Continuous Online Assessments

Posted by Natasa Brouwer, Matti Niemelä, Johanna Kärkkäinen, on Oct. 8, 2021, 4:39 p.m.

Matti Niemelä, Johanna Kärkkäinen
University of Oulu / Faculty of Technology / Chemistry degree programme

Challenge and goal

Assessment is a crucial part of both traditional and online education. However, creating continuous online assessment for large student groups is still a challenge. Teachers often have concerns that may limit the use of online assessment (students cheating, plagiarism, academic misconduct, isolation of students, correct tools, instructors workload e.g. how to assess a large student group online etc.). In addition to teachers, students have their own concerns about online assessments as well. For example, fairness, technical issues and abilities, and the possibility to clarify assignment guidelines are things that students may worry about.


Topic of the user case

Motivating change toward authentic and continuous assessment.

Local context (specific)

Assessment is a crucial part of both face-to-face and online education. Learning outcomes, as well as assessment criteria defined in the curricula, are key factors in the planning of assessment and selection of assessment type(s). In general, the aim of evaluation of student’s study attainments is to:

  • monitor the progress of studies
  • collect information on the learning process
  • gather information on the learning outcomes.

When assessment is well designed, it encourages students to activities which enable deep learning.  By using formative assessment methods, it is possible to monitor students' learning and obtain ongoing feedback about learning and teaching. On the other hand, the goal of summative assessment is to evaluate learning at the end of the learning process (end of a suitable instructional unit e.g. theme, middle of the course, end of the course etc.).


In the optimal scenario, assessment should enhance a student's learning and certify achievements at the same time. Traditionally summative assessment in the Chemistry degree program at the University of Oulu has been performed using face-to-face exams at the end of course and/or module. Thus, these course exams have been the most important part of the course for the student and the most important factor for learning (backwash effect). Exams provide graded information about students' learning, but only in some cases feedback to students on how to enhance learning.


Currently, UOulu wants to develop assessment toward authentic and continuous assessment, encourage teachers to use a variety of alternative assessment practices, as well as provide student’s flexible performance opportunities. Due to this, we need the change in the culture of our assessment.

Local CPD goals

Local educational scope (science, technology, engineering, math, other?)

The Chemistry degree programme at the University of Oulu contains studies in different fields of chemistry: analytical, applied, inorganic, physical and/or organic chemistry. The programme also contains compulsory laboratory work and optional studies offered by other degree programmes in the Faculties of Education (chemistry teachers), Science and Technology. For instance, a student can include studies in the field of math, physics, engineering – process engineering is a typical choice among many others – to further build their interdisciplinary study path.


Pre-knowledge / Background of the participating local teaching staff

UOulu provides pedagogical education to teaching staff to become experts in university teaching and learning. They provide 5-credit introductory courses to university pedagogy and other short trainings related to e.g., alternative assessment methods, the use of Moodle tools, video editing etc. In addition, the Faculty of Education provides 25 ects studies in university pedagogy and 35 ects pedagogical studies for university teachers.

  • More than 50% of the chemistry degree programme teachers have teacher’s eligibility (min. 60 ects pedagogical studies).
  • More than 70% of the chemistry degree programme teachers have done at least a 5 ects introductory course to university pedagogy.

List of local CPD goals

  • Promote and develop alternative assessment methods for our chemistry courses following constructive alignment principles.
    1. Improve teaching competences.
    2. Motivate students for active learning.
    3. Enhance deep learning.
  • Change the culture of assessment and teaching attitudes related to it.
    1. Using our own assessment examples will motivate fellow lecturers to develop their own teaching practice in a specific field.
    2. Use of evidence-based approach to justify our approach.
    3. Literature
    4. Ideas shared in the STEM-CPD community.
  • Development of new local CPD activities


  • Expected impact of the CPD user case on the quality of local teaching practice.

Positive change towards authentic and continuous assessment by encouraging teachers to use a variety of alternative assessment practices, which will also provide flexible performance opportunities for students.


Needs defined in STEM-CPD Roadmap

3 choose an appropriate assessment method for their course
17 design online exams
5 be interested in their students' progress.
13 analyse the effect of teaching and introduce changes in an evidence based way.
2 attending presentations about teaching approaches.
11 collaborating with a peer-lecturer on a redesign of a course.

CPD activities at the local university

All CPD activities organised in UOulu are closely related to the local teaching practice.

  • Local meetings where good teaching practices are shared. Local topics are e.g.
    • Assessment
    • Digital tools for continuous assessment
    • Continuous online assessment

Intended learning outcomes for the activity (will be updated later):

  • Collaborative learning in the group of lecturers developing assessment in their courses.
    • Peer-feedback and support for the innovative assessment projects

Intended learning outcomes for the activity (will be updated later):

  • Share locally experiences about the results of other activities in the STEM-CPD community.

Intended learning outcomes for the activity (will be updated later):


Number of participants, methods of teaching and learning, methods of evaluation of LOs, examples of participants' work, assessment etc. (will be updated later).


Teaching and learning materials

  • Materials collected, selected, and developed for CPD activities.
  • Online CPD learning module for the lecturers (e.g. link to CPD microMOOC)

MicroMOOC: Continuous online assessment: Strategies for large classes

Sustainable implementation

Currently, University of Oulu provides training about alternative assessment methods to support development of teachers’ competences. In addition, UOulu is updating its assessment policy, which for instance aims to reduce the amount of the face-to-face examinations, hence teachers who develop their courses by using online assessment act according to the policy. This user case provides a win-win situation, which benefits students, teachers and management and due to that it offers a sustainable and practical protocol promoting also flexible performance opportunities for students.

At the first stage of this user case, collaborative learning among a few lecturers developing online assessment in their courses will be performed. Assessment will be developed by using a teacher and student-centered approach and online assessment tools. At the next stage, results from the user case will be then utilized in the Chemistry degree program and shared at seminars to other chemistry teachers. Finally, to reach other STEM teachers and managers, results are shared at the faculty and/or university level. This approach will support the integration of the changes in the teaching and learning practice on a larger scale.


Expected impact of the CPD User Case

Positive change towards authentic and continuous assessment by encouraging teachers to use a variety of alternative assessment practices, which will also provide flexible performance opportunities for students.


Plans for eventual continuation of the CPD within the same topic

Share gained knowledge and experience with other teachers in our degree program and other programs.

Constructive alignment, Use of digital tools for a pedagogical goal (type P1-1, P1-4a)

This CPD scenario describes a User case in which lecturers develop their competence in sound course design and how to use specific digital tools in teaching for a pedagogical goal and develop attitudes in supporting student development and enabling students’ well-being in a learning process and inclusivity and practicing teaching and learning in an evidence informed way.
The approximate duration of a User case that follows this scenario is several months.
In this CPD scenario the participants are using a very short open online course, a micro mooc (μmooc) and professionalize in a close connection to their own teaching practice (at their workplace) and meet in person on location with the training staff and with other participants.

Learning environment
Several months

Creative Commons Licence Logo Creative Commons 3.0 BY SA applies to all content on Starfish.
Starfish-education support for the publishing on does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors and Starfish-education cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. Starfish-education cannot be held responsible for the content published by authors that is not conform with Creative Commons 3.0 BY SA.