Assessment Mechanics

What tools can I use to  measure understanding?  

What are Assessment Mechanics?

Assessment Mechanics involve the various  frameworks (tools/software) that facilitate our assessment activities and how they are implemented.  If your assessments are given online, whether a quiz, discussion, or multimedia presentation, there are tools available to help you distribute, collect, and grade  student work.

How Can I Use Assessment Mechanics  in My Course?

Quizzing and Collecting Answers

Google Forms  –  Use Google Apps to create a Google Form; Collect answers to your questions (multiple choice, essay-answer, matching, etc.) in a Google Spreadsheet, exportable as an Excel file; automatically collect the usernames of the students submitting answers.

Canvas Quiz –  Canvas Quizzes support a wide variety of question types and give you control of availability, timing, and exceptions. Quizzes can be a mix of auto-graded answers and individual feedback. Automatically loads into the Canvas Grade Center.

Adaptive Release – Within Canvas, you can structure student’s path through your course and unlock materials or assessments based on individual student performance using Prerequisites and Requirements. This is one way to personalize the student’s learning experience.

Assessing Essays/Complex Assignments, and Providing Feedback

Google Drive –  Google Drive is the filesharing tool connected to your UA email address that  allows you to share files and folders among students (and them to share files and folders among themselves.) It can be used as a way to collect assignments and provide feedback through in-line comments. There is a Google Assignments LTI tool available in Canvas that can streamline this process if it is a major part of your course.

In-Line Grading Feature of Canvas –  Canvas’s in-line grading feature allows you to open up word and PDF documents, mark them up with comments/feedback and link that submission/feedback bundle to a grade.

WordPress Sites for Presentations – Essays and complex multi-media presentations can easily be uploaded  onto the course website or blog. The comment feature allows for faculty feedback in the open (as long as it is general and not grade-specific), which can allow for a revision cycle to take place if the student is asked to revise their presentation.


Students can assess each other for you. Probably the most natural medium for peer assessment is discussion, where students can present to each other in a low-stakes environment, positing new ideas and receiving a great deal more feedback than the teacher, by herself, can provide.

Canvas Discussions –  

WordPress and Blog Comments Fields –  One of the best options for student discussion is free and open-source: the comments sections beneath a page or post on a WordPress site. Discussions can branch within WordPress while continuing to evolve in a more-or less linear fashion, making the discussion (in my opinion) very manageable and encouraging for both students and teachers.


Auto-graded quizzes or peer review – If you allow students to engage in an iterative assessment process, their final outcome can be improved. Providing a way for self-assessment (non-graded) to happen is one way to encourage practice towards greater mastery.

How-to Instructions and DIY

Here is a list of Links to “How To” Instructions:

Considerations for Online Courses

There are many tools now available, and more developing every day, for assessing your students’ understanding. First, you should ask yourself what evidence of understanding you wish to assess. If it is intelligence of term definitions and formulas, rote memory of certain facts, exhibition that the student can solve basic mathematic problems, etc., then maybe self-grading quizzes available through Blackboard can best serve that purpose.

If you’re looking for evidence of more comprehensive understanding, however, then there are a number of tools available. The  technology you choose depends on your outcome goals.

A thumbnail from the course

In Practice

Greg Finstad’s “History of Alaskan Ungulates” asks students to develop research projects that are  later incorporated into the course as learning materials for  subsequent semesters.

Watch:  Effective Assessment and Measurement

Research Foundations

Ćukušić, M., Garača, Z., & Jadrić, M. (2014, March).  Online self-assessment and students’ success in higher education institutions.  Computers & Education, 72. 100-109.

Khawaja, M., Prusty, G.B., Ford, R.A.J. (2013).  Can more become less? Effects of an intensive assessment environment on student’s learning performance (PDF). European Journal of Engineering Education, 38 (6). 631-651.

Kihlstrom, J. F. (2014). How students learn and how we can help them. University of California Berkeley.

Pennebaker, J.W., Gosling, S.D., & Ferrell, J.D.  (2013).  Daily online testing in large classes: Boosting college performance while reducing achievement gaps.  PLoS One, 8(11): e79774.