Life by Design

Authentic Assessments in Blended Learning Environments

Posted on: March 12, 2015

A key component of effective blended or hybrid courses is an a assessment that can accurately gauge the depth of student learning.  It is often customary for instructors to assume that assessments delivered in a traditional face-to-face course will be applicable in a blended or hybrid course.  This assumption is not always correct.  Riley et al. (2014) suggests that faculty ask themselves:  “How well does your course make connections between learning objectives, course activities, and selection of site tools to accomplish the assignments?  How well do face-to-face and out of class time learning activities complement each other?”  I would add an additional question, “How can I design assessments that will provide a practical application of the material that is relevant to the students’ life outside the classroom?” In the spirit of student-centric design and supporting students in becoming independent learners with well-developed critical thinking skills, assessment choices need reevaluation.

The area of authentic assessments and performance assessments is gaining ground and works well in both online and blended course environments.  The premise of these forms of assessments is that the student engages with the material and then finds a way to practically apply the information in a way that is measured.  For example, in an online Mandarin Chinese course I designed, the majority of the content was online and students participated in an asynchronous fashion.  However, when it came time for the assessment, students got online and connected via Google+ with a language coach who evaluated their spoken language proficiency in an oral demonstration of skill.  I designed a special rubric to measure not only growing language proficiency but skills necessary for effective performance.

The world of authentic and performance assessments opens up a whole range of possibilities for measuring student understanding in new and creative ways that tap a student’s intrinsic motivation.  For example, in a new course I’m designing that is an online course, instead of a weekly quiz, students will be writing up a critique of an element or resource that is utilized in their final project.  This effort guided by a carefully crafted rubric will measure skills such as inquiry and evaluation.  The student is free to select the resource (which is broadly defined) to perform their analysis upon.

in a different project, I’m working on, the design is a flipped model for a workshop designed for professional development.  The final assessment will be a project delivered to the class that shows direct, practical application of the material that will easily translate to the office when they return from the workshop.

If the content in a blended or online course is not made relevant to the students’ lives and work lives there is little chance that the material will be remembered or incorporated into one’s general understanding of a topic.


Riley, J.E., Gardner, C., Cosgrove, S., Olitsky, N., O’Neil, C., and Du, C. (2014)  Implementation of blended learningfor the improvement of student learning, In A. Picciano, C. Dziuban, and C. Graham (Eds.), Blended learning:  Research perspectives, volume 2, NY:  Routledge.


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