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Course Assessment

formative and summative - TtT MOOC example - polls, quizzes, discussions, MCQ, end f course - summative
two learners sitting together working collaboratively
© Wellcome Connecting Science

An assessment plan is a vital part of the course design. It details the types of assessment that will be used to help learners achieve the intended learning outcomes.

Well-designed assessment does not simply measure what learners have achieved, but is part of the learning process. Formative assessment gives learners and trainers information about progress through the course. This principle of assessment design is called assessment for learning. Summative assessment, aligned with the learning outcomes, is an opportunity for learners to demonstrate and trainers to judge how and whether the course outcomes were achieved.

We included assessment in the Step 1.19 on Course design Elements Part II, as one of the important element of course design. We have also described some other assessments examples in Step 2.14, Case study on Genomic Epidemiology.

Here, as another example, we will present the assessment type and purpose for this course you are currently attending: Train the Trainer: Design Genomics and Bioinformatics Training.

Let’s remind ourselves of the intended learning outcomes for this course, to which the assessment on the course had been aligned to:

At the end of this course, learners should be able to:

  • Discuss adult learning theory and illustrate how an active, learner centred approach guides course design
  • Apply good practice learning and teaching skills of communication, group work and facilitation
  • Identify opportunities for creating learning experiences from subject content
  • Plan and design learning for a selected audience encompassing aspects of generation and analysis of genomic data, suitable for own context and environment
  • Evaluate and reflect on learning design and identify areas for improvement using peer review feedback.

How do you feel so far – are you confident of achieving some/any of the above learning outcomes? Formative assessment is helping with this.

Most of the assessment on this course is of formative type, and aimed at getting feedback that learners will use to orient themselves during the process of self-directed learning (See Step 1.9) during the course. Educators use different learners’ feedback as indicators of whether the course design and delivery leads to the fulfilment of the intended learning outcomes (for example, Are the learners taking quizzes? What are learners expressing in their discussions? Do they find course to be at the right level?).

Apart from that, the assessment in this particular Train the trainer course also serves as a demonstration or example of the use of different types of assessment applicable to short training course. This may be useful to the future trainers this course is aimed at. The types of assessment and the reasons for their use are given below:

Formative assessment is used in several ways:

Quizzes: Every week has a short quiz which helps learners check their learning in that week, using multiple choice questions (MCQs). Quizzes can point learners to material that they might need to reinforce. Tips on how to write good MCQs are attached in the Downloads area.

Discussions: At every step in this course, learners can add their comments in the comment area. Specific Discussion steps encourage learners to discuss certain topics, questions, give their opinion, or complete tasks set by the educators.

Discussion questions are open ended to allow learners to debate and give wide range of opinions, and receive feedback in the form of responses from other learners. In addition to their formative assessment role, Discussions are a main means of peer-learning, which underpins the social learning pedagogy used in this course.

Polls are also used in this course, giving a more structured way for learners to express their views. On review of all responses the resulting discussion encourages peer dialogue around the topic/concept. One way to use polls is to repeat the same poll at different stages in the course in order to measure learning and changes in attitude.

Peer review is an efficient type of formative assessment, especially when the learners groups are large (in this case massive). We will use it in Week 3 where the rationale for using it is also given, with a more detailed description.

Summative assessment

There is a final Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) test: Test format is very similar to the Quiz format, with the difference that the answers are scored, and learners are allowed a limited number of attempts. Learners who score above the threshold (70%) on the final test are eligible to download the Certificate of achievement for this particular course.

Assessment tasks in bioinformatics courses additional example:

Short training courses often test learner performance at the end of a course using MCQ, for example this course. Bioinformatics short courses design can use several short assignments or practical exercises aimed at generating a certain result. For example, if a learning outcome is ‘to be able to align genomic sequence reads’, this can be assessed by provisioning a task as part of formative assessment, with the learner expected to generate sets of data and interpret the results. The learner may immediately be able to determine whether they have achieved the expected outcome, and whether they need additional learning or help. The instructor is able to modify any issues or steps which may be unclear or not landing to achieving the intended outcome.

Task: Write an assessment plan to include in your course/module design: how will the assessment you use in your course design help learners achieve intended learning outcomes?

© Wellcome Connecting Science
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Train the Trainer: Design Genomics and Bioinformatics Training

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