Formative Assessments in E-Learning

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Assessments in any learning course – whether academic or corporate, are absolutely necessary because they ensure that the course is meetings its objectives. Unless there is a mechanism to test, the effectiveness of the learning program cannot be guaranteed, nor can the course be improvised.


Just like with anything else, assessing also requires a careful strategy. If questions are selected arbitrarily from a topic,they may not be able to properly test whether all parts of the course have been understood well.

Broadly speaking, there are two main kinds of assessments – formative and summative. The goal of formative assessment is to inform the student about his performanceon a continuous basis, whereas the goal of summative assessment is to summarize performance at the end of a course.Both are explained in a comparative table below:

Formative assessment Summative assessment
Monitors students’ learning to provide ongoing feedback Evaluates students’ learning at the end of a course by comparing it against a benchmark
Learners are scored as and when they respond, after completing each topic Learners are scored at the end of an entire course.
Examples are asking learners to draw concept maps or summarize a chapter once it is completed Examples are mid-term tests, final projects, a paper presentation
Multiple attempts for the same assessment are allowed If a learner quits mid-way in a test, he/she will have to take it all over again

Formative assessments are more student centric as they focus on how students receive information instead of focusing on how trainers deliver it. Teachers can track students’ performance individually, understand their learning styles and needs, and design challenging and motivational content to enhance learning.

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Formative assessments in e-learning

E-learning takes the formative assessment process a step further. Because of the ability to add multimedia elements like audio, animations, video and graphics, assessments can be made a lot more engaging while appealing to the different learning styles. Instructional designers can embed assessment in instruction and accordingly steer the course to bridge the gaps between the desired outcome and what learners already know. As opposed to summative assessment where learners will only be evaluated from a pool of questions in the form of a test, formative assessments can be used to keep e-learners engaged throughout the course by regularly testing various parameters by various methods on a continuous basis.

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