There are many ways to assess students that can be used in a 100% online classroom, and probably many more that will be developed in the coming years, but I tend to use tools and techniques that have proven to work with some alteration for the online classroom.
In order to get prior knowledge from my students, I like to let them open up on the topic in discussion. Since students will not be in the physical classroom with me in an online course, we can replicate that environment with a discussion board or, if it is possible, a Skype or Google Hangouts type of discussion. Since I teach ESL, it is important to try and work verbal assessment into any assessment I design for the course. Written discussion boards would be great, and can be used as well, but ideally I would like to be able to assess their knowledge with verbal skills right away.
Coaching students in an online course is the bread and butter of online learning possibilities. Any of the myriad ways of assessing without grading and risking too much cheating is essential, and quite useful for motivation as it builds confidence and allows for students to take action on feedback before any summarize assessments. I like to use peer assessment in writing in my class because most of my students are effective at seeing the correct way to do something when reading, but struggle to transfer that knowledge to authentic practice. Having peers assess their written work regularly it allows the students to see other writing styles and see their own mistakes through another student's eyes in a less authoritarian way. Teachers can feel like the judge, but peers can be more forgiving and cause less stress. They are in the same boat and have a shared experience with peers that does not exist for the teacher/student relationship. I would use a blog for a regular (journal) writing sample that can be peer assessed. I would "collect student work in multiple stages as it is developed: ask students to hand in outlines, early drafts, topic statements, or annotated bibliographies as a portion of their grade on the assignment. Use assessment methods, such as portfolios, in which students demonstrate progress over time with a collection of their work" (RIT, n.d.) I would also use differentiated quizzes to check for understanding to help the students see what they understood and what hey might want to review. I would try as many methods as possible, but those would be my stand-out formative assessments.
I would be concerned about the ease of which students can search the Internet for simple, multiple choice style answers, so I would find a way to get around that and use something I like to use in my class as well - authentic assessment. Our objectives (especially if you are using the Common Core) are about learning higher order thinking skills, or as Crockett, Jukes & Churches say we should be teaching "21st century fluencies" (2011, p 17). I would use any summative quizzes sparingly, I would instead forus on authentic assessments like a portfolio for writing or a relevant project (RIT, n.d.). This would reduce the ability to copy, cheat, or plagerize for the students and the added bonus of assessing their transfer of knowledge, rather than rote memorization of content. I have used many projects in class, like designing a music video just last month, and the kids really enjoy working on it. They tended to work longer and more focused on that than any other assignment or class work. Using that interest could help keep students that are not in a physical class motivated to stay active in class and not get distracted by their lives outside the computer.
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Crockett, L., Jukes,I., & Churches, A.(2011). Literacy is Not Enough.(first ed). 21st Century Fluency Project Inc.: 21st Century Fluency Project.
RIT (n.d.). Student learning outcomes assessment. Rochester Institute of Technology. Retrieved from https://www.rit.edu/academicaffairs/outcomes/online-student-learning-outcomes-assessment