Assessment Types

Develop assessments that effectively introduce, reinforce, or evaluate students’ understanding of course concepts as they relate to learning objectives.

Some assessments are self-checks that can help students confirm their own understanding. Others provide instructors with opportunities to evaluate whether students are “getting it” or not and also give faculty data they can use to improve their teaching in the moment and for future course offerings.

Make the assignments purposeful. “Purposeful” doesn’t mean boring, though. There are lots of ways to make your assessments interesting, engaging, and relevant to a variety of learning styles.

Assessment Types

  • Diagnostic
  • Formative
  • Summative

Assessments can be diagnostic, formative, or summative.

  • Diagnostic assessments can help you identify students’ existing knowledge and build upon it. This assessment style can be a great tool to use at the beginning of your course. For example, use a pre-course survey or a poll to evaluate students’ current understanding of a particular topic, or ask for their opinion on an area of interest.
  • Formative assessments give students an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding and receive feedback to guide their performance. These types of assessments are typically used throughout a semester. As the instructor, you can learn valuable information you can use for teachable moments, additional review of material, greater explanation, or a deeper conversation on a topic. A few examples are quizzes, short response, and branching tree scenarios.
  • Summative assessments allow you to make a final evaluation of a student’s learning. They are used to explore the overall achievement of the course goals at the end of the course or module. You can use the information gathered from summative assessments to improve the course for its next delivery. A few examples are final exams, essays, and projects.

Now that you know the difference between assessment types, you can be confident that you’ll choose the most appropriate format to evaluate your students.


To support your work, here’s a list of critical questions based on Bloom’s Taxonomy (PDF, 56KB) you can integrate into your course activities to help ensure you’re meaningfully assessing students.

Graded vs. Ungraded

In grading, always give feedback, measure mastery not just completion, and use credit and non-credit activities.

Jane Harris, former Educational Innovation & Design Consultant, UNCG School of Health and Human Sciences

In addition to the diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments, they can also be graded or ungraded. How do you make that decision? The answer goes back to being purposeful.

Do you want to simply have your students practice a skill or learn to use an online tool? Or increase student engagement and participation? If so, making the assignment ungraded, but required, could be sufficient. An ungraded assignment is also a strategy to minimize grading work for you.

Assessment Styles

  • Graded
  • Ungraded

For example, you may want your students to become comfortable using the course discussion board. Requiring students to post a personal introduction on the discussion board is a great opportunity for an ungraded assignment. It teaches students how to communicate with their peers and practice using the tool prior to a graded assignment.

However, think about what your students will likely be motivated to accomplish. If an assignment isn’t graded, will they complete it and learn from it?

Assessment Creation

Before building your assessments, there are a few key things to keep in mind. Consider the structure of the course, what sections or content “chunks” will make up the course, and—as always—your student learning outcomes. Also think about what your students can realistically accomplish. There are probably lots of effective, creative assessments you could integrate with your course content.

However, think about how the assessments tie together and whether they can be accomplished under your course time constraints. Decide how students will access the assessments. There are two primary options:

Learning Management System (LMS)

The direction you choose will likely depend on what is available to you, the type of assessment tool being used, your department’s requirements, as well as your personal preference.


If you are UNCG personnel, you’ll be using Canvas as your LMS. Use your UNCG log in information to check out Growing with Canvas. Also refer to the Canvas Instructor Guide, specifically the resources regarding how to create assignments in Canvas and how to use the Assignments Index Page.

Choosing a Tool

Once you’ve determined how to host the assessments, you can begin exploring delivery options that are best suited for online learning. Your online course doesn’t have to follow traditional face-to-face course formats, though it certainly can. Many instructors use teaching online as an opportunity to mix up their delivery style and try something different. There are countless tools you can use to create your assessments. The trick is to find a tool that matches your assessment goals and is approved and easy to use.

So, make sure you have a rationale behind both the purpose of your assessments and the tool you use to create them. Criteria for choosing an assessment tool include:

  • Is it easy for me to use?
  • Is it simple for my students to learn?
  • Will it be supported long-term (by the creator and the University)?
  • Is it compatible with other tools my students may be using?
  • Is it click-wrap approved?
  • Is it free or already licensed for University use?

If your answer to any of these questions is “No,” you may want to reconsider using that tool. But don’t worry. With so many exciting new tools available, you can find a method to build a great assessment.

Find out which ones are approved for use by your department and/or the University or explore the possibility of introducing new tools. For example, UNCG provides related resources you can explore. A few common tools are:

  • Adobe Captivate—a program which allows you to create a slide-based interactive video and include interactions such as multiple choice, branching scenarios, matching, hotspots, and more. There are many other Adobe tools for graphic design, video editing, web development, and photography that UNCG users can access through Creative Cloud.
  • SoftChalk—an online website which allows you to create interactive assessments easily by using templates, then embed these videos and exercises into Canvas or your LMS.
  • WordPress plugins and widgets—like smartphone apps, you can add plugins to your WordPress website for different purposes, such as quizzes, surveys and polls, and more.
  • Respondus—exports quizzes formatted in Microsoft Word into Canvas (Windows only).
  • H5P—a free, open platform for creating HTML5 content and applications.
  • Google Suite—a set of tools designed to empower educators and students to learn and innovate together.
  • Microsoft Office 365—the cloud-based Microsoft productivity suite that provides access to Office applications (like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) and other classroom tools.
  • The UNCG Library provides an Instructional Technology Toolkit with detailed information on each tool and its purpose.

Regardless of your chosen tool, make sure you clearly communicate assignment details to students. This Transparent Assignment Template (PDF, 101KB) demonstrates a good place to start; consider the purpose of the assessment, required skills and skills to develop, knowledge students will gain, a thorough description of the task, and an explanation of what constitutes “success” in that assessment. Explicitly provide this information to students to help them understand what they are tasked with and why.

Assessment Examples

Here are examples of different types of assessments you may want to incorporate into your course.

Quizzes and Exams

  • Multiple choice/multiple answer
  • Matching
  • Fill-in-the-blank
  • Free response
  • Video quizzes (Canvas Studio, etc.)

Essays and Papers

  • Individual-based
  • Group work (Google docs, etc.)

Case Studies

  • Can be set up to be taken once or multiple times
  • Supports creativity and a realistic scenario

Branching Trees (BTLO)

  • Requires application of concepts and shows students the result of their decisions
  • Problem-solving skills


  • Incorporate multimedia
  • Individual-based or group work

Discussion Boards

  • Builds community and peer-to-peer learning

Surveys/Poll Questions

  • Pre-, mid-, or post-course surveys help you to gauge the students’ concerns, issue areas, and questions

Multimedia Assignments

  • Incorporate online tools and resources

Using Internet Resources

  • Develops awareness and exposure to online tools


  • Individual or group presentations help students practice public speaking, organizing thoughts, and gathering materials to make a point

Test Yourself

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