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The Essentials of Assessment and Evaluation in Nursing Distance Learning

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

With the transition to online modes of teaching and learning during the pandemic come new challenges to assessment and evaluation practices, leaving many scrambling to develop quick answers to mounting problems. While assessment and evaluation in distance learning may be new for some, many have employed evidence-based practices for years; therefore, tested educators should seek established guidance when necessary.

So let’s dive in and explore some standards that must be maintained. We are going to be a bit to the point with this, as our focus is really to hone in on the foundation, because without solid groundwork the rest falls apart.

The essentials that need to be recognized, retained, and applied:

Expectations for students must be clearly defined, resulting in performance that is defensible and justifiable. Procedures to be used need to be clearly explained, with consequences (both gained and lost) delineated (i.e. each multiple-choice item answered correctly yields 2 points gained, while each item answered incorrectly loses the chance to gain 2 points). While that breakdown may seem overly simplified and perhaps able to be withheld, we argue it necessary to include, as this concept can be challenged to withstand in educational environments that lack professional consensus. Remember, student-centered learning is collaborative. It is just as important for the educator to develop an ethical, useful, and accurate assessment and evaluation process, as it is for the student to validly engage. Any desperate ideas to "trick" students to explore personal worries of cheating should be thrown out! Procedures need to be documented, promoting consistency in all stakeholders, where no one is left “making it up” as they go, rather fair and just practices are agreed upon and maintained. After all, our mutual goal rests in confidence in the process, right? All stakeholders can typically agree on the need to feel confident that the experience was meaningful, that no one’s time or efforts were wasted, and that the outcomes expected were achieved. Sound student evaluation is based on valid and reliable approaches, so get out there and pick the minds of your peers, read up on distance learning assessment and evaluation, and look for professional guidance or training if you feel that you need it. We aren’t always experts of everything, and that’s okay, that’s why we have teams. Check out what we shared on total quality improvement models, such as Quality Matters, for effective evaluation of online educational experiences.

Okay, now that we've covered that, let’s consider how to go about exploring what students are learning when there’s space between:

As always, summative and formative feedback is crucial. We still need to assess understanding and provide meaningful responses, but the paths we take will look different than they did in the classroom. While certainly not novel to the online classroom, diversity in communities of learners demands diversified routes to exploring understanding. Select a few tools to implement and foster an open line of communication to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Since this is new for some expect kinks, and be sure to weave in many times for reflection. If something isn’t working as hoped, rework it. There are already 101 new things happening in your life and each of the student’s lives, so sticking to a few solid methods and establishing some routine will be much appreciated. Be sure to regularly check-in and consider what is working and what simply is not.

As we have echoed many times before, we deeply believe that it is within the educator’s role to work to ensure that students have access to a learning environment that supports them to engage in their best work. How do we accomplish this? Paying attention. Caring about the details. Listening to what is being asked for, along with what isn’t. Recognizing bias at the door and analyzing the true purpose of the evaluation. We have lots of resources to share with you in our blog, along with some downloadable content accessible through Member Downloads. If you are looking to engage in continued dialogue surrounding this topic, look to connect with others to brainstorm solutions to these latest trials. With a little tweak in attitude and approach, comes a whole lot of growth in perspective. And remember, students don’t have to be graded to bring their best. Our purpose is not to stand in their way, but to foster that love of learning that keeps igniting long after the course is over!

Recommended blog reading for specific tools and strategies for success in distance learning assessment and evaluation:


Assessment and Evaluation in Nursing Education: A Collection of Considerations to Foster Success


Nursing Education Amidst COVID19: Establishing an Organized YOU


Anxiety in Nursing Education and Staff Development


Application of Adult Learning Theory in Nursing Education and Staff Development


Social Presence in Nursing Distance Learning


Foster Connection: Establishing Collaborative Spaces in Nursing Education


Assessment and Evaluation in Nursing Education: The Basics from Accreditation to Examination


Models to Promote and Evaluate Success in Nursing Education Environments


Test Blueprints Establish Foundational Plans for Examinations in Nursing Education


Context-Dependent Item Sets in Nursing Education


Exploring the Use of Written Assignment in Nursing Education


Gamification in Nursing Education


Get Creative! Glogster Posters for Nursing Education and Staff Development


Get Creative! Animoto Videos for Nursing Education and Staff Development


Get Creative! Powtoon for Nursing Education and Staff Development


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