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hand holding pencil over a bubble answer sheet with some answers bubbled in

Traditional testing relies on multiple choice, true/false, and written response type questions. In authentic assessments, students apply concepts to real world situations by completing meaningful task-based assessments. This type of assessment engages a variety of skills and effectively measures higher levels of learning than traditional assessment.

Authentic assessments are widely viewed as pedagogically superior, yet multiple-choice assessments are often preferable to instructors and students alike.

In an Inside Higher Ed opinion piece, Eric Loepp challenges instructors to rethink the premise that multiple-choice questions cannot meet the standards of authentic assessment. He argues that there are situations where higher-order multiple-choice questions can be used for assessment. If this has piqued your interest, you can read more in his “The Benefits of Higher-Order Multiple-Choice Tests” opinion piece for more information.

Image credit: Exam by Alberto G. licensed under CC BY 2.0

student with hands on laptop keyboard receiving instruction from another individual

In a recent Inside Higher Ed blog post, Steven Mintz discusses lessons learned from the pandemic about effective teaching. His lessons learned are:

  • Teaching online is tough work.
  • It’s easy for online students to disengage, self-isolate and fall off track.
  • Social and emotional issues are as important as course content.
  • Coverage and pacing pose a big challenge.

Steven goes on to list eight ethical issues around online learning that will persist after the pandemic. Those ethical issues are:

  1. Equity: How to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity to learn and to fully participate in our online courses.
  2. Learner diversity: How to address the special challenges that e-learning poses.
  3. Support: How to ensure that students have the ready access to the academic, technological, mental health and other supports that they need to succeed.
  4. Feedback and responsiveness: Making sure that students receive the guidance and feedback they need to succeed academically.
  5. Privacy: How to ensure that students’ right to privacy is protected.
  6. Netiquette: How to ensure that all participants in the class behave in a civil, respectful manner.
  7. Assessment: How to maintain academic integrity in an online environment.
  8. Intellectual property: What rules should govern respect for copyright in online classes.

If you are interested in Steven’s strategies for addressing these ethical issues, read his What the Pandemic Should Have Taught Us about Effective Teaching blog post.

Image credit: #WOCinTech Chat / CC BY 2.0

clipart of laptop screen with online assessment document

A common question in online learning is “How do we keep students from cheating in online exams?” A shift from traditional means of assessment (quizzes, tests, exams) to authentic and alternative assessments is critical in virtual settings.

If faculty try to assess their students the same way they did in a face-to-face setting, they will most likely find themselves frustrated, as well as frustrating their students.

In a recent Faculty Focus article, Laura McLaughlin, EdD, and Joanne Ricevuto, EdD, provided some recommendations to improve the use of assessments in virtual environments and decrease concerns regarding cheating. Their recommendations are:

  1. Allow choice in assessments: Let students decide how they will demonstrate their learning.
  2. Authentic and stackable assessments: Students should be told why they are assigned a particular assessment, and why it is relevant to their learning.
  3. Trust students: Provide alternative assessments (not quizzes and tests) where the concern of cheating is off the table.
  4. Frequent feedback and communication: Provide feedback that helps learners improve their learning.

Teaching in a virtual environment creates an opportunity to rethink your practices, try something new, and embrace deeper and more engaging ways of assessing students without using lockdown browsers or worrying about students cheating.

If this has piqued your interest, you can read more in this Assessments in a Virtual Environment: You Won’t need that Lockdown Browser! article.

Did you miss our (Re)Thinking Exams workshop? If you want to learn about ways you can challenge your students to demonstrate what they've learned while teaching in an online environment, watch this (Re)Thinking Exams workshop recording. In this workshop, Dr. Elizabeth Yost Hammer and Dr. Jay Todd discussed and demonstrated ways that focused active learning activities can be used in place of more traditional methods of assessment like quizzes and tests.

The sudden shift to remote learning has led to concerns about new opportunities for students to engage in unauthorized shortcuts. Last spring, three academic integrity and STEM professionals from the University of Maryland Global Campus, a primarily online institution, shared research on academic integrity in online courses, strategies for promoting integrity in remote learning environments, and examples of how content learning is achieved in any setting designed for online education. ICYMI, here's a link to the Proactive Approaches for Academic Integrity in Remote and Online Learning workshop recording.

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laptop screen with image of Zoom meeting with gallery view window open

Many faculty are teaching remotely as a result of the pandemic. One topic related to teaching remotely that comes up often is student engagement during Zoom class meetings. Instructors who meet their students synchronously through Zoom want to know that the students are paying attention and are engaged during the class session. Some instructors feel that for student engagement in a synchronous class they should force the students to turn their cameras on during the class meetings. This article by Karen Costa, a Faculty Development Facilitator, explains why it is a really bad idea to force students to turn their cameras on from a trauma-awareness and equity perspective.

Are you looking for ideas for student engagement in Zoom sessions that do not require you to force your students to turn their cameras on? In an article posted on LinkedIn, Karen Costa provides some practical strategies that can help you to engage your students in a Zoom session. A few of her strategies are:

  • Encourage students to use non-verbal feedback including raise/lower virtual hand, answer yes/no to questions, speed up/slow down, and emoji reactions (clapping hands, thumbs up).
  • Ask informal questions throughout the session and encourage students to use the chat to engage with you and their peers.
  • Use formal and/or informal polls.
  • Embrace the pause. Pause during the class session to give students time to think and answer.
  • Invite students to share out via audio and or audio/video in addition to answering in the chat.
  • Teach students how to be on-camera in a Zoom session (e.g., lighting, background, virtual background, mute/unmute microphone).
  • Normalize the fear of being on-camera.
  • Try using breakout rooms.
  • Make the chat the heart of your session.
  • Set the tone for engagement from moment one.

If this has piqued your interest, you can read more about these strategies in Karen’s Making Shapes in Zoom article.

Also, we have Zoom how-to resources on our CAT FooD blog. You can find links for the Zoom how-to resources here:

Photo credit: “Zoom call” by Compare Fibre from Unsplash

African American using laptop and mobile phone at the same time

James M. Lang has written a series of articles for the Chronicle of Higher Education on distraction and attention in higher education. The articles draw from his new book, Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It. In his book he makes a compelling argument that rather than thinking about how to ban distractions you should focus on creating learning environments that support and sustain attention. If this has piqued your interest, you can find his series of articles on distracted minds at these links:

Photo Credit: #WOCinTech Chat / CC BY 2.0

female typing on laptop computer

In a Faculty Focus article, Dr. Linda Shadiow and Dr. Maryellen Weimer suggested using end-of-semester evaluations to get information from your students that can help you develop your teaching persona (the slice of your identity that constitutes the “public teaching self.”)

Your teaching persona should be created from a series of choices made with the aim of enhancing student learning. In the article Drs. Shadiow and Weimer write,

By the end of a semester, we have a sense of how a course went and what activities and actions supported student learning. But through some painful experiences we’ve learned that sometimes what we thought happened was contradicted by what students experienced.

Getting a “learner-sighted” view of the course-experience can add to your understanding of the learning environment, including aspects of your teaching persona that have framed it.

The authors suggest you begin by telling students that you’re asking questions only they can answer. Explain that this is feedback that can help you become a teacher who helps students learn more effectively. Here is their sample note that introduces students to the concept of evaluating the course experience and some examples of sentence stems that can yield useful information:

Your insights into your learning in this course can help me see our course from your side of the desk. Please respond to any three of the statements below (more if you’d like). Submit these anonymously; I will use them as I plan for my courses next semester.

In this course …

it most helped my learning of the content when…because…
it would have helped my learning of the content if…because…
the assignment that contributed the most to my learning was… because…
the reading that contributed the most to my learning was… because…
the kinds of homework problems that contributed most to my learning were…because…
the approach I took to my own learning that contributed the most for me was…because…
the biggest obstacle for me in my learning the material was… because…
a resource I know about that you might consider using is…because…
I was most willing to take risks with learning new material when… because…
during the first day, I remember thinking…because…
what I think I will remember five years from now is…because…

What are good ways to gain insights from student feedback? Put some distance between the course and the feedback. It’s particularly beneficial to review the feedback when selecting course materials, developing assignments, and constructing the syllabus for the next semester. Another option is to have a colleague compile the results and return them to you prior to planning for the next semester.

For more information read the Faculty Focus article, A New Twist on End-of-Semester Evaluations.

Additionally, Brightspace has a survey tool that allows you to get anonymous feedback from your students. You can get more information about using Brightspace surveys in my Get Feedback from your Students tip.

Image Credit: #WOCinTech Chat licensed under CC BY 2.0

African American using laptop and mobile phone at the same time

James M. Lang has written a series of articles for the Chronicle of Higher Education on distraction and attention in higher education. The articles draw from his new book, Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It. In his book he makes a compelling argument that rather than thinking about how to ban distractions you should focus on creating learning environments that support and sustain attention. If this has piqued your interest, you can find his series of articles on distracted minds at these links:

Photo Credit: #WOCinTech Chat / CC BY 2.0

gears with silhouette of two heads facing each other

A common assignment given in an online class is for students to participate in a discussion forum. Many online discussions forums are setup so that students are asked to respond to a prompt and reply to posts from their classmates. The discussions are likely to be underwhelming if the discussion forum is not setup to encourage substantive discussions.

When planning and facilitating quality online discussions, you should provide:

  • Discussion prompts that encourage student engagement
  • Clear/specific instructions and expectations
  • Specific/descriptive grading criteria
  • Strategic feedback

The Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) developed a set of resources to help instructors teach effectively, whether in an on-campus classroom or in a virtual learning environment. Online Teaching Toolkit has resources and recommendations that can be immediately put to use by instructors, to benefit both faculty and their students. ACUE’s Plan and Facilitate Effective Discussions resource, which is a part of the toolkit, has recommendations for a general rubric for discussion forums, reflection activity, and discussion feedback that you may find helpful.

In a recent Quality Matters (QM) Success Story Webinar, Lisa Kidder and Mark Cooper shared a resource that has suggestions for Alternative Discussion Structures. The resource includes specific learner instructions and grading criteria for each alternative discussion format. Some of the alternative discussion formats in the resource are reflections, case studies, timeline collaborations, student facilitation, small group/share, video analysis, in the news, and debates. The resource explains where the connection to QM Specific Review Standards and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines for the discussion formats are.

If you are new to using discussions in Brightspace, you can find how-to resources for discussion forums on our blog.

Image credit: image by geralt from Pixabay

laptop screen with image of Zoom window with camera screen on

Many faculty find themselves teaching remotely because of the pandemic. One topic related to remote teaching that comes up often is student engagement during Zoom class meetings. Instructors who meet their students synchronously through Zoom want to know that the students are paying attention and are engaged during the class session. Some instructors feel that for student engagement in a synchronous class they should force the students to turn their cameras on during the class meetings. This article by Karen Costa, a Faculty Development Facilitator, explains why it is a really bad idea to force students to turn their cameras on from a trauma-awareness and equity perspective.

Are you looking for ideas for student engagement in Zoom sessions that do not require you to force your students to turn their cameras on? In an article posted on LinkedIn, Karen Costa provides some practical strategies that can help you to engage your students in a Zoom session. A few of her strategies are:

  • Encourage students to use non-verbal feedback including raise/lower virtual hand, answer yes/no to questions, speed up/slow down, and emoji reactions (clapping hands, thumbs up).
  • Ask informal questions throughout the session and encourage students to use the chat to engage with you and their peers.
  • Use formal and/or informal polls.
  • Embrace the pause. Pause during the class session to give students time to think and answer.
  • Invite students to share out via audio and or audio/video in addition to answering in the chat.
  • Teach students how to be on-camera in a Zoom session (e.g., lighting, background, virtual background, mute/unmute microphone).
  • Normalize the fear of being on-camera.
  • Try using breakout rooms.
  • Make the chat the heart of your session.
  • Set the tone for engagement from moment one.

If this has piqued your interest, you can read more about these strategies in Karen’s Making Shapes in Zoom article.

Also, we have Zoom how-to resources on our CAT FooD blog. You can find links for the Zoom how-to resources here:

Photo credit: “Zoom call with coffee” by Chris Montgomery from Unsplash

backgammon game board

Gamification is making a boring process interesting by using fun elements from games. Gamification is not the same as playing a game. Educators have been using gamification even before there was an official term for it.

Yu-kai Chou (2015) defines gamification as:

The craft of deriving fun and engaging elements found typically in games and thoughtfully applying them to real-world or productive activities.

Why Use Gamification?

Clearly gamification is a motivation tool. So why would you take the time to set-up a gamification component to your courses? In an LearnDash blog post Justin Ferriman lists some benefits of gamification to consider. Those benefits are:

  • Provides Instant Feedback – Learners receive instant feedback on their understanding of the course content. This instant feedback highlights what they need to spend more time reviewing.
  • Prompts Change in Behavior – The ability to earn points and badges reinforces certain behaviors. Cashing in the points and badges for something tangible or real makes this even more true.
  • Better Learning Experience – Gamifiying a course offers the opportunity for learners to engage with the content in various ways.
  • Safe To Fail – Gamification can incorporate the “loss” of a reward instead of earning a reward. Making it safe for learners to fail and to learn from their mistakes.

What is considered as fun in games?

Winning or beating an opponent is an obvious answer. However, pleasure is also derived from activities such as:

  • problem-solving
  • exploring
  • creating
  • imagining
  • collecting
  • role-playing
  • collaborating
  • simply chilling out

What gaming elements can be used in the learning process?

Gamification strategies include elements such as gamifying grading, incentivizing students with rewards and adding competitive elements such as leaderboards. From the non-exhaustive list of gaming components and mechanics, here are a few from a Bright Classroom Ideas blog post by Savas Savides, which can be particularly useful to educators:

  • Narrative - Nothing can beat a well-told captivating story, whether you are a child or an adult. Text, audio, video, cartoon, they all have the same denominator: a storyline.
  • Progression - Learners need to know they are acquiring skills and getting better. Student portfolios and ‘can-do’ statements help them reflect on their own learning.
  • Challenges - Tasks should be easy enough to tackle, but hard enough to challenge and motivate. And, following the previous point on progression, they should have a gradually rising level of difficulty.
  • Competition - Motivates students to perform better. Through competition, students not only do what is required to accomplish the required goals, but also do the best they can do. Competition allows the students to come forward with better ideas and clearly highlight their skills in front of their teacher and classmates. Competition is closely linked to rewards.
  • Cooperation - Apart from competing against each other, students also like working together. Never miss an opportunity to form pairs or groups to work on a project. It is more fun than working alone.
  • Rewards - With tangible rewards there is always the danger that they may substitute for the intrinsic motivation. It is better to use intangible rewards (e.g. points). Remember that the game is ultimately its own reward.
  • Win States - When the outcome is a winner.
  • Achievements - Create tangible things that serve as proof of student achievement. They can be certificates, posters, photos, videos etc.
  • Badges - Another tangible proof of individual achievement. They can be stickers, stamps, even your own drawings on the board.
  • Leaderboards - A classification of all learners-participants according to their performance. A really powerful motivational tool.
  • Points - Instant intangible rewards that help create leaderboards.
  • Teams - Either working with each other in a team or cooperating to beat another team, students can overcome shyness and benefit immensely.

A well-designed gamified course can grab and keep students’ attention, improve students’ knowledge retention, and improve students’ overall success in the course. Gamification may not suit everyone. But for those who use it, the benefits of gamification can be substantial.

For more information on gamification, check out these resources:

Image credit: image by Al Buettner from Pixabay