Philosophically, blended learning has more in common with online than face-to-face structure in that both online and hybrid course environments tend to be ‘designed’ with help from or consults with instructional design staff; while traditional face-to-face courses tend to be instructor designed. This is important for assessment because when course goals, learning objectives and outcomes are mapped to content and assessment during the design process, there is a higher likelihood that assessments will trend toward the authentic and away from high stakes multiple choice, short answer.
Typically, I favor courses where a significant percentage of testing is done using low stakes quizzes and discussions to account for approximately 30-40% of the final course grade, reflective writings account for another 30-40% and projects account for the rest. Generally speaking, when I develop courses I encourage faculty to use a variety of assessments (with projects, reflection, and synthesis being given the greatest weight) if at all possible.
In some disciplines, notably mathematics, economics, and certain sciences, there is a reluctance to do this, and unfortunately I lack a level of subject matter expertise that would be useful in helping faculty create alternative assessments.
I do think using assessments other than high stakes tests has benefits in the measurement of competencies, in reducing cheating, and providing students with a clear link between their studies and their hoped for careers. My expectations for online assessments are the same as they are for face-to-face. The assessment should measure student learning in a useful, meaningful, and transparent way that allows students to understand how, why, and by what criteria they are being assessed.
I am less biased in the area of mode than in type. Online or face to face, my opinion definitely slants toward the value of project-based assessment, linking learning to authentic tasks and assessments, and avoiding assessments that are graded on either a curve or other norm.
The very concept of a grading curve runs counter to competency based education. If a student scored a 60 out of 100 on an exam and the average score is 58, changing a student’s fifty to a 77 does not mean they have mastered the material. I means, in fact, that despite the fact that they have not mastered the material, they are going to advance to the next level of the course where they will be even less prepared to do the work.
This encourages cheating by students who have no hope of actually doing the work but have now invested time, money, and effort into the curriculum and feel obliged to continue on the path.
I probably have greater expectations for online assessment because I know or feel confident that the assessment strategy tends to be thought out more completely in an online or hybrid course where an instructional designer as well as a faculty member are working on the course.
The obvious trade-offs are between auto-scored online quizzes and project-based assessments are ease of grading and other course management issues and quality of assessment as well as the authenticity of the assessment tool. I’m not certain there is a “right” balance so much as there is a need to avoid taking the easy way out. On the other hand, it does no good to have 350 students write 20 essays the instructor cannot read quickly enough to provide meaningful feedback. To this end the use of multiple low-stakes quizzes and discussions establish a baseline of learning and reduce instructor workload while projects and other more authentic tasks add instructional quality and validity of the measurement instrument.
The balance comes from mapping the assessments to content and outcomes as well as respecting student efforts and faculty responsibilities.
Formal assessment in the hybrid course I am creating will take place in graded discussions, low stakes quizzes, and a series of small projects that form component pieces of a larger, more comprehensive project. There will be very little in the way of structured informal assessment. Most of the assessment for this course will take place in the online portion of the course.