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How to Facilitate Assessment in Your Online Course


We interviewed Somerset Community College Associate Professor, Kim Toby, about bringing assessment into your online Student Success course.

How would you recommend a new faculty member get started?

"Take it slow. Less is more.

First, determine what you want from each module you plan to use and then only use a couple of homework pieces from each module. Knowing the learning objectives that you want to focus on is key. I would strongly encourage everyone to utilize the Adaptive Learning Assignment in each module. This ensures your students understand and know the language set used in each module. For instance, if students simply read the materials in the Managing Time module, they may miss that there are four types of time we utilize every day. I have found that students will get through the adaptive learning (not just answering the same set of questions over and over until they "check them off") if you assign a good portion of points to this assignment. I encourage my students to complete the reading assignment and then proceed to the Adaptive Learning Assignment. Students don't get points for the reading, but they do get points for applying what they have read to the Adaptive Learning Assignment.

Assign one or two homework assignments that drive home the main concept. In the Student Success discipline, most of the homework items are reflective questions, which require students to think about their own life and how to incorporate and weave in student success strategies that will help them be better students. Note: A successful student, in my opinion, is one that learns and retains information. This is not always directly correlated to grades, but I have found that Connect® Master Student Success requires my students to reflect and think about how to apply concepts and strategies to their lives. This learning process increases learning outcomes and retention and drives grades up the learning curve.

End each module with an assessment."

What are some of the standards you need to keep in mind?

"Best practices are pretty universal, but each college and university will require its faculty to measure assessments by their set of standards.

One thing we run into with a college-wide Student Success course is grading can vary. But if there is a set rubric for all faculty to use, it helps keep grades consistent, fair, and accurate according to the learning outcomes achieved.

Another area we focus on is having multiple ways to track learning. With Connect Master Student Success, assessment on the front end of the learning (via the Adaptive Learning Assignment) helps students see their progress for meeting student learning outcomes. In the homework area of the course, the students get feedback from the instructor or the auto-graded items. Having access to quick feedback allows students to see where they may have gone astray and can quickly course correct.

Finally, in the test of the formative assessment area of the module, students can see a direct correlation to each learning objective and their results.

If you use this format (Adaptive Learning, homework, test) for building your courses, you can see a varied sequencing of assessment instruments used to scaffold student learning. These building blocks help students retain information and have a longer-lasting foundation to practice concepts and improve upon their student success efforts."

What specific Connect tools would you recommend using?

"Students like role-playing homework. It allows them to explore various answers without penalties but also directs them back on the path.

Students also love the reflective homework questions, such as the three-day log for time management. This homework requires students to log their time spend for a day, come back on day two to log in more, and finally come back on day three to finalize their three-day time use log. At this point, it will ask the student questions to engage in time management strategies that students can begin implementing right then. This type of homework meets the student where they are and allows them to customize time management strategies that will assist them on their journey to becoming a better student (because it is a journey)."

How do you determine who is falling behind and needing help?

“Student Performance reports are very easy to use in Connect. I may have a student ask why they got a particular grade on the assignment. Because my class is housed in the Blackboard (Bb) Learning Management System (LMS) sometimes, rarely, I will have forgotten to sync grades from Connect. When this happens, I can view the Bb gradebook see the grade the student has a question about, and simply go to Connect and pull up the Student Performance report. This allows me to see how long a student spent on an assignment, I can see their grade, and if I want to see the specific answers, I can view the assignment as well.

Sometimes, this will lead to me wonder how the class as a whole did on an assignment. I can then go to the Assignment Analysis to see the average grade. If I want to dig further, I can use the Item Analysis report where I can see specific data on each question of the assessment.

My college requires us to report on student grades about every four to six weeks. In order to do this, I usually keep my gradebook handy, but if I want to quickly look at any students at-risk, the At-Risk report in Connect is easy to use. It shows me students who are at risk, and I can easily email those students. Students who are not engaged in the material may need some help. This report allows an easy way to email by simply clicking a button, and I can see each student's online engagement indicator as well.

All the reports in the Connect Master are useful. You will always have those students who don't do work for one reason or another. Some students aren't sure what to expect and some students don't want to do any work. Connect makes the faculty member's life easy by giving us a variety of ways to make connections to all students. By engaging students early on, it is easier for everyone in the learning process."

About the Author

Kim began her career at SCC in 1995 and found her true calling when she worked in the Student Support Services Program. As the Mentor Coordinator, Kim’s job was to teach students how to be successful college students and help them survive their first year of college. It was here where her passion and love for this area started. Soon she developed an online course for both GEN 100 Introduction to College and GEN 102 Foundations of Learning. Before teaching FYE105, GEN 102, and GEN 100 she taught COM 181Basic Public Speaking and COM 252 Interpersonal Communications as well as some CPU courses. Kim also served as a professional advisor before she began teaching full time in 2010. Kim has over 15 years of teaching experience here at SCC as well as a wealth of knowledge of the college.

Profile Photo of Kim Toby