education, 25 (4), 677-693.

Wolf, K. K., & Goodwin, L. L. (2007). Evaluating and Enhancing Outcomes Assessment Quality in Higher Education Programs. Metropolitan Universities, 18(2), 42-56.

Refresh Your Course with These Ideas

  • Ask your campus instructional design or IT representative for a tour of the rubric features within the LMS.
  • Give learners a grading rubric checklist to complete before they turn in any work.
  • Keep a folder of exemplary course work outside of your courses so that you can access it at any time – even long after a course has ended.
  • Review course rubrics from other faculty, or online resources. There are some excellent examples at the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence at Carnegie Mellon.
  • Explore these third party rubric tools to create course rubrics:

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

This Pedagogical Practice from TOPR explores methods and approaches to providing clear rubrics for learners in support of learner success in online courses.

Use Rubrics to Evaluate Students’ Online Discussions
While faculty might hope that students can “just discuss” a topic online with little or no support, Beckett, Amaro‐Jiménez, and Beckett (2010) found that “even doctoral students may need explicit grading instructions, and therefore provide rubrics and sample responses while not stifling creativity” (p. 331). Rubrics provide clear expectations for students regarding how an assignment, that can otherwise be subjective, will be graded. (Read more …)

Explore Related Resources

Andrade, H. 2000. Using rubrics to promote thinking and learning. Educational Leadership 57, no. 5: 13-18.
Arter, J., and J. Chappuis. 2007. Creating and recognizing quality rubrics. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.
Reddy, Y., & Andrade, H. (2010). A review of rubric use in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(4).
Stiggins, R.J. 2001. Student-involved classroom assessment. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Share What You Know

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.

Discuss this standard in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

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