Distance learning: this is how you can test remotely (online tests)

What is the best way to test online? In this article some insights and tools. Due to the COVID-19 virus, many pupils and students will have to follow distance education in the coming period. Information is transferred via (live) videos and assignments are given on paper or made digital. What can only be a challenge is testing. What is the best way to test online? In this article some insights and tools.

distance learning
Distance education (distance learning, distance learning, online learning) is different from regular education. In this article we look at the most important differences, points of attention and we give tips, also paying attention to synchronous vs asynchronous learning . We also have a wiki on distance learning , where you can find tips, tools and resources about instruction, assignments and tests, among other things – which we update regularly. In this article we zoom in on the last part: assessment.

The Curriculum
A test is part of a curriculum, ie the plan of learning (Taba, 1962) or the learning process. Within this whole, the test has the function of determining to what extent a pupil/student has mastered the knowledge, skills and/or attitude. In order to do this properly, it is important that the test is well embedded in the reading process. Characteristic concepts are backward design (Ralph, 1949) and constructive alignment (Biggs & Tang, 2011).

Backward design
This is a curriculum design principle that starts at the end. First you determine the desired learning outcomes (or goals), then the way in which these can be demonstrated and finally you devise (or look for) the most appropriate learning activities, learning content, teacher roles and teaching materials. See figure 1. In this way you ensure that testing arises from the established goals and not the other way around, and the same for the learning activities.

Constructive Alignment
The principle of constructive alignment states that assessment and learning activities in education should be focused on the learning objectives. According to this principle, the learning behavior of pupils/students is mainly determined by the assessment. If you ensure that the assessment measures the extent to which the students have achieved all the learning objectives, they will also focus their learning activities on achieving those objectives. Education should support them in this. The goals, assessment and activities must therefore be properly coordinated.

Meaningful keys
A good test provides valuable insights. Based on these insights, feedback can be given ( formative assessment ) or a decision can be made (summative assessment). Whether it is a simple quiz or a serious test, it is desirable that a test is meaningful : it should not be a surprise. Characteristic concepts are valid, reliable and transparent.

Does the test actually measure the learning objective or the learning outcome ? Or does it measure something else? This concerns both the content and the type of test. An instrument such as Miller’s Pyramid (1990) or RTTI (Drost, 2015) can be used for this .

Does the test measure consistently? Would a pupil or student have (approximately) the same mark a second time?

Are the goals and success criteria clear in advance with the pupils/students? So is it clear what needs to be demonstrated and how that can be done?

Whether you’re testing offline or online, it’s important to keep the above points sharp – and stick to them.

Remote keys
Remote testing (online testing) differs from regular testing. The biggest difference is that the pupil/student is not physically present during a remote test. This makes it more difficult, for example, to determine reliably whether answers are given by heart (and no book is used, for example) or to pick up non-verbal signals during a conversation test.

In general, remote assessments are therefore more suitable for formative action than for making a reliable, summative decision. This applies in particular to knowledge tests and certain skills.

Formative assessment
Do you want to use assessment to act formatively? Make sure that pupils/students receive clear feedback and feedforward . Read more about this in general on our formative trading page .

Below are different types of tests, with information for each test and free tools that you can use.

Types of keys
There are different types of keys. Each type of test provides insight into other learning objectives or learning outcomes, i.e. knowledge, skills and/or attitude.

Knowledge test
For simple tests, with multiple choice questions or short open questions, programs such as Kahoot (live), Socrative or Quizizz can be used. Both programs allow for automatic points and feedback (for closed questions), making it ideal for a quick formative check and working on the retrieval practice learning strategy .

If you want to test with images, sources or longer answers, you can use programs such as Microsoft forms and Google Forms (Quiz) . Here too you can give automatic points and feedback. You can also give personal feedback .

If you want to take a closer look at the answers that students give and can give (live) feedback on how they formulate the answers, then GoFormative is recommended. You can also use this to analyze how the scores are generally scored for each question. You can also provide good general feedback to students based on analysis.

Time limit
If you want to establish more reliably whether students have mastered the knowledge, you could work with a time limit for drafting or open questions. For example, you could open the Google or Microsoft Forms for a certain time, making it live. You could also use Google Docs for an essay, for example, to see how it is made live. By attaching a time to it, you limit the possibility of searching or copying.

Online proctoring
In order to determine reliably whether answers are given by heart, you need to conduct surveillance.

This can be done remotely, for example, by streaming students/students with Microsoft Teams, for example, while they answer questions on paper, which they then photograph and send. Of course, it remains somewhat susceptible to fraud.

If you do this completely digitally, by gaining access to the computer of the pupils/students, you call this online proctoring . This is relatively new and has an impact on privacy. The question is therefore whether this is currently suitable for large-scale application.

Oral tests and presentations can often be done well via (live) video. For example, students can film themselves and share the file via WeTransfer or a cloud service. In addition, you can opt for a live presentation via, for example, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts or Zoom. You should preferably use your own electronic learning environment for this in connection with the GDPR .

There are many different types of products. Compared to regular tests, there is little difference with online tests, other than that it cannot be a physical product – which can of course be photographed. For example , use can be made of a portfolio .