Assessment in MOOCs

A guide to the different forms of assessment used in MOOCs

  • Overview
  1. Carolyn
    Many MOOCs offer students the option to take marked assessments or exams in order to receive a certificate on successful completion of the course. The format can vary from automated marking to peer grading to ID verified proctored exams taken online or in a test centre.

    This guide will give you an outline of the different forms of assessment used in MOOCs, how they work and tips on taking online assessments.

    The grading systems on MOOCs have fallen victim to much criticism due to the sheer size of some courses, making it impossible for instructors to mark students’ work. However, with the way technology is evolving, grading on MOOCs is becoming more efficient and will no doubt continue to do so.

    Currently, most marked assessments either involve multiple choice type questions which are graded automatically, or work is assessed by other students enrolled on the course. This is known as peer grading or assessment.

    Automatic grading

    Automatically marked tests and quizzes are often incorporated into courses to check understanding as you progress through different sections of a course. These often have time restrictions, but usually allow several attempts. You will be informed of any rules before starting the test. Ensure that you are comfortable with the concepts before taking the test as your grade will usually contribute to your overall mark. These tests are also a good opportunity to self-monitor your understanding and progress, allowing you to review any concepts you may be unclear about.

    Peer assessment

    Some more open-ended assignments don’t lend themselves to automatic grading, in which case students may be required to mark fellow-students’ work using set marking criteria provided by the course instructors. These guide the marker on areas to assess and where to assign or subtract marks. In this case, students submit their work by uploading it to the course platform where other students can then access it. Usually, several students are randomly assigned to mark a piece of work independently, giving an overall average mark. Sometimes, students may even be asked to assess their own work after marking others’.

    Peer assessment does of course have its drawbacks as the quality of the marking can be inconsistent, and it increases the workload for students. However, the process of evaluating other people’s work on a particular topic is recognised as a strong learning tool.

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    Invigilated Examinations

    Some MOOCs offer an optional invigilated end-of-course examination. Depending on the course and the platform, this may be taken online often using a webcam for invigilation purposes, or in a test centre. Fees will apply for these types of assessment and students are awarded a certificate on successful completion. Information about any examinations can be found on the course pages.

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