Benefits Of Online Formative Assessments


The realities of the 21st-century learner require that schools and educators fundamentally change their practice. Educators must produce college- and career-ready graduates that reflect the future these students will face. And, they must facilitate learning through means that align with the defining attributes of this generation of learners.”

Student-centered education has tremendous potential, and recent results are promising: 

  • Decrease in drop-out rates 
  • Increase in percentage of students accepted into college 
  • Increase in growth in mathematics—grade level indicators and state assessments 
  • Increase in development in reading—grade level indicators and state assessments 
  • Increase in student engagement 
  • Decrease in student referrals 
  • Increase in student agency 

The traditional systems are outdated because they are “data poor” and functionally limited to physical school/ onsite schooling environments for supporting the learning cycle at the heart of student-centered learning and for using this information to inform instructional and organizational practices.

21st-century learning focuses on personalized learning with competency-based, project-based learning that will strengthen critical thinking and use digital literacy to face the century’s challenges. With technology blended within pedagogy and instruction, online learning modalities and environments, there will be an increased focus on extended learning options, like anytime-anywhere learning, and learning at an individual pace.

Measuring learning is a necessary part of every teacher’s work. Teachers need to check for student understanding, and parents, students, and leaders need to know how students are doing to help them successfully prepare for college and work. In addition to supporting learning across content areas, technology-enabled assessments help reduce the time, resources, and disruption to learning required for the administration of paper assessments. Reviews and Assessments delivered using technology can also provide a more complete and nuanced picture of student needs, interests, and abilities than traditional assessments, allowing educators to differentiate learning. 

Learning moves forward through timely, meaningful, actionable feedback. For this student-centered learning system design, feedback is broadly defined as any information provided to the learner that helps correct misunderstandings, reinforce or extend learning or indicate what the learner should do next. Sometimes the feedback comes from a teacher, tutor, peers or software. Sometimes the feedback loop involves the learner recognizing an error and self-correcting or reflecting upon his approach and using the same or different method in the future. Formative Assessments help students to identify an error or reflect upon the practice and use the same or a different approach.

Feedback and use of the data are foundational to the student-centric learning process. Data from these feedback levels can also be gathered and analyzed to inform instruction, create organizational practices and provide system-level feedback to influence decisions for future improvement to support the learning process for the better. We will discuss the benefits of formative assessments in the fast-changing scenario of k12 education.

Technology-enabled and online assessments support learning and teaching by communicating evidence of learning progress and providing insights to teachers; administrators; families; and, most importantly, the learners themselves. Teachers can embed these assessments within digital learning activities to reduce interruptions to learning time. 

Formative Assessments have a powerful impact on student achievement. In traditional classrooms, teachers are the bottleneck in giving student feedback unless there are other feedback loops students can access directly. In personalized learning environments, students theoretically have access to ample, frequent and actionable feedback from multiple sources, including content, peers and teachers.”

Formative assessments are frequent instructional assessments embedded in checks for understanding that provide quick, continual snapshots of student progress across time. Formative assessments provide information before summative assessments are administered during the instructional process. Both teachers and students can use the results from formative assessments to determine what actions to take to help promote further learning. These assessments help identify students’ understanding, inform and improve the instructional practice of teachers, and help students track their knowledge.

Benefits of Formative Assessments

Real-Time Feedback For Actionable Instruction.

Through formative assessments, educators can see evidence of students’ thinking during the learning process and provide near real-time feedback through learning dashboards so they can take action at the moment. Families can be more informed about what and how their children learn during the school day. In the long term, educators, schools, districts, states, and the nation can use the information to support continuous improvement and innovations in learning. 

Technology-enabled tools also can support teacher evaluation and coaching. These tools capture video and other evidence of qualities of teaching, such as teamwork and collaboration. They provide new avenues for self-reflection, peer reflection and feedback, and supervisor evaluation. 

Educators and institutions should be mindful of whether they measure what is easy to measure or what is most valuable. Today’s traditional assessments in schools and post-secondary institutions rely primarily on multiple-choice questions and fill-in-the-bubble answers. Many assessments also happen after learning, with results delivered months later, usually after the course ends. Assessments are more instructionally functional when they assist with timely feedback. 

Online Formative Assessments- Paving The Path To Anytime-Anywhere Learning-

The design of physical learning spaces to accommodate new and expanded relationships among learners, teachers, peers, and mentors with technology has become the single-point focus of every institution.

Sophisticated software allows teachers to adapt assessments to individual learners’ needs and abilities and provide near real-time results. A decrease in the digital device cost and an increase have paved the path for online assessments, And better connectivity has contributed to technology-enabled smart classes.

  • Colleges and universities have moved to anytime-anywhere learning. It was possible because they have been using technology for more than two decades.
  • Blended learning environments are becoming increasingly popular in K12 education to the extent of having control over time, place, path and pace of learning. Blended Learning often benefits from a reconfiguration of the physical learning space to facilitate learning activities, providing a variety of technology-enabled learning zones optimized for collaboration, informal learning, and individual-focused study. 

The online formative assessment Model works hand-in-hand with the systems of measurement and feedback, so the assessment data collected within the model supports multiple purposes: 

  1. Identifying specific misconceptions/weaknesses observed during a learning experience. (For example, 
  2. an intelligent tutoring system that uses scaffolding questions after the learner enters a wrong answer to 
  3. determine the gaps in understanding that led the student to the wrong answer.)
  4. Indicating the level of mastery for each target competency at points in time. (For example, an activity after a 
  5. lesson checks the learner’s understanding of a covered concept or skill.)
  6. Displaying progress on a competency-based pathway. 

Keep High The Motivation

Separate system components are needed to provide feedback to the learner at different levels within the learning process from various sources such as educators, peers or intelligent algorithms (such as tutoring systems or recommendation engines). Feedback is also included in the processes that support learner motivation and ownership. System components empower learners to support each other’s progress and celebrate success. Online feedback is provided on multiple levels: activity, lesson, and progress. Data dashboards (visual representations of student progress concerning learning maps) display progress-level feedback and learner profiles. 

Observation/Measurement includes the ability to: 

  • Develop items and assessments and align them with learning targets and competencies 
  • Provide an item bank for formative assessments 
  • Develop and house rubric definitions to link the results of an assessment to the criterion levels within a rubric
  • Collect and maintain learning experience data 
  • Plan and execute the administering of assessments online
  • Record assessment results from offline assessments 
  • Provide that information where needed, such as to enable personalized learning 
  • In competency education, Observation/Measurement Management systems support the ability to 
  • record progress on competency assessments with a longitudinal perspective in which students can be 
  • reassessed on a competency 
  • Assessment Management also supports the ability to tie assessment data to the learning plan and the 
  • curriculum to enable student-centered learning 

Using Formative Assessment Data To Support Individual Learning And Differentiate Instruction-

In almost all aspects of our daily lives, Formative assessment data help us personalize and adapt experiences to our individual needs. It is now possible to gather data during formative and summative assessments to create personalized digital learning experiences. In addition, teachers can use these data to inform interventions and decisions about how to engage individual students; personalize learning; and create more engaging, relevant, and accessible learning experiences for all learners. 

Assessment data can be made available directly to students. Students can play a more significant role in choosing their learning pathways when they have access to their data.8 The data also can be made available to family members so students’ advocates can play a more active role in supporting their children’s education. Moreover, data can be used to support teachers’ efforts—individually or in teams, departments, or schools—to improve professional practice and learning. For personalized learning systems to reach their full potential, data systems and learning platforms should include seamless interoperability with a focus on data security and issues related to privacy. 

In many cases, pre-service teaching candidates need to receive sufficient instruction on understanding and using data. At the same time, in-service teachers can benefit from ongoing professional development in integrating technology to enhance their teaching. According to the Data Quality Campaign, as of February 2014, just 19 states included the demonstration of data literacy skills as a requirement for teacher licensure.10 Although data from technology-based assessments and data systems hold great potential, they are meaningful only when educators use them effectively. Teachers deserve ongoing support to strengthen their skills in using data to meet students’ needs better. 

Addressing these challenges will take a three-pronged approach:

  1. Preparing and supporting educators in realizing the full potential of using assessment data.
  2. Encouraging the development of data assessment tools that are more intuitive and include visualizations that indicate what the data mean for instruction.
  3. Ensuring the security and privacy of student data within these systems. 

The learner-specific model keeps track of evidence data from measurements, observations and artifacts linked to nodes in the reference framework. Formative assessments record learning indicators for 21st Century skills and additional information about how to measure levels of mastery, more granular competencies and relationships between individual competencies. 

The learner-specific model shows learner progress in an actionable representation of what the learner knows and can do with the reference framework. For each node on the student’s pathway in the reference framework, we can assess the learner’s level of competency. The circled node in the figure represents a node that has been assessed. 

All learners deserve assessments that better reflect what they know and can do with that knowledge. Formative assessments provide the data for valuable insights regarding the achievement and progress of all students, including efforts to promote equitable access to excellent educational opportunities and to narrow achievement gaps. 

Assess For Ongoing Learning

Technology provides students with multiple pathways to create accessible work throughout the year. To demonstrate their understanding, students can create multimedia productions, construct websites to organize and analyze information, and design interactive presentations to serve as products for assessment. These pathways allow teachers to understand how students access and understand information across given categories. For students who need individual accommodations, technological advances allow for dynamic and personalized presentation and assessment using alternative representations of the same concept or skill. For example, alternative text can be provided for images through the work of the Diagram Center to make graphics accessible to learners with print disabilities. 

  •  Increasingly sophisticated technology-driven assessments will enable more powerful personalized learning, likely accelerating the shift from time-based learning to competency-based education.
Measure Complex Competencies

Measure Complex Competencies 

A recent convening of the National Research Council (NRC) underscored the importance of broadening the focus of assessment to include non-cognitive competencies and the importance of technology in measuring knowledge, skills, and abilities

  • For example, the NRC highlighted the work of the international comparative assessment, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA administers a novel technology-based assessment of student performance in creative problem-solving designed to measure students’ capacity to respond to non-routine situations to achieve their potential as constructive and reflective citizens. The NRC also highlighted the SimScientists simulation-based curriculum. 
  • Use technology for online assessment and to measure middle school students’ understanding of ecosystems and scientific inquiry. 

Similarly, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) recently announced plans to expand its testing program to include measures of students’ motivation, mindset, and perseverance to build the evidence base for more widespread use. 

Real Time Feedback

Provide Real-Time Feedback 

Technology-based formative assessments can offer real-time reporting of results, allowing stakeholders to understand students’ strengths and weaknesses while guiding them to make valid, actionable interpretations of the assessment data. Such assessments can enable educators to see, evaluate, and respond to student work more quickly than can traditional assessments. Similarly, learners and their families can access this information almost in real-time. Technology-based summative assessments also facilitate a faster turnaround of results.

  • Some of today’s technology-based assessments also allow for a more decadent menu of feedback approaches than traditional or first-generation online assessments. Chronicle Cloud provides formative assessment feedback to students via in-line comments (through video, audio, or text), engages in online chats and emails feedback directly to families and learners. The app connects learners to additional resources for practicing specific skills or developing critical skills understanding. 
  • These technologies also can increase the efficiency of giving feedback, allowing educators more time to focus on areas of greatest need. For example, for providing feedback on areas of frequent concern, educators can pre-populate a menu of responses to use as comments, allowing them to shift focus to areas of feedback unique to each student. Automated responses can be generated as well when assignments are late or incomplete. Although this is still a nascent technology, advances have occurred in the automated scoring of essays that may make it a more powerful tool for generating timely feedback. 

Adapt to Learner Ability and Knowledge-

  • Computer adaptive testing has facilitated assessments’ ability estimates of what students know accurately. It can do across the curriculum in a shorter testing session than would otherwise be necessary. Computer adaptive testing uses algorithms to adjust the difficulty of questions throughout an assessment based on a student’s responses. For example, if the student answers a question correctly, a slightly more challenging item is presented next; if the student answers incorrectly, they receive another opportunity to demonstrate knowledge differently. 
  • Because adaptive tests target content and test items aligned with each student’s ability level, the adaptation leads to more precise scores for all students across the achievement continuum in a significantly reduced period. Achieving the same level of precision in a traditional paper-and-pencil test would require students to answer many more questions, potentially impacting instructional time. These assessments can benefit from increased interoperability so that the administration can pull the data into a centralized dashboard that allows a more integrated understanding of student performance. 

Future of Online Formative Assessments Embedded With The Learning Process 

  • Formative assessments are woven directly into the fabric of learning activities students undertake. Such assessments may be technology driven or simply a part of effective instruction, and they may appear in digital learning tools and games. They are generally invisible to the instructional process embedded in regular classroom activities. Embedded assessments have the potential to be useful for diagnostic and support purposes in that they provide insights into why students are having difficulties in mastering concepts and provide insights into how to personalize feedback to address these challenges.

The shift from traditional paper and pencil to next generation digital assessments enables more flexibility, responsiveness, and contextualization. 

Table for 5 Benefits of Online Formative Assessment



Measuring learning is a necessary part of every teacher’s work. Teachers need to check for student understanding, and parents, students, and leaders need to know how students are doing to help them successfully prepare for college and work. Use of technology in the classroom allows teachers to adapt assessments to individual learners’ needs and abilities and provide near real-time results.