In considering the incorporation of formative and summative assessments into online and blended learning environments, it’s striking how similar the considerations are to traditional assessments. Formative assessments continue to be designed for learning and monitoring students’ progress. The goal continues to be the same: engage in formative assessment to support students through the learning process and use results to adapt to students’ needs to understand the material. Summative assessments of learning continue to be designed as an evaluation at the end of a learning objective. Timely feedback and use of the testing data to improve instruction continue to be crucial elements of the purposefulness of the assessments.
While the purpose of the assessments continue to be the same, there are some nice differences to be found with Web 2.0 tools that support the formative and summative assessment process. The use of a learning management system allows for student work (essays, exams) to be submitted in the cloud. The result – no more stacks of papers and notebooks for teachers and course instructors to carry around. Depending on the Learning Management System, grades can self populate in the teacher’s grade book. Teacher feedback/comments, when using tools such as Google Docs, can be accessed immediately by students, even allowing the student and the instructor to engage in a collaborative conversation about the student’s work. Not only do the opportunities for the student and teacher to engage in increased collaboration increase, but it can be done both synchronously and asynchronously. Thus allowing for greater flexibility to support the learning/feedback process. Web 2.0 tools also support project based formative and summative assessments such as creating a video, a website or a blog.
There are many positives to be found with the incorporation of digital literacies into the assessment process. Yet, as with every element of instruction, whether it be digital or analog, there are pitfalls to avoid and considerations to be conscientious of. Student and teachers must have consistent and working internet access, access to the supporting hardware and software, and be proficient in the use of the tools being incorporated into the instructional process and feedback process. Whatever the tool though, the most important aspect of using formative and summative assessments is to have defined and consistently implemented plan for timely use of the assessment results to support student learning.