Online quizzes and formative assessment

There has been a fair amount of research done since the late 1990s around formative assessment and it has become apparent that the use of formative assessment enhances students’ learning experience (Nicol, 2009) whilst also making a significant contribution to the improvement of retention rates (Yorke, 2005. Yorke & Longden, 2004. Tinto, 1993).

Using formative assessment can help manage student expectations, particularly in their first year (Yorke, 2005). This is important, as students new to higher education can find it difficult to get to grips with the standard of academic rigour that is expected of them.  If formative assessment is delivered from the start of their studies and at regular intervals, students are more likely to develop a self-regulatory approach to their studies (Nicol,2009) and the assessment can help identify areas of weakness for both the student and the tutor. Once identified, the matter can be rectified quickly before the student becomes discouraged. They will feel supported if they are signposted to resources which will give them appropriate help and guidance. This move to a more constructivist approach to learning is further evidenced by Whitelock, (2007) and Laurillard (2002).

Using technology enhanced learning to deliver formative assessment can be a useful and re-usable resource. Moodle has an in-built ‘quizzes’ tool capable of building very sophisticated assessments. There will be articles in future ASTI newsletters to give more information and support on quiz building for formative assessment.

Although quiz authors may find that building good quality formative quizzes in Moodle takes time, it will be an investment, as once created the quizzes can be used across different modules, be reused and also be added to over time.
Moodle quizzes allow for immediate feedback after each question, which has found to be effective in increasing learner engagement, evidenced by Peat & Franklin, (2002) in their research of students undertaking regular online formative assessment.
Feedback is often a contentious issue in the National Student Survey (NSS) and any universities who score well in the majority of areas can often get lower scores for feedback, as students have been shown to value good feedback given in a timely manner. The link below gives an overall view of the survey questions for 2015, and both assessment and feedback get lower marks than other areas fairly consistently across the board. This shows the importance students put on receiving good feedback as quickly as possible:,,1574395,00.html

Moodle quizzes can be used to create a diagnostic assessment which students can take during induction, and this can give both the student and tutor an idea of the student’s current level of knowledge, and helps them identify any areas where improvement or extra help is needed.
Weekly formative quizzes can help students reflect on, and revise, the work they have covered in lectures and tutorials. Quizzes can be created to assess students’ knowledge of different topics across a module, therefore aiding them in making connections across those different areas. This is known as Synoptic assessment and can encourage deeper learning across a given subject.


Nicol, D. (2009).  Assessment for learner self-regulation: enhancing achievement in the first year using learning technologies, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34:3, 335-352.

Yorke, M. (2005).  Increasing the chances of student success.  In improving student learning 12: Diversity and inclusivity, ed. C. Rust, 35-52.  Oxford: Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development.

Yorke, M., and B. Longden.  (2004).  Retention and student success in higher education.  London: SRHE and Open University Press

Tinto, V.  (1993).  Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition.  Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press

Whitelock, D. (2007). Computer assisted formative assessment: Supporting students to become more reflective learners.  In proceedings of the 8th. International conference on computer based learning in science, CBLIS 2007, 30 June-6 July 2007 (pp. 492-503)

Laurillard, D. (2002). Rethinking university teaching.  A conversational framework for the effective use of learning technologies.  London: Routledge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *