Creative online assessment

You’ve probably been rethinking your assessments in light of the move toward more online teaching. There are lots of alternatives to exams but have you thought about what other alternative assessments you could use in the online space?

Many of our assessments remain unchanged, particularly if we didn’t use exams, but online learning opens up broader possibilities for assessments, both summative and formative.

The range of tools available in the online space can help students interact with topic material in different ways. Remember, assessment can be any activity or task that evaluates the journey toward achieving the topic learning outcomes. Formative assessment (with feedback but not grades) is especially useful in keeping students on track with their learning.

Here are some strategies for rethinking assessments in a more creative and fun light.

Be authentic
Think about how your assessments apply to real life – how are the students applying what they learn to real life scenarios? How will it help them once they are in the workforce? There are several creative alternatives to standard essays so consider what skills graduates in fields related to your topic might use and brainstorm!


  • In a social work topic, have students access an online health database (e.g. Australian Institute for Health and Welfare) to analyse and evaluate available homelessness services and their usage in their local area (or another similar task of their choice).
  • In a computer programming topic, have students develop a formal brief about a project of their choice outlining project requirements and parameters.

Make the most of digital resources
Encourage students to use their computers for ‘good’ – curating and creating knowledge. Consider more use of multimedia tools (e.g. creating videos, digital storytelling, concept maps) in demonstrating knowledge or skills.


  • In an engineering topic, show a picture of a bridge and have the students identify why the bridge was built the way it was and what specifications may have been required.
  • In a nutrition topic, ask the students to look at online nutrition tools, evaluate and recommend one based on what they learned in class.

Take advantage of the students’ environments
Our students come from very diverse backgrounds, all with their own stories and experiences. Leverage this diversity into your assessments so the students are learning with and from each other.


  • In an anthropology course, ask students to digitally map and explain locations of cultural significance in their hometown using multimedia tools (e.g. audio, video, images).
  • In an occupational therapy topic, ask students to undertake a home assessment of their own home for a particular condition or disability of their choice. Include a virtual tour (e.g. video, images) as part of the brief (remember to maintain privacy).

Collaborate (the verb, not the tool)
Social connections are crucial when learning online and students need to keep in touch, especially when they aren’t seeing their classmates for long periods (or at all). Collaboration is a great way to build communities within student groups and for them to make connections. Working as part of a team is also a valued graduate skill in the global workplace. Plan for different kinds of collaboration. (e.g. divisible tasks – where tasks are divided and then integrated into an end result; conjunctive tasks – where everyone contributes a unique piece to the overall task).


  • In a health course, students are given a scenario in the form of physician-directed patient care, they must all assume different health professional roles to develop a care plan for the patient.
  • In a French topic, students work collaboratively in a wiki to compose a short story in that language.

Online learning can be challenging but there are so many opportunities for us and our students to engage with topic material in a different and creative way. Be imaginative!

Adapted from:

Norman, M. (2016) Creative Methods of Assessment in Online Learning <> viewed 1st April 2020


Written by Cassandra Hood
Academic Developer – CILT

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