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“What’s right?”

The answer depends on you.

First of all, are you taking the right class? If you’re trying to complete a specific academic program, make sure you’ve talked with a person, via email or phone, with assurances that this class meets your program requirements. Get it in writing from someone with authority, like your advisor, instructor, or department chair.

Secondly, figure out what the instructor wants you to do. I know this sounds simple, but it is often more difficult to communicate directions in writing than in person. How will your learning be measured, graded and evaluated? Look beyond the brief course title and description. Request a copy of the syllabus. Preview the textbook. Check the course ratings on Try to create a mental picture yourself embracing the activities in this course.

Finally, decide if the course is right for you. Does it meet your goals? If you want to be able to speak Spanish, will you learn how to do that? Or will you just be taking a bunch of written exams? Also, do you have the ability to meet the instructor’s expectations? Are you available if the course requires specific online meeting times or conferences, say at 10:30am every Tuesday and Thursday? You may not want to take the class if the instruction is solely reading-based and you have difficulty reading. Look at how your learning will be evaluated. Personally, I stress out with timed tests. So for me, I will avoid a class where my entire grade will be based only on timed tests.

Online Assessments & Outcomes


Your instructor will use assessments to measure your learning. These evaluations should be based on outcomes. The term “outcomes” means what you are expected to be able to do as a result of your learning. For example, assessments for a Java computer programming course should evaluate your ability to write Java programs, understand programming terminology, and create standard programming structures.


Typical evaluation instruments used in online education include:

  • Worksheets – online or written
  • Essays and Research Papers
  • Quizzes – online or written
  • Exams and Tests – online or written
  • Written Assignments and Projects
  • Audio Assignments and Projects
  • Multimedia Assignments and Projects
  • Online Discussions – written, audio, video
  • Interviews and Conferences - video, audio
  • Group projects

Quizzes & Tests

Assignments and quizzes usually involve fewer steps and less effort than projects and tests. Most online quizzes, tests and exams are timed. The amount of time can be limited for the entire assessment (like 2 hours), for each question (like 2 minutes per question), or by sections (45 minutes for the first section, 30 minutes for the second section, an hour for the last section). Or, for example, an online test released at 9:00am on Monday could be due by 11:00pm Tuesday night. During the test, you could be required to answer multiple choice questions, respond to essay questions, and possibly create and upload a file (like in Word, Excel, or a class-relavent software application).