Instructor Insights

Assessment in an Online Course

In this section, Professor Tom Kochan describes the challenge of assessing learning in an online course not defined by right or wrong answers and shares a strategy for responding creatively to assessment in this kind of context.

Assessing Learning When there are No Right or Wrong Answers

"Available online assessment tools are typically multiple choice or true false questions. I’m more interested in what students have really learned in the course, what they’re going to take away with them."
— Tom Kochan

15.662x Shaping the Future of Work is a discussion-intensive online course, in which there there are rarely right or wrong answers to most questions. It’s a challenge to evaluate learning in this context because available online assessment tools are typically multiple choice or true false questions. I’m more interested in what students have really learned in the course, what they’re going to take away with them. Evaluating student learning is a more nebulous process in an online discussion-based course than it is in a subject with concrete answers. It forces you to be creative.

Peer Review of Assignments

To address this challenge, we asked course participants to engage in peer review of assignments. They submitted their assignments to three other participants, and those participants were required to provide feedback. Although there is some administrative complexity associated with this strategy—for instance, what do you do when one participant submits an assignment for peer review, but the peer doesn’t respond?—I’ll keep trying it. In one of my upcoming MBA courses, for example, students will submit their assignments to the instructor and to the teaching assistants, but also to fellow MBAs, who will be responsible for providing feedback and commentary. This process will provide the students with an opportunity to engage each other in thinking deeply about the content of the course.

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