Evaluating Your Online Course

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) for Online Courses

If you are well into the semester with teaching your online course and would like to make some changes right now in your course, what can do you to identify the changes that may be needed? Just look to your online students for their feedback!

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are effective tools to get feedback from your students about their learning. CATs are generally simple, brief, non-graded activities which provide just-in-time feedback to you & your students about the teaching-learning process. With the information you get from CATs, you then can determine what changes or adjustments may be needed in your online course.

For more information about CATs and their usage in in-person classes, please visit our CATs page.
If you would like further information about CATs and how to implement them in an online course, please contact The Stearns Center at stearns@gmu.edu; 703-993-6200.

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)

In this video, from Rochester Institute of Technology, Teaching & Learning Services, evidence-based CATs are introduced. They provide formative evaluation and information about student learning. CATs can inform you about how much you might need to change or adjust course content and teaching methods right now in order to meet students' learning needs.

CATs may be categorized in various ways, based on what the CAT is intended to evaluate. You might use CATs for formative assessment and feedback about:

  • Course-related knowledge and skills
  • Student attitudes and self-awareness about learning
  • Reactions to instructional methods & online course design

What are the characteristics of CATs?
CATs are...

  • Learner-Centered
  • Teacher-Directed
  • Mutually-Beneficial
  • Formative
  • Context-specific
  • Ongoing
  • Rooted in Good Teaching Practice

How to use CATs in my Online Course?
Results from CATs can guide teachers in fine-tuning their teaching strategies to better meet student needs. Here is a step-by-step strategy for using CATs adapted from Vanderbilt University:

  1. Decide what you want to assess about your students’ learning from a CAT.
  2. Choose a CAT that provides this feedback, is consistent with your teaching style, and can be implemented easily in your online course.
  3. Describe the purpose of the activity to students, and then conduct it.
  4. After the CAT is completed, review the results, determine what the results tell you about your students’ learning, and then decide what changes to make, if any, in your online course.
  5. Let your students know what you learned from the CAT and how you will use this information. If you will be making any changes in the online course, please communicate these changes clearly to your students.


Example CAT Activities for Getting Just-in-Time feedback about Online Student Learning

  • Exit Ticket: Exit Tickets can help you assess student understanding of specific concepts. In an online course, you can create Exit Tickets for the end of a module, using Google forms, survey tools in Blackboard, or with outside tools & apps such as Poll Everywhere.
    Here are tips for using Poll Everywhere in an asynchronous online course.
  • KWL: KWL is "“What you Know, what you Want to know, and what you Learned”. The KWL CAT can be done easily in an online discussion; KWL items are posted by students per a specific timeline.
    At the end of the week (or module), you then can review the student postings, see what students have learned, and wrap-up the week (or module), by revisiting or reteaching important concepts.
  • Muddiest Point: After viewing an online lecture or completing a reading, have your students post what they didn't understand in an online discussion forum. You may set up the forum so that students don't see others' postings until they post. You also may encourage students to respond to each others' Muddiest Points, in order to clarify course concepts.
  • One-Sentence Summary: Have students prepare a one-sentence summary after completing a reading or viewing a video. The summaries may be posted to an online discussion forum or submitted to a survey. You can check these summaries for evidence of learning and understanding of the reading or video, and follow-up with the class, as needed.

Additional Resources:

    • Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993).

Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers

    • . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
    • Morris, T. (2007, updated 2017).

Using Classroom Assessment Techniques in Online Courses

    • .
    • Iowa State University Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT),

Classroom Assessment Techniques: Quick Strategies

    • .
    • MGH Institute of Health Professions,

Examples of Classroom Assessment Techniques