Teacher’s Corner January 2021: Digital Assessments

One of the greatest challenges that we have seen from digital or hybrid learning is creating assessments that are challenging, but also accommodating for all students. At the same time, we want to prioritize  test security and prevent translation.. Sounds like a lot, right?

Now, as many schools are finishing their first semesters and giving final exams digitally for the first time, there are many new considerations. Here are a few tips to help you create assessments that are digital-friendly, reduce the temptation to translate, and make your planning easier.

#1: Don’t Think of Assessments as Traditional Tests

It’s time to stop thinking of these assessments as traditional pen and paper tests. Let’s take this opportunity to move towards skills-based assessments. Instead of vocabulary checks, have students read an article to decide if it is portraying a celebrity in a positive or negative light, highlighting their evidence. For writing, have students talk to each other with a discussion board, answering a prompt and responding to each other. The more we ask students to create original content and interpretations, the harder it will be for them to translate.

#2: Make Use of PDFs

One valid concern many teachers have had is students using translators for every possible task. Although this obviously can never be fully avoided, there are certain tools that will make this process smoother and more secure and honest for you and your students.

One way to do this is to make all of your reading selections PDFs. While these can be converted to readable text, they can also be locked or converted to images. Especially if your assessment is based around an authentic resource, having a PDF will negate a student’s ability to simply copy and paste into a translator, but still provide students with the ability to highlight and annotate. 

#3: Make Use of your LMS’s Functions

Likewise, consider what sort of functions your LMS (Learning Management System) has and how you can help make your assessment both more interactive and harder to translate. As mentioned above, instead of a traditional written essay, consider having a prompt and posting this prompt to a discussion board, and then have your students reply to each other to create more engaging and authentic use of language. Most LMSs such as Schoology have options so students cannot see others’ replies until they have made their own. 

For speaking presentations, Flipgrid and other similar platforms allow users to settime limits on videos.  This helpsstudents be more aware of the length of the task and stay within your recommended limits. It discourages them from reading off of a screen, and makes grading easier for you later. 

#4: Utilize Your Rubric to Help Clarify Expectations and Streamline Grading

Although many of us have been using rubrics since we began teaching, they are particularly useful tools in online assessments, especially if you are already using proficiency-based learning or working on the transition.

Most of the time, the use of translators comes from students thinking they do not have the language capabilities to complete a task. If your rubric is focused on proficiency, and most importantly being able to be understood, this will massively reduce most students’ desire to translate. Post the rubric in the task, and explain to students what the expectation is and what resources they have in the assessment that will help them meet your expectations.

 Likewise, if you are in an LMS like Schoology that allows you to include rubrics for grading,this can be a great way to help manage your grading process and potentially save you hours of time. See if you are able to simply click on the appropriate part of the rubric for automatic grading. This way, students will see the rubric is the learning tool they are being held accountable to, and you are saving yourself time. If possible, demonstrate this before students begin the assignment so it is clear how you will grade it. 

Obviously, the mostly sudden transition to online learning has come with its own unique challenges any have arisen as time goes on, but sometimes all it takes is taking a step back and considering what you want out of your classes to make it happen. Remember that you cannot just take a traditional class and throw it into Google Classroom. his is a great time to learn some new techniques and tricks to help you now virtually and possibly even in the future when a return to traditional learning happens..