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Assessment in Online Courses

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This lesson provides a quick introduction to conducting assessments in online language courses.

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There are several important key concepts in assessment that online teachers should be familiar with (e.g., assessment, evaluation, reliability, validity, construct, and washback). For a list of key assessment terms and their definitions, please check the Resources section on the Center for Applied Linguistics website: Formative and summative assessments are the two most common types of assessment conducted in both face-to-face and online courses. For examples of formative and summative assessments and recommended strategies for their implementation, see, for instance, the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning webpage: In addition, diagnostic assessment also plays a critical role in online language courses, especially at the beginning of the semester, as it enables language instructors to identify strengths and weaknesses in their online students’ knowledge and tailor further instruction towards students’ needs.

Rubrics are paramount in online language courses where students might have more limited opportunities to fully understand teacher’s expectations and evaluation criteria or get instant responses to specific questions. If their Learning Management System (LMS) does not allow to create rubrics inside the online course, language instructors should consider using online rubric making tools such as RubiStar or iRubric. 

Useful tools and resources related to online assessment: 
- Webinar presentation on assessing language using computer technology (by Dr. Volker Hegelheimer, Iowa State University):
- PLN Tool Browser: (select “Assessment” under “Application”)
- LinguaFolio Online ePortfolio:  

Additional resources:
- Assessment and Evaluation Language Resource Center:
- Center for Applied Linguistics:
- Assessment and Professional Development at ACTFL:    

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