What Online Students Say About… Assessment


by Diane J. Goldsmith, Ph.D.

Feedback. Feedback. Feedback

• Feedback needs to be timely: “Personal communication and
prompt feedback on assignments are essential for any course to
be a success.”

• Feedback should include grades: “Feedback in the form of
grades is essential, and it should come to students frequently!”

• Feedback needs to be helpful: “Instead of just marking answers wrong, she would also give a brief explanation as to what
the correct answer was and why.”

• Feedback needs to be personal: “I would personally like to see
teachers send a one or two line email to students each week
about their work-be it their writing or quality of comments.”

• Good feedback is motivating: “Whether I posted an assignment at one o’clock AM or PM, I received grades, answers to
questions, and responses to my work within twelve hours at the
very most. This is extremely gratifying and motivating.”

• Good feedback inspires more learning: “I would challenge him
with a question and a half hour later be able to sign on to my
computer and not only would the question be answered, but he
would challenge me to a question.”

• Feedback can come from classmates: “One of the things that
helped me the most is the fact that I received feedback from all
my classmates not only the teacher.”


• Students want to know up front what is required of them, what
deadlines they must meet, and how they will be graded. “She
set expectations right up front so there was no question about
when something was due or what I was supposed to do next.”

• Students want assignments to be clear, “The professors should
write more extensive, detailed instructions when they give assignments simply because of the awkwardness of the online

• Instructors should be willing to clarify assignments: “It should
be easy to correct and rewrite instructions for the benefit of the


• Students prefer a variety of smaller assignments, “Have smaller
and more assignments on which to base the course grade. Only
3 assignments and a final exam aren’t fair.”

• Students want an acknowledgment that their assignment has
been received.

Threaded Discussion

• Deadlines are important, “Professors must post deadlines for
threaded discussion…Once a deadline is established the professor must follow it also i.e. if the deadlines for TD are weekly or
biweekly, the professor must post grades after the deadline.”

• Faculty need to be present in the threaded discussion, “He was
always there in the threaded discussion.”

• Students appreciate well thought-out discussion assignments,
“I truly enjoyed the conference forum. We really have to think
about our responses before we post them.”


• Students find timed testing difficult, “Timed testing is very
difficult. I would much prefer testing that is not timed.”

• Students with disabilities who are accommodated on campus
with more time for testing want the same accommodations in an
online class.

• Students don’t just want their grade, they want feedback: “I
would have liked to have seen the correct answers to the questions I got wrong.”

• Students want to be asked to think: “The grading structure and
format is set up so that all he wants is you to regurgitate information from the text. There is no higher thinking involved.”

• Testing for online classes should be online: “I feel that comprehension of the material can be assessed through the virtual
classroom and do not see the need for a proctored exam.”

Group Projects

• Many students find group projects difficult, “People don’t follow through with their commitments and you’re left hanging.”

• Others enjoy them: “I didn’t think I would like working in
teams, but I enjoyed it very much.”

• How group projects are graded may present difficulties for
some students: “I thought it was unfair to ask students to complete a project with other students and get one grade for it. Other
students were in a hurry to get it done and didn’t want to do

• Coordination can be a problem for some students: “Teamwork
was difficult to complete. Everybody had different schedules,
and it was difficult to ‘chat.’”

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