Approaching eLearning Assessment Design Like eLearning Content Design

A lot of thought and focus has been given to content design in eLearning. I’d like to argue that eLearning assessment design, is an equally important, if not more, part of eLearning design. A lot of learners, me included, learn from our mistakes. A well designed eLearning assessment can be used not only as a great self-pacing tool and a motivator for the learning growth, it can be a learning tool in itself.
Approaching eLearning Assessment

In some parts of the world, teachers of young kids are instructed not to mark answers with red ink. Why? Because the psychological fear of being wrong (and marked in red) inhibits a child’s learning. Do our eLearning assessments end up marking our adult learners in red?

A typical eLearning module would consist of one of two scenarios based on its design – either it would give out the content and then assess the learners on how well they learnt. Or, it would start with a prior knowledge eLearning assessment, and accordingly provide links and opportunities for the learner to learn. But rarely do we seen approach where eLearning assessment is content in itself. Where eLearning designers use the eLearning assessments to define a learning path, and the assessment becomes the learning path itself.

What we did..

Designing such an authentic learner focused eLearning assessment is much tougher than created multiple choice or true/false questions- but it is more fulfilling as well. I have a personal experience to share about this. One eLearning module I created was a 6 week long course introducing the complex, and ever-changing world of digital marketing to learners. A number of digital marketing strategies were introduced, and taught. Throughout the course, numerous quizzes did the job of checking the knowledge aspect of the course. So, the learner, as well as the trainer, had a good idea of their knowledge of digital marketing tactics like SEO/PPC etc. However, this only checked their knowledge, not their understanding of the implementation of the concepts. Very little, if anything, was achieved in this process.

So an interesting concept was created to tackle this. At the end of the course, we introduced a learning project – a dummy website was created for the learners to get their hands dirty on. This website had some great elements, and some blaring holes, that a careful learner would be able to identify at the end of the course. They would check the website for lapses in design, issues with SEO, and ideas on how to improve the conversions. This soon became the most valuable part of their learning process. It is the practical, hands-on learning which not just appealed to them, but also taught them the most.

Doing it better..

The ‘learning project’ is, in a way, a summative eLearning assessment. But how can we do a better job of giving real life projects to learners, and create a learning opportunity within an eLearning assessment?

Let’s take a look at the video games that do such a great job of teaching kids and adults alike. The players (learners, if you will) would voluntarily spend hours honing their skills trying to do better. Take a closer look- are these games not just assessments with leaning opportunities hidden? There hardly is a “learn how to play better” section- but the games are in fact a quiz essentially, and the game itself provides clues on how the skills can be bettered.

The first idea that comes to mind is to include open competition. Who can fix the website best? Who can find the most number of errors? Who gets the gold trophy when it comes to increasing conversions? Whose PPC ad was most clicked upon?

Another thing we could do is to integrate the project with the rest of the course. Keep referencing it at number of points, so it is not an end-of-the course submission, but a through-out-the-course assignment. It becomes a long strategy game as opposed to a short, skill-testing game.

What else can you think of…

first published in eLearning at

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