Align Module Objectives with Assessments

Quality Review Showcase

The Quality and High Quality online course reviews explore components proven to be best practices in online course design. This post showcases Quality item, “Module objectives describe outcomes that are aligned with learning activities and assessments.”

The design of the activities and assessments in a course module should be informed by the answer to the question, What should students be able to do upon completion of this module? Visit a previous entry, Measurable Module Objectives, for more about developing answers to that question.

It is important that students are able to demonstrate they have met the objectives you have articulated. They demonstrate this via the activities in the course, namely in the assessments (graded activities). Objectives and assessments should align – meaning that the assessments are designed in a way that allows the student to demonstrate that they have met the particular objective.

For example, imagine the objective: “Describe the process of photosynthesis,” with the only assessment being a multiple-choice question. Even if students choose the correct answer from the list of possible answers, they still may not be able to describe the photosynthesis process in a satisfactory manner. There are two ways to resolve this: (1) Modify the objective (for instance, instead of “Describe”, choose another action like “Identify elements of the photosynthesis process”) or (2) Modify the assessment (for instance, change the question from multiple-choice to a short-answer so they have to actually describe the process in their own words).

What Are Some Ways Your Online Course Can Be Designed to Meet This Standard?

  • If you have existing module objectives, review them. For each objective, is there at least one activity in which the student can demonstrate that they have achieved it? If not, consider creating a new activity or modifying an existing one. You also might want to re-think the objective in the first place.
  • Ask your students to give you feedback on how well the assessments and objectives relate. A one-question anonymous survey could be incorporated; “How well did the graded activities give you the ability to demonstrate that you have met the objectives?”
  • Use the Module Introduction page available within the Webcourses@UCF Templater tool that includes a pre-built area for showcasing the alignment between objectives and assessments.
  • Introduce each assessment with the corresponding objective it supports.

What Does This Look Like in a Real Online Course?

Example 1: Josh Colwell, PHY1038 (Physics of Energy, Climate Change, and the Environment). This matrix showing the module objectives and their alignment with module content and activities is in the Module Introduction template in the Webcourses@UCF Templater tool.

Example 2. Sandra Wheeler, ANT4027 (Mummies: Life after Death). This is an excerpt from the Displaying the Dead graded discussion, in which she articulates which learning objectives this assessment corresponds to.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand ethical issues relating to the display of human remains
  • Explain various positions regarding public display within and outside of museum/educational contexts
  • Propose scenarios wherein mummies should not be on public display

For this graded Discussion, you will review the materials and readings presented in Module 5 on the ethics of display of human remains, particularly the Body in the Museum reading, and answer the questions based on the posted chapter below. To make it easier to communicate with one another, I have placed you into small groups for your discussions. As this is a Discussion, you must post and then respond to at least one other student to earn the full points for this assignment.

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