Accessibility statement

Digital assessment and feedback

Digital tools can support existing assessment designs to make different stages of the assessment and feedback process more efficient or effective (eg providing feedback options such as use of rubrics, or audio and video feedback).

In some cases, they offer possibilities to transform assessment practices by providing opportunities for assessment of processes or opportunities for collaborative approaches that would not otherwise be available.

The following image (Walker and Jenkins, 2019) provides an overview of how individual and group assessment options can support assessment 'as' as well as assessment 'of' learning. This is described in the sections that follow. 

Individual assessments

Tasks such as digital content authoring involving the individual production of a product or a presentation (eg a document, infographic, presentation, audio, video or animation), or taking part in individual tests and learning units (eg MCQ and similar online tests) provide a strong basis for assessment of learning.

Digital assessment can provide opportunities to increase the focus on assessment as learning as well as to provide opportunities for closer integration with everyday learning activities and formative assessments.

Assessment can increase the focus on metacognitive skills such as reflection, self-assessment and self-regulation through the use of more process-oriented activities such as portfolios, blogs and reflective journals.

Group assessments

Digital assessment processes can also provide support for group work activities involving collaborative development of assessment products.

They can provide clear opportunities for project management and asynchronous communications to support ongoing collaboration (eg Google docs and slides or wikis that the group can use to edit and track contributions, discussion boards or padlets to support communication) or synchronous web conferencing to supplement in-person meetings or for recording of audio/video materials and presentations).

A focus on metacognitive skills and an increased emphasis on collaboration can also be increased through incorporating ongoing group reflection and feedback processes. Again this provides greater opportunities for integration with everyday activities and also for an increased element of student control over the assessment process.

Benefits and requirements

Digital approaches can be used to enhance accessibility and inclusivity by diversifying and increasing flexibility in assessment and feedback activities. Benefits of digital assessment include:

  • Offering a means for submission of a wider range of content types, including websites, digital artwork and multimedia, as well as documents.
  • Offering potential to speed up the process of feedback to students.
  • Providing a space for dialogical feedback between students and staff.
  • Allowing for work to be submitted remotely and feedback to be received remotely.

It is important to recognise, however, that students may not necessarily have the requisite skills or equipment required to engage in digitally mediated assessment and that there is a requirement to make the processes and resources used for digital assessments accessible. As with the university experience in general, students may have differing levels of familiarity with the expectations and assumptions of particular assessment methods. This emphasises the need to consider every stage of the assessment and feedback process and to consider the implications of stages 1-4 (specifying, setting, supporting and submitting) particularly carefully from the student perspective.  This is likely to require specific attention to the following aspects:

  • Assignment handling workflows, including who will monitor submissions and organise marking processes.
  • Methods of marking and feedback, and how feedback will be returned to students.
  • Security, integrity and anonymity of submitted work.
  • The format of submitted work, including file types.
  • Technical support requirements for use of assessment tools.

You will need also need to ensure that these aspects are communicated clearly to students and provide:

  • An outline of the assessment task, its rationale and the components of the assessment.
  • Process-related instructions for submission, including deadline information and where to find the submission point.
  • Technical guidance for correct formatting, how to use a specific tool and how to submit.

Signposting students to support pages can also help to provide further opportunities for students to develop their digital and information searching skills:

Examples and resources

Some specific examples of assessment formats and methods are as follows:

Online tests using the question types available within the VLE quiz engine (MCQ, T/F, Short answer, gap fill etc) including usage for online formal examinations. 

TEL Handbook: 6.3.4: Tests and adaptive release 

TEL Handbook: 6.6: Online formal examinations 

Multimedia production projects. Extending the range of assessment products can provide opportunities for students to develop ‘real-world’ skills and utilise different strengths beyond traditional text-based assessments. This can include design of web sites, blogs, audio/video materials, and animations. These approaches can provide options for students to select the format and approach they wish to take to meet the module learning outcomes increasing inclusivity and control, and allowing for a range of strengths to be emphasised.

TEL Handbook: 6.3.3: Digital visual presentation 

Such activities can be incorporated into assessed group work projects further extending skills development and opportunities to align assessments with ongoing learning activities.

TEL Handbook: 6.3.2: Group assignments 

Practice-based assessments such as performance, observations of teaching or other practices, and lab examinations can be supported through recording to allow ease of marking and moderation, and to support review and reflection. Digital methods can also allow for practices to be ‘captured’ for assessment in authentic settings. 

Reflective journals, lab reports and professional practice records can allow for assessment of activities carried out over a period of time and thus for a focus on process as well as end product. Such methods can be usefully combined with other assessment activities to encourage assessment as learning, increase metacognitive skills and encourage students to take ownership of learning and make connections between different elements of learning activity. In the Departments of Law, Education and Nursing for example, students are encouraged to develop e-portfolios for assessment, recording and reflecting on experiences to map their learning and achievement to learning outcomes.

TEL Handbook: 6.5: E-portfolios 

A key goal of learning design is to ensure that students are provided with multiple forms of feedback as an integrated part of the learning process. In relation to staff feedback on assessments, digital methods can help to ensure that feedback is ‘useful, adequate, fair and timely’ (Guide to Assessment, 15.1.3) and that it can be clearly related to learning outcomes and criteria. Methods such as use of rubrics to clearly connect assessment to criteria, in-line text annotation and use of reusable comment banks, and audio and video feedback production have been used to increase the efficiency and richness of feedback.

TEL Handbook: 6.8: Forms of feedback 

Also see the building in feedback page for more information.

Walker, R. and Jenkins, M. (2019) Designing engaging assessment through the use of social media and collaborative technologies. In C. Bryan and K. Clegg (Eds.) Innovative Assessment in Higher Education: A Handbook for Academic Practitioners. Second edition. Routledge: London.