Describe How Your Online Activities Will Be Graded

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, “Grading criteria for each learning activity is described (e.g. rubrics).”

By: Roslyn Miller, Instructional Designer, CDL

At any given time in a course, students should know what they are expected to be doing, how their work will be graded, and how they are progressing (Wiliam, 2007). When the grading criteria for activities are clearly described, students can better understand what is expected, focus on their task, and self-assess and revise their work to improve their success. When students don’t know what is expected of them or how their work will be graded, you the instructor will receive work that varies widely in quality and meeting your expectations. Not to mention, you may not have the time to provide corrective feedback to each student so they can improve their efforts in the current or future assignments. 

A rubric can be designed and used to communicate your expectations for student work and efficiently provide individual corrective feedback. A rubric is a set of criteria on which student work is rated, with each criterion having descriptors for each rating level. While grading criteria for every learning activity should be clearly described in some way, rubrics can be an especially useful tool for almost any type of task (e.g. writing, presenting, problem-solving, projects, performance). In addition to benefiting students by describing expectations, supporting self-assessment, and providing substantive feedback, rubrics benefit instructors also. Well-designed rubrics can:

  • Support alignment of assessments with learning objectives and activities
  • Measure learning outcomes separately
  • Foster efficient grading and feedback
  • Foster accuracy and reliability of grading
  • Allow for other evaluators to grade student work. 
  • Be used in multiple assignments and groups

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

  • Articulate grading criteria to bring out what students need to be able to demonstrate in the particular assignment. These criteria may measure process, form, accuracy, new knowledge, or impact (Hess, 2018), depending on the learning objective and task. 
  • The rubric tool in Webcourses@UCF can be used to articulate these criteria for students and graders.
  • Select the number of rating levels you want to distinguish (between two and five), and for each criterion describe the quality/quantity of student work for each rating level. Assign points to performance levels to yield appropriate scores. For example, the criteria of “APA style” could have three levels; Excellent (no APA errors) at 10 points, Meets Expectations (1-2 APA errors) at 7-9 points, and Below Expectations (more than 2 APA errors) at 5 points.The rubric tool in Webcourses can be used to articulate these levels for students and graders, and can be added to an assignment or discussion.
  • Grading criteria and performance level descriptors should efficiently provide students substantive feedback increasing student learning, but provide additional feedback as needed.
  • Encourage students to use the criteria and performance levels to self-assess and improve the quality of their work.
  • Allow/encourage/require revision of student work when feasible.

What Does This Look like in a Real Online Course?

Example 1: Evolution Review Rubric, Sandra Wheeler, ANT2511.
Example 2: Debate Assignment Rubric, Brigitte Kovacevich, ANT3145.


Canvas Tutorial Video Series: Rubrics Overview for Instructors


Hess, K. (2018). A Local Assessment Toolkit to Promote Deeper Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Wiliam, D. (2007). Keeping Learning on Track: Classroom Assessment and the Regulation of Learning. In Frank K. Lester, Jr. (Ed.) Second Handbook of Research on Mathematics Teaching and Learning pp 1053-98. Charlotte, NC: Information Age; Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

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