LEaDER Journal Club: Online Assessment During the Pandemic


The pivot to online teaching and learning activities necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic led to a sudden change in assessment practices in Higher Education institutions across the world. In November’s Journal Club, we discussed two studies that examined student experiences of online assessment during the pandemic, asking what the move to online assessments can teach us about assessment going forward.  

The first article presented the preliminary findings of a study by Hatzipanagos et al (2020): “Towards a post covid-19 digital authentic assessment practice: when radical changes enhance the student experience”. The study aimed to answer the question: what was the impact of the transition to online assessment on the experiences of students and student outcomes? The comprehensive methodology for the study – which examined a range of data including learning analytics, average grades, and exam take up, as well as survey and focus group responses – was designed to examine student behaviours, student sentiment, student outcomes, and operational issues.  

While the paper only presented preliminary findings there was nevertheless much to discuss. The paper’s overview provided food for thought in relation to balancing student experience with the need to ensure academic integrity and the robustness of assessments. 

The paper engaged with challenges – including how best to support students with time-management for online examinations – as well as reporting multiple benefits of online assessment.  One particularly noteworthy finding was that student respondents to the research want online assessment practices to continue, with just 12% disagreeing with the idea.  

The second paper – “Remote Assessment in Higher Education during COVID-19 Pandemic” by Senel and Senel (2021) – served to complicate the picture of student experiences of online assessment. In contrast to Hatzipanagos et al (2020), this study found that students preferred conventional exams to remote assessment. A related finding was that students experience higher assessment anxiety for online assessments than for conventional assessments. This finding chimed with the experiences of some club attendees whose students had concerns relating to tech, the home environment, and caring responsibilities in relation to online assessment. However, others were surprised by this finding, considering exam halls to be intimidating assessment environment. 

We discussed the relevance of the papers’ findings to our own practice. For example, Hatzipanagos et al (2020) found that students did not always take advantage of the full time available to them in online exams, submitting quickly rather than taking time to check their answers. This led us to reflect on the importance of preparing students for assessments, setting expectations, and providing guidance for how to use their time.  

Another point of discussion was the importance of tutor feedback and formative activities, which arose from Senel and Senel (2021). Their study found that “students who have higher levels of interaction with instructors find assessment practices more qualified” (Senel and Senel 2021, 195). However, the study also found very few instances of peer and self-assessment tools, which can play an important role in preparing students for assessment. We discussed the value of self-, peer-, and tutor-feedback tools and of the importance of adequately preparing students for assessments.  

Our next session will pick up on the themes of the digital, exploring the Office for Students’ “Blended Learning Review”.

It will be held on Thursday 8th December from 12-1pm. Please register to attend here. 

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