The pandemic introduced a rapid shift to digital course solutions and in both synchronous and asynchronous classrooms. As such, educators' reliance on digital tools increased dramatically, as did their need for strong student assessments. When done correctly, assessments can provide instructors with critical information on how well students have learned the material as well as highlight where students are struggling. This is especially true in a post-COVID classroom, where instructors don’t always have the face-to-face interaction that lets them know students may be struggling.
Frequent quizzes and other assessments were one of eight instructional practices identified as contributing to more effective online teaching and learning, according to Digital Promise. When college undergraduate students were asked about practices they’ve encountered during remote instruction, 64% of students reported that they had frequent quizzes and/or assessments in their online class -- more than live lectures (60%) or working in groups (25%). Those are some of the many reasons that Macmillan Learning continues to invest in building out the assessment functionality in our new digital platform, Achieve.
Before we begin a new academic year with an expected mix of in-person, hybrid, and virtual learning, let’s review the ways the pandemic has impacted student assessment.
Auto-grading students’ assignments is increasing and this benefits both instructors and students. It works when instructors create multiple choice quizzes or other assessments for their classes, and Achieve scores each student's individual assignment. For instructors, it provides immediate insights into their students’ knowledge of the topic and allows them to focus on the more complex elements of teaching. Many instructors can’t imagine a life without it, noted Macmillan Learning Sr. Product Director Jennifer Ferralli. Students benefit from access to more immediate feedback on their progress in the course as well as feedback on what areas they should focus their studies.
Online assessments are being used for more than just homework. There’s been a trend to use the online assessment capabilities in Achieve for mid- and high-stakes summative assessments. That means more and more instructors are evaluating student learning at the end of a unit, course, semester, or at some other milestone by leveraging our timed assessment policy, creating question pools, and adding algorithmic questions to increase variance across students, which helps prevent cheating. This is because ...
Instructors are moving away from the heavily-weighted finals. Instead, they’re relying more on more frequent mid-stakes testing over shorter intervals, or moving to other formats of assessing entirely. EdSurge talks about the trend from “final exams” to “epic finales” in this podcast.
Students' reliance on feedback from assessments has increased. When Macmillan Learning surveyed our students after the semester ended, we saw the number of students comment on how much the feedback from assessments has helped them. We believe the reliance is up because the feedback from Achieve is designed to help nudge the student to the right answer, guiding them as if they were in office hours. Speaking of office hours ...
Virtual assessments have encouraged more students to join online office hours. After receiving feedback from their assessments, students are logging on to talk directly with their instructors. This is possible because both students and instructors can log in and look at the student’s assessment together in real time, so there’s no barrier or having to send a copy of a handwritten assignment prior to meeting.
According to Ferralli, Macmillan Learning will continue to watch how instructors are using assessments and also talking with them about their future plans. “Knowing this will help us determine how our tools must evolve to support the variety of ways instructors and students use assessments in their course.”
Beginning this summer Achieve will allow instructors even more flexibility with assessments, enabling them to both edit our questions and create their own questions. This will allow instructors to add in their own feedback that aligns to their course instruction even more, or create questions that perhaps target a specific learning misconception.