How Can I Guage Online Learning Through Engaging Activities and Assignments

February 23, 2022

By: Angela Beyer & Pamela Williams


Jeremy Caplan, the Director of the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at The City University of New York, shared his experience with engaging activities and assignments designed to measure student learning in the online learning environment. Dr. Robyn Berkley joined the discussion to share her own experiences in the SIUE School of Business Management & Marketing program as well as the Master of Business Administration program.  

Activities to gauge understanding provide instructors with the tools to formatively assess learning to meet the needs of all students in their courses. The keys to these tools can be broken into a few categories. 

Summarization provides students with the opportunity to process their learning and demonstrate their understanding to the instructor. This can be a collaborative activity allowing students to create study resources using Padlet or Miro digital whiteboards. Flipgrid can be a video discussion board that students record, share, and comment on video posts based on a prompt. 

  • Resources 
  • Error Analysis – explain the discrepancy in a deliberate mistake 
  • Connect with realia – compare genres/time periods/contemporary comparisons 
  • Retrieval exercises - 

Assignments can be formative and scaffolded leading to more substantial assessments such as final papers, projects, and exams. Dividing and pacing student work, while increasing complexity over time, is similar to methods employed by engineers building bridges. Careful measurements and incremental progress checks ensure overall project success. Some aspects of successful assignments are: 

  • Frequent check-ins 
  • Avoid questions like, “Do you get it?” in favor of open-ended questions that require students to apply content such as, “How might this model apply in the workplace as opposed to the classroom?” 
  • Multiple formative assignments 
  • Check out this guide for Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) 
  • Adjust teaching strategies based on student performance 
  • Reteach content students struggle with 

Feedback is the primary tool to provide students with the necessary information to make corrections in their learning. The characteristics of quality feedback include: 

  • Timely 
  • Specific 
  • Relevant 
  • Audio feedback is an effective and efficient way to provide this feedback while providing a more personalized touch. Some great tools to provide this feedback include: 
  • OneNote 
  • Turnitin Feedback Studio for Tii assignments 
  • Record short videos that focus on strengths and weaknesses of submitted student work using YuJa 
  • Additionally, separate feedback from the grade. Provide feedback opportunities with “assignments” that focus on learning more than producing 

Evaluation and recalibration can be reflective for the instructor that benefits the students. Providing them with some additional resources to meet their learning needs can pay off in higher levels of student success. Some approaches include: 

  • Use the formative assessments to revisit topics that need further attention 
  • More opportunities for practice 
  • Provide multi-modal learning  opportunities to meet student learning needs 
  • This is a best practice particularly in online only asynchronous courses. 
  • Adjust pace based on feedback from formative assessments. 
  • Use Groups to provide differentiation and intervention 
  • Not necessarily to have them work on group assignments, but to provide students with the intervention or specific learning that they need at the right time. 

Don't feel like you have to incorporate all these tools right away. Pick a couple to try to get started. Have questions or want to learn more? Contact IDLT to schedule a consultation. 

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