13 Ways To Assess Online Students

When you have online students how do you test or assess them? There are many ways both online and offline to do this. Let me share my 20 years experience with you on how you could do this.

Summative Methods of Testing Online Students:

  • Monitored Exams
  • Online Exam Systems
  • Text Chat
  • Voice Chat
  • Video Chat
  • Virtual Classroom

Formative Methods of Assessing Online Students:

  • Peer Evaluation
  • Assignments
  • Quizzes
  • Forum Posts
  • Online Class Participation
  • Live Chat Participation
  • Team Collaboration Tools

Now that we have looked at the methods of testing and assessing your online students lets dig in deeper and look at some tools you may use to do this.

What is formative and summative?

Notice that above I broke down the methods of assessing students into formative and summative methods. The difference between them is that Formative is how you gauge students knowledge during the training to see how they are progressing. And then Summative is the testing you complete at the end of the training as a final result of how much they have learned.

Just like when we are teaching in the classroom these two methods are still important when we are teaching online. Most online educational institutions will use both to provide a bigger picture of the students understanding of a subject.

Summative Methods

Monitored Exams

When providing tests for online students you may wish to have the exam monitored in the real world. There are many ways you can do this sol lets look at a few of them.

  • Educational Institution Invigilation
  • Certified Invigilators
  • Testing Centers
  • Industry Professionals
  • Industry Bodies

Educational Institution Invigilaiton

Most educational institutions will provide invigilation services for other universities or vocational training partners. These are typically done in line with their normal assessment blocks in each semester. You can also get K-12 schools to provide this service as well. So once you know where students are located you can contact a local school or educational institute to conduct your exams for you.

Certified Invigilators

With a short course at your institute or with a vocational training organisation individuals can become Certified Invigilators. They can then provide one on one exam monitoring services for you. The student can book in their exam directly with the person and then they can come to their home or office to monitor their exam.

Testing Centers

There are multiple global networks of testing centers like Prometric and Pearson Vue. They provide local exam invigilation and computer based exams for students. The student can pay them directly for an exam sitting or you can provide the student with exam vouchers and include the price of the exams in their student fees. These types of centers are favored by the big tech companies like Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and many more.

Industry Professionals

If the exam is more practical in nature and you want to see whether a student can complete a given task then you can use already certified industry professionals to monitor and assess their current skills. This is a favored method of apprenticeship style training. For exam becoming a chef , plumber or electrician. These industry professionals also act as a boss and mentor for students as well.

Industry Bodies

Most industry bodies like the American Society of Civil Engineers provide practical and theory based assessment as well. So if you are looking for whether a student has gained the knowledge during training then getting their license or certification with one of these bodies could be another method of assessment.

Online Exam Systems

There are multiple types of online exam systems and here are some that you might want to have a look at:

  • LMS Plugin
  • Third Party
  • Website Addons

LMS Plugin

Whether you are using Moodle or another Learning Management System (LMS) or even a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. There are plugins tools that allow you to do online examinations. An example of a plugin for Moodle is the extension to the quiz module called Exam.

Link : Moodle Exam plugin

Third Party Exam Websites

There a many websites with exam systems that you can load your exams into and they do all the rest. They allow for large amounts of students to access the exam at the same time and can integrate to your LMS, CMS or custom website. Some of these providers are QuestionMark, Exam Builder and Easy LMS. They normally also provide reporting on your exams as well.

Website Addons

With your existing website you can extend your website with a forward slash exam or survey tool like Lime Survey. Lime survey is open source so it free for the CE version if you install it on your own website. They will charge you for their PRO version which just means you host on their website. There are plenty of other tools just like Lime that you can try just search for website survey tools.

Text Chat

While not the ideal method of doing an exam it is great for people with speaking difficulties. You could ask them a question at a time and then dig into their answer for further understanding. You don’t know whether they are google answers or having a friend take the exam for them. But if this was a more strict exam type you could include a 360 degree webcam and computer screen recording as well.

Voice Chat

If you have spoken to the student before and know their voice this is a simple way to administer an exam if somewhat time consuming. Using WhatsApp or Skype or Facebook Messenger you could administer a verbal exam. Great for language studies and for pre course language proficiency testing as well.

Video Chat

Whether you let them use a standard webcam or a 360 degree webcam this is a great way to test students for many practical tasks. Or you could use a mobile phone on a stand positioned to watch them complete a task. Since everyone has a mobile phone now this is a great method for assessing students.

Web Conference

Web Conferences like Cisco’s Webex or Zoom are great ways to assess students. You have access to an audio chat, webcam and text chat as well as allowing them to share their screen so they can demonstrate a particular task. You can record your screen with screen casting software while the examination or student demonstration is happening for proof they passed the task. Most Web Conference software also includes a record feature that you could use as well.

Virtual Classroom

Not only can Virtual Classrooms be used for teaching live online but you can also use them to monitor multiple students taking a practical exam or test. The classroom management software build into the setup allows you to monitor each students work. The audio conference and webcams in the web conference allow you to monitor them as well and talk with them when needed. To understand how Virtual Classrooms work check out this article.

Article : Creating a Live Virtual Classroom

Formative Methods

Peer Evaluation

One of the favorites of online MOOCs like Coursara is the Peer Evalutation. Getting students to exchange submitted work to review. You can even get two people to review each submission and average the results. While this is not a perfect way to assess it gets the students to think about what they might have forgotten in their own submissons.


Just like in the real world you can get students to submit an assignment. But because we are now digital don’t forget most students have cameras and microphones on their phones so include video and audio in assessment items. Like an interview of an Industry Professional or recording themselves completing a task with a mobile phone stand in the real world. Or even a screen capture of them completing a computer based task.


Quick quizzes are a great way to check instant understanding of the concept or topic you have just introduced. If you are using eLearning then you can build these into your eLearning package and use SCORM to report it back to your LMS. Alternately you could use an LMS plugin like Quiz Activity in Moodle to do the same thing.

Link : Moodle Quiz Activity

Forum Posts

While forums have fallen out of favor for their inability to properly engage students and due to very poor search capabilities and monitoring. If you have a forum still you can have students post to it as a form of assessment.

Online Class Participation

If you are using Web Conferences or Virtual Classrooms then you can assign marks based on participation to them. If you are using a virtual classroom the classroom management software that is part of them allows you to do polls and quizzes to students and then display the results to the class. Obviously the results are anonymized but the teacher can see the real results.

Live Chat Participation

There are multiple methods for online chats and here are some that you could use. You can then give the students marks on participation in these tools.

  • Chat Apps
  • LMS Plugins
  • Team Collaboration Tools

Chat Applications

You can use WhatsApp, Skype or Facebook Messenger and similar tools to conduct online text chats at specified times for students to talk with each other and discuss this weeks training material. Once students are added to the group it can remain open for them to continue talking to each other about the subject or course. If you want to know more about Social Learning Online read this article.

Article : Engaging Student Online with Social Learning

LMS Plugin

There are mutliple types of chat tool plugins for LMS or CMS websites. You can use these to have the chat built into your own website so you are forcing them to log in as students. This means you have better tracking of student behavior and own the student experience. Here is a list of the chat tools available in Moodle.

Link : Moodle Chat Plugins

Team Collaboration Tools

Tools like Slack and Rocket Chat are a great way to create online communities for your students. This allows them to not feel isolated and you can assign marks for participation or for when they successfully answer other students questions. This social learning is an important piece of your online training story. Slack is a paid option and Rock Chat is free and open source if you host on your own server. If you wish to host your Rocket Chat with them they will charge you for this service.

What Next?

Now that you know some of the ways to assess your students online how about looking at some creative ways to survey your students online?

Article : Creative Ways to Survey Your Students

Glen Brown

I am a Technical Trainer and Manager with over 20 years experience in IT, Education and Business. I have multiple qualifications on each topic including post graduate qualifications. I have a passion for sharing knowledge and using technology to do this. If you would like to know more about me please see the about page of the website.

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