COVID-19 Updates & Resources

Online Assessment: To Do or Not To Do?

The Covid 19 pandemic undoubtedly led to significant changes in educational systems globally. Educational providers needed to adapt quickly to the sudden changes and the resultant challenges. Out of this environment, a “new normal” emerged for the teaching and learning process. Assessment strategies had to be revised and applied to complement the move to emergency online teaching, caused by the pandemic.

Boud (2010) posited that the primary goal of assessment is for students to demonstrate their acquisition of the learning outcomes of the course. Several assessment methods can be employed to acquire information about student learning. Two of the most commonly used methods are formative and summative assessment. Patronis (2017) noted that formative assessment is designed to monitor students throughout the course whereas summative assessment is designed to evaluate the students at the end of the course against some standard or criteria.

Consistent with the purpose of assessment, online assessment can be defined as any method used to evaluate student achievement, provide feedback, or encourage students to advance during the learning process (Weleschuk, Dyjur & Kelly, 2019). It is not only limited to an online test or quiz but also incorporates online submissions. Additionally, Alsalhi, Qusef, Al-Qatawneh & Eltahir (2022) emphasized that online assessment captured all forms of assessment and evaluation that were carried out using digital technologies.


Online assessment has several pros and cons. The benefits include:

  1. It encourages the use of different evaluation methods as alternatives to the single exam e.g. direct follow-up, individual or group work, learning portfolios, and interviews, once aligned with course/programme learning outcomes.
  2. It reduces the administrative burden of managing examinations.
  3. It provides direct feedback and easily corrects misconceptions.
  4. It supports both formative and summative assessment i.e. allows for monitoring of student learning throughout the semester/term and to conduct final exams.


However, online assessment is said to:

  1. encourage academic misconduct, cheating and plagiarising,
  2. cause financial strain on the provider when acquiring hardware, software or training for staff,
  3. be ineffective due to unreliable technology and internet connection issues, and
  4. be time-consuming when switching assessment tools to an online format.


To do or not to do?


Engaging in online assessment will rely heavily on an educational provider’s ability to utilise online assessments effectively within the scope of its educational objectives. Each situation will be unique. However, it must be understood that what transpired in the face-to-face environment might not fit exactly into the online environment.

Therefore, educational providers must align online assessments with the learning outcomes. Additionally, it will be important to invest in software or hardware that could increase the possibility of making reliable and valid interpretations about the learning outcomes.


By: Quality Assurance Officer, Mrs. Shakira Vaughan



Alsalhi, N., Qusef, A., Al-Qatawneh, S. & Eltahir, M. (2022). Students’ Perspectives on Online Assessment during the COVID – 19 Pandemic in Higher Education Institutions. Information Sciences Letters, (11) 1, 37-46.

Boud, D. (2010). Assessment 2020: Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education. Sydney: Australian Learning Council.

Patronis, M. (2017). Summative vs Formative Online Assessment. Proceedings of the International Future of Education, International Conference 9th Edition Conference Proceedings. Filodiritto Editore Publishers.

Weleschuk, A., Dyjur. P. & Kelly, P. (2019) Online Assessment in Higher Education. Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning Guide Series. Calgary, AB: Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary.

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