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Online Education - Assessment

Online Education

Online learning is similar in many ways to on-campus study; students still need to be tested at regular intervals throughout the program to check their understanding of the course material. For those new to online education, this process can be intimidating; however, there’s no reason to worry. Online institutions have developed a number of ways to assess students’ learning that still work 100% online.

How will I be assessed on an online course?

Here’s a quick overview of the main types of assessment you’re likely to encounter on an online course:


These are probably the method of assessment that students will have the most experience with; for each assignment, you’ll receive your topic, deadline and word count and will be required to produce a structured, reasoned argument within those boundaries. 

Discussion activities

Face-to-face, personal discussion between friends and colleagues is something that we all do every day, however an online academic discussion requires a different set of skills, and doesn’t always come as naturally to everyone. These activities will differ depending on the institution, but your tutor will generally start each discussion off with a question or topic for debate.  Students then need to research this and post their response to the task demonstrating their own knowledge and understanding which will include entering into debate with the ideas and views posted by fellow students.

Journal activities

Again, these are little different and students may not have encountered them before.  A journal entry is an ongoing update  in which there is an opportunity to reflect back on what has been learned during the period under review and its applicability going forward. Unlike other assignments, it is acceptable to use a subjective, personal style of writing in journal entries and refer to oneself in the first person.  This is actually the most suitable approach as the aim is to reflect on your own learning over the course of the module


Although they can be nerve-wracking, exams are a great way to test your learning. Online institutions that use exams to assess learning will often partner with exam centers to allow students to complete their test in a controlled environment. Other institutions may choose to allow students to complete their exams on their own personal computer, in a location of their choosing. Because tutors have no way to oversee a virtual exam or test, they are typically open-book and open-note.

How do online institutions prevent cheating?

Many people are concerned that online students can simply cheat their way to success by purchasing assignments or using revision materials during virtual examinations. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In order to gain a recognized qualification from an online course, the assessment method must also be above reproach.

Tutors and institutions work hard to ensure that cheating is almost impossible on an online course; they do this by making use of advanced plagiarism detection software. Every single submission is scrutinized electronically using this software, and then will also be subject to additional checks by the tutor.

Find an Online Program

Learn more about studying online:

The content of this Study Online guide has been written by University of Essex Online.

About University of Essex Online

University of Essex - Online

University of Essex Online is an online education institution offering online and part-time degree courses in subjects including business, management, marketing, law, criminology, psychology, public health, infection control and an MBA. Students are supported by their own dedicated Student Adviser and receive quality teaching from industry leaders and subject experts while studying within a cutting-edge virtual learning environment. To learn more about University of Essex Online, click here.

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Last update: 09 Mar 2018