Assessment & Evaluation

Posted by on Oct 1, 2008 in Education | 0 comments

Assessment and evaluation each play a vital role in the learning process.  Students and teachers alike can benefit tremendously from reflecting on learning.  This can be accomplished in two ways: 1.   Assessing the success of the student. 2. Evaluating teacher effectiveness.  This is particularly true in distance education courses, because many times direct feedback is not provided and instructors struggle for a means to gauge how students have progressed within the subject matter.  “The two disciplines of distance education and educational assessments have seen dramatic changes and growth recently.”  (Suen & Parkes, No date available)  To the distance educator, assessment and evaluation can be indispensable tools that serve as a compass to guide both the teacher and the student to a common ground where learning can take place.

Why do we need assessment & evaluation?

The most commonly asked question about assessment and evaluation is, “Why is it needed?”  Assessment and evaluation are needed in order to compare initial objectives with measurable outcomes to determine course effectiveness.  Accountability came to the forefront in education, when state school boards began to set forth standards for state funded schooling.  In turn, the business sector began to question the effectiveness of the courseware they pay through the nose for and as a result many businesses feel that by measuring course effectiveness they can acquire more bang for their buck.  In regards to this, however, companies have to be careful when choosing to evaluate or assess outcomes.

“Evaluation can be very expensive and not everything should be evaluated. If routine information is needed, then the development of some form of monitoring system may be appropriate.”  (Fox, No date available)

In addition, assessment and evaluation are even more vital in the world of DE (Distance Education) than they are in the face to face classroom.  When teaching at a distance, educators must address a different teaching challenge than when teaching in a traditional classroom.

For example, instructors no longer have:

  • A traditional, familiar classroom.
  • A relatively homogeneous group of students.
  • Face-to-face feedback during class (e.g. students’ questions, comments, body language, and facial expressions).
  • Convenient opportunities to talk to students individually.
  • Total control over the distance delivery system.

Evaluation vs. Assessment Defined

Although many use these terms synonymously, they are not the same.  Evaluation refers to the ongoing process of appraising the effectiveness of instruction throughout the learning process.  Assessment on the other hand, is the final results achieved by the student or the amount of information the student has retained in relationship to the objectives set forth.  Both assessment and evaluation are vital in face to face and distance programs, however, in a distance course they move to the forefront.  Without ongoing evaluation, distance courses can become disjointed and students wind up feeling left in the dark in regards to the material.  Distance educators are many times responsible for evaluating the course as they go.  This can easily be accomplished by frequently prompting direct feedback from the students about how they feel about the material being presented and also by asking what concepts they are having difficulty with.  These indicators generally point the finger at the weaker areas of the course.

Alternative Assessment

Distance education has definitely changed the face of assessment.  With so many changes taking place, many forms of traditional assessment just do not lend themselves to today’s distance learner.  As a result, there has been an emergence of creative alternative assessments created to meet the needs of distance learners.  These alternative assessments allow the student to not only display what they have learned but also challenge the student to synthesize and apply what they have learned.

The following outlines a few of the alternative assessments being used in DE classrooms:

  1. Project Based Assessment
  2. Portfolio Assessment
  3. Performance Based Assessment
  4. Journal Assessment

These alternative forms of assessment are sometimes considered to be subjective.  However, by adding an objective scoring rubric, students are able to understand the mechanics of how the instructor plans to quantify learning.


As you can see, assessment and evaluation are necessary in DE learning in order to allow curriculum designers and instructors to see the strengths and weaknesses of courseware offerings.  Those involved in the development process would then take the results of their evaluation back to the drawing board and change those areas of the course that showed weaknesses, in hopes of a providing a well rounded learning experience.  Educators have recently made considerable progress in regards to assessing learner outcomes, however, the future looks even brighter and with time we will see more and more advances coming to fruition in regards to this growing trend.

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