What types of e-assessment could I use?

Types of assessment

Assessment-creation software for e-testing

There is a vast range of assessment-creation software offering a huge variety of different functions, so it is difficult to find much that is common to all. Grouping such software, it is possible to organise them into two categories. Firstly, quiz authoring tools and, secondly, assessment engines.

Quiz creation tools create one-off quizzes, or groups of quizzes, often in html, which can then be used as stand-alone assessments in a browser environment, or through a learning delivery platform such as a VLE.

Assessment engines offer the functionality to author quizzes, but in turn will also offer an online environment in which to carry out the testing, or will integrate with a learning environment to deliver the same. The key feature of assessment engines is their ability to track, record and report on learners who carry out the assessments.


Online, on-screen tests are often made up of multiple choice and multiple response-type questions, but can also include other question types, such as sequencing and hotspots. Short answer questions, which allow learners to type in responses, could also be included.

The following is a list of the types of questions that you are likely to meet in an e-assessment.



JISC infoNet

JISC infoNet aims to be the UK's leading advisory service for managers in the post-compulsory education sector promoting the effective strategic planning, implementation and management of information and learning technology.

In one of their online infokits, 'Effective Use of VLEs: e-Assessment', JISC notes that there are three main types of objective questions which can be used which include students making a choice (single or multiple) inputting text (words, numbers or formulae) or manipulating information on the screen (marking relevant areas, moving items or drawing graphs or diagrams).

JISC's list of assessment question types can be found by using the following link:

Assessment Questions


E-portfolios are similar to paper portfolios but contain only digital items. Most are web-based so the learner is able to work online to create, store and arrange their items.

One of the key benefits of e-portfolios is that they encourage learners to take ownership of their work and to actively participate in the process of assembling their e-portfolios and using these to present their work. Although some candidates may need support in doing this initially, in the longer term it can lead to enhanced learner motivation and more rapid attainment of qualifications.

Another benefit of e-portfolios is that they allow the learner to include (or link to) evidence which spans subject boundaries, or experiences which take place outwith centres. This is important for interdisciplinary projects, and for qualifications where key pieces of evidence may come from employment or placement environments. The ability to add digital photographs, scanned images and video or audio files to e-portfolios can make these experiences even more authentic.

If used for assessment, the e-portfolio generally holds evidence for a particular unit or course. The learners, teachers/tutors and Verifiers can access the e-portfolio remotely and so the processes of review, assessment and verification are streamlined.


Social software

Social software includes communication tools for capturing, storing and presenting written, audio and video information, and also interactive tools which handle communication between users. Examples of social software include blogs and wikis.


A blog is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual who updates it with commentary and descriptions of events. Most blogs are interactive, allowing others to leave comments. It is this interactivity that distinguishes blogs from static websites. A typical blog combines text, images and links to other relevant web pages and media. Many blogs function as online diaries.

When used for assessment, blogs can be valuable for capturing learners’ reflections and evidence such as learner personal statements; assessor observations; witness testimonies provided by others. All of this can help with authentication of evidence.


A wiki is a web site that allows users to add and update content on the site using their own web browser. This feature means that wikis tend to be created collaboratively by the site users.

This is valuable when a wiki is used for assessment, because it can capture the contributions of different members of a group who are working collaboratively on a document related to a project.

Electronic voting systems

An Electronic Voting System (EVS) usually consists of a computer, a projector, one or more receivers and remote control handheld electronic transmitters, known as clickers. Learners are asked questions, shown as multiple-choice questions in a presentation, and they use the clickers to select their preferred options. The handsets transmit this information to the computer software which produces histograms or bar charts of the results.

When used for assessment, different types of questions can be used depending on the purpose of the assessment. Even the basic Yes/No or True/False question types can be used to test recall; to assess learners’ understanding of issues or to test if they are able to recognise solutions or appropriate approaches for solving problems. Questions can also be broken down into smaller stages.

Games-based learning and assessment

Games-based assessment uses computer gaming technology and techniques for assessment purposes. Games can be engaging for learners but can also be used to embed learning outcomes. When used for assessment, different types of games (eg quiz, action, strategy games, role-play) can be used to assess different learning outcomes such as memory/recall; behaviour;  functional competence and so on.

GamesSpace screen shot - player in virtual environment

Mobile learning and assessment

Increasing interest is being shown in delivering assessment through mobile platforms, given that many learners own one or more devices offering the capacity to deliver assessment content. Such devices will include mobile phones, wireless enabled mp4 players, tablet pcs and others.

The key advantage of authoring for and delivering to such devices is the ability to provide learners with assessment in an appropriate context – such as a workplace – and on demand. In creating assessments for mobile devices there are two key areas to be mastered, the authoring of content appropriate for a mobile device, and the delivery of that content, either by pushing it out to learners or by providing a gateway for access.

MyExam Screengrab

JISC e-assessment glossary

The JISC e-Assessment Glossary includes over 700 items relating to the processes involved during the design, presentation and recording of candidates' e-responses to assessment stimuli. It has been produced for use by awarding bodies, teachers, lecturers, practitioners and administrators across all types of educational institution and across all sectors, as well as software developers and providers.

Although this glossary is not fully up-to-date (it doesn’t include social software, electronic voting systems), it is still a very useful resource.


Learning and teaching approaches

The starting point for selecting the types of e-assessment should be pedagogy - the learning and teaching approaches that are suitable for the subject. Consider which forms of assessment best support learning in conventional situations and how these approaches could be better designed or enhanced with technology. Most assessment approaches can be e-enabled.

Students and teacher in park 


Guidance on Pedagogy

Further guidance on pedagogy can be found in the 12 Principles of Good Assessment and Feedback which were produced by the Academic Policy Committee of The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and agreed by Senate in 2008. These principles are intended to help academic staff who wish to promote student engagement and self-regulation in learning. They provide a guiding framework and they can be adapted to different disciplinary contexts.

Link opens in new window12 Principles of Good Assessment & Feedback (The University of Strathclyde)

Can all subjects be e-assessed?

Objective questions, such as multiple choice questions (MCQs), would not be appropriate for all subjects or assessments. They are effective in assessing factual recall. It's more difficult to use them to assess higher-order skills such as creativity, communication or synthesis.

That's not to say it can't be done at all: learners’ understanding and problem solving abilities could be assessed to some extent using these approaches but may be assessed better when the learners have to recall and enter information rather than when they are presented with a selection of possible responses.

What is important is that an e-test is comparable to a 'traditional' test, not that it is an on-screen copy of the pencil and paper test. The questions chosen should assess the same knowledge and/or skills with the same degree of difficulty. For example an e-test may use a 'matching' type of question which is not available in a traditional test environment.

Some software can be programmed to automatically mark short answer responses but complex qualitative or reflective responses would be captured and marked by human markers.

Learning styles

Some educational psychologists believe that different learners have different learning styles, such as visual, auditory or tactile approaches to learning, though in recent years learning style theories have also been challenged.

For more information on the history and theories of learning styles see Link opens in new windowhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_styles

Using a variety of assessment and e-assessment approaches is likely to be the best way to suit the widest group of learners. The three categories of learning style most commonly recognized are:

Purpose of assessment

It’s important to bear in mind the purpose of the assessment.

Diagnostic Assessment is carried out before or after the learning activities take place to ascertain the level of a learner’s (or group’s) knowledge or skill.

Feedback form

Formative Assessment is carried out as part of teaching and learning. This is often known as assessment for learning because the information gathered by the assessment is used to adapt the teaching to suit the learner’s needs.

Assessment for learning

Summative Assessment is carried out at the end of a learning programme or at specific points during it to judge or mark the learner’s achievement. This can affect the level of award the learner achieves and/or allow progression to the next stage of learning. 

A grade


JISC infoNet

JISC infoNet aims to be the UK's leading advisory service for managers in the post-compulsory education sector promoting the effective strategic planning, implementation and management of information and learning technology.

In one of their online infokits, 'Effective Use of VLEs: e-Assessment', JISC looks at the different types of assessment - diagnostic, formative and summative.

The following link will take you to JISC's Methods of Assessment:

Methods of Assessment

Pedagogy of assessment writing

Writing good quality assessments, which accurately assess learning, and which do not involve unnecessary distractions or offer unintentional clues, can be challenging. In particular, writing assessment items which test higher levels of learning requires time and thought.

You may find information in the following two SQA Academy Courses useful. If you don't have an SQA Academy account, you can login as a guest to these courses from the login page.

Link opens in new windowAn Overview of Assessment Principles

Link opens in new windowWriting Objective Test Questions



Ensuring that assessment items are accurately and equally levelled requires thought and care. In particular it is possible to unintentionally introduce elements which affect the degree of difficulty of an assessment item. A simple example of this would be inappropriate distractors, which affect the difficulty of a question, or question stems with poor phrasing, which introduce ambiguity.


Bloom's Taxonomy
We tend to use Bloom’s Taxonomy of educational objectives to focus on the skills and abilities we want to assess.

A Link opens in new windowrevised Bloom’s was published in 2001, this time focusing on learning objectives.

Andrew Churches has developed a Digital Taxonomy, suggesting verbs, activities and technologies, appropriate to the digital age, across the different areas of Bloom’s. This Link opens in new windowPrezi by Joshua Coupal provides a summary of Bloom’s and the Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy.

You can find resources from Andrew Churches at Link opens in new windowBloom’s Digital Taxonomy.


There are two timing considerations with e-assessment.

The first relates to the demands e-assessment can make on learners who are required to use self-paced assessment. It may be possible for some learners to choose when to take the test but other learners will rely on the tutor to set the timing and pace of assessment.

Secondly, the issue of timing may be an institutional one. If assessment of learning requires large scale simultaneous testing – all candidates sitting the same test at the same time - then there are infrastructure and support requirements to be considered.

Also relevant is the section on Requirements – networks; computers; rooms in 'Preparation'; 'What other things do I need to think about?'.


Good quality feedback is an essential element of e-assessment, in particular where it is to be used formatively. This means feedback at the general level, but also for each individual response in objective tests. If the learner is to gain value from taking e-assessment tests formatively, then there must be feedback which explains not just that a particular choice is wrong, but also why it is wrong.

Adequate feedback, and opportunities to review and respond, have to be planned into the delivery. Timing of the programme overall should make allowance for students to absorb and respond to feedback, whether individually or in a classroom situation.