Inclusive online assessments

…Many academics are reworking assessment tasks to enable students to complete these online. You might find some of the following ten top tips useful for ensuring your re-designed tasks don’t raise barriers for your more vulnerable students. A first step is to ask yourself: ‘Who might be disadvantaged with this assessment?’ Try to eliminate the need for individual students to request adjustments.

Top tips for inclusive assessment online

  1. Use a variety of assessment methods that enable students to demonstrate their achievement of intended learning outcomes via a range of modes, such as text, audio, video, visual and e-portfolio; individual and group. This will mean that students with differing strengths have a chance to excel. The CloudDeakin assignment submission tool supports many assessment formats.
  2. Give students flexibility in formats to use to complete an assessment task. Use broad terms such as ‘produce, create or demonstrate’ that students can interpret broadly. Another simple approach could be to allow students to produce a video essay or create a poster and submit references separately. Giving students choice is a key tenet of inclusivity.
  3. Minimise the weighting of assessment tasks in a format that strongly favours students with particular characteristics not relevant to the task, and disadvantage others. For example, closed-book, timed quizzes tend to favour students with good memory recall and fast reading/processing/typing ability—none of which may be relevant to the learning outcomes the quizzes are supposed to be assessing.
  4. Choose question types that do not over-emphasise English language skills where these are not essential to demonstrating achievement of learning outcomes. For example, instead of using questions that require students to spell unusual terms, use ones that provide those terms and require students to explain concepts and reasoning in everyday language.
  5. Describe tasks in succinct detail, especially since formats may be unfamiliar to students. Add an infographic or diagram if there are multiple steps or parts. Exemplars can help here too. Set aside seminar time and a discussion forum to invite and answer questions.
  6. Ensure all instructions, examples, infographics, templates, assessment format, etc. are digitally accessible. For example, specifying uploading a video to demonstrate understanding may present a barrier to a blind student, and to one living in an area with poor internet access.
  7. Provide scaffolding activities and resources such as step-by-step guides, templates, links to resources to develop underpinning skills, example assessment parts and practice run facilities for unfamiliar tasks; and make these readily accessible in the same folder in your unit site.
  8. Break large assessments into stages with formative feedback provided well before the final submission stage. Consider using a digital form of self and peer assessment as part of the formative feedback. Consider replacing a summative task with a formative one.
  9. Build in collaborative elements using virtual teamwork design to maximise students’ opportunities to learn with and from people with different perspectives and backgrounds, and make connections.
  10. Design authentic, meaningful tasks that allow students to choose between topics or application contexts—or suggest their own.
  11. Still not sure what assessment task to set? Involve students in co-designing their assessments, criteria and rubrics to develop their assessment literacy and provide opportunities to reflect their interests, backgrounds and strengths.

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