Assessment in Online Teaching


(Estimated reading time: 4 min)


Quizzes and exams have a long history in education so they hardly need justification but in online education, they have additional importance.

Quizzes: (short tests on material students have learned recently)

Exams: (longer tests that ask students to pull together material across several weeks)

    • Encourages students to review and connect material
    • Provides an opportunity for students to analyze what they have learned
    • Challenges students to more fully engage with content

What tools might you use?

Canvas Quizzes will be a useful place to start. The tool has multiple question types that allow you to go past quizzing students on their factual recall (although you can do that too).  The tool is robust enough to handle words, numbers or formulas as answers. In addition, you can give students multiple chances to pass the quiz (or limit the number of times they can take it.)


  • The quiz tool allows you to ask multiple choice, matching, fill in the blank, true false questions and short answer questions (called "essay').  You can set it to provide students with hints and comments on both right and wrong answers and you can set the tool to allow students to take the quiz multiple times or only once. Finally, the tool can auto-grade many types of questions (although you retain the ability to go through and override the grade if the tool misses something.)

    How do I create a quiz in Canvas? 

    What options does Canvas offer with the quiz tool? 

Essay and File Upload

Survey (an option within the Quiz function)

  • Using the survey function allows you to quiz students and automatically give them grades based on participation rather than getting the right answer.  This tool can be useful for understanding class demographics and getting a general sense of what students know or don’t know as well as providing students with low stakes practice.

    How do I create a survey in Canvas? 


Academic Integrity 

One key concern about online teaching is academic integrity and so this deserves its own set of strategies.  

  • Because students are more likely to cheat if the exams or quizzes are worth a great deal of their grade, some instructors make the regular quizzes low stakes (5% to 10% of the grade) or grade only for completion.

  • By using questions banks, you can randomize the questions that students see so that no two quizzes are exactly the same. You can also only show the correct answers to students once all students have taken the quiz or exam. 
  • Remote proctoring is an option; some online classes use the Respondus browser, which is a special browser that allows students to connect to the quiz or exam within Canvas and nothing else. 

Other Strategies for Creating Effective Quizzes

  • Consider your goals as you draft questions.  Be sure to focus your questions on what you want students to get out of the material.
  • You can draft up multiple-choice type questions that measure critical thinking but those questions take a good bit of thought.  For more advice, start here. (Kirkman and Johnson, 2014)
  • Regular quizzes following recorded lectures help students pay attention and focuses them on the most important parts of the material.

Additional articles:

7 Assessment Challenges of Moving Your Course Online (and a Dozen + Solutions) via