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Course assessment practices and student learning strategies in online college courses

, University of Denver, United States

University of Denver . Awarded


This study explored assessment practices in online courses and the relationship between assessment and student learning strategies. Assessment practices are important in determining what kind of learning occurs in a course, and online learning environments by their very nature lend themselves towards different assessment practices. However, little is known about online assessment practices or their influence on student learning strategies.

The study used a mixed-method, two-phase design. In Phase I, 60 online community college courses were sampled across disciplines. Instructor and student surveys and course observations were used to describe the status of course assessment practices and student learning strategies and explore which assessment practices relate to which learning strategies. In Phase II, follow up qualitative investigations of nine courses explored how certain assessment practices influence critical thinking strategies.

The assessment practices in these online courses appear to match in many areas what is considered best practice in summative and formative assessment. Using multiple assessments and methods, grading student learning over time, and providing frequent and individualized feedback to students are beneficial practices. Both students and instructors seem to focus their efforts on elaboration, critical thinking, and self-regulation strategies, more than rehearsal and organization strategies. However, there are potential areas for improvement, such as using multiple assessors more effectively, adding only an appropriate number of assignments, and ensuring students utilize the frequent feedback they receive.

Quantitative and qualitative data both indicated that discussions, written assignments, and papers were positively related to critical thinking strategy use whereas final/midterms and non-graded assignments were negatively related. Assignments that were successful in encouraging critical thinking had three areas in common: providing explicit intent to promote critical thinking, allowing time for reflective thinking, and using appropriate instructor guidance. In online discussions that promoted critical thinking, instructor postings were less frequent, more neutral, and used provoking questions. Knowledge retention multiple-choice questions were least useful for understanding student learning and played a formative instead of summative role.

This study suggests that assessment methods are most important in determining the type of learning occurring and grading opportunities are ideal teachable moments in online courses.


Arend, B.D. Course assessment practices and student learning strategies in online college courses. Ph.D. thesis, University of Denver. Retrieved May 31, 2020 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

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