What assessment tools are available?

This section provides an overview on delivering and managing your course assessments using pedagogical best practices with technologies supported by the Division of Information Technology (DOIT) and the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL).

Need some more inspiration for mapping out your course assessment strategy? Visit the Guide on Course Design for guidance and resources on how to plan and design your course assessments based on your overall course learning outcomes.

Common assessment tools at NIU

There are several Duke-supported technology tools that can be used to create, manage, and administer an assessment. The table below outlines the most common tools available for five primary assessment types: Writing assignments, technical assignments, peer evaluation, tests and quizzes, and portfolios.

Writing Assignments Technical Assignments Surveys & Polls Portfolios Tests & Quizzes
Blackboard Assignment Tool X X
Blackboard Tests & Quizzes Tool X
Blackboard Survey Tool X
Blackboard Portfolio Tool X
Qualtrics X

Using Blackboard Assignment Tool

Take advantage of the grading options of Blackboard assignments. The Assignments tool allows instructors to create, distribute, collect, and grade online assignments. Assignments may be submitted via file upload or in-line using the Rich Text Editor, depending on your preference. Grades in Blackboard assignments are sent directly to the Gradebook. You can also make written and audio comments on student work when grading. The Assignments tool in Blackboard offers several additional grading options:

  • Writing assignments can be graded and then returned for resubmission.
  • Assignments can be set up as group submissions.
  • Assignments can include a rubric that outlines your evaluation criteria.
  • Students can peer review assignments.

Using Blackboard Tests and Quizzes Tool

Vary question types in Blackboard Tests and Quizzes. The Tests and Quizzes tool in Blackboard offers a variety of question types for your assessment. For more information detailing the advantages and disadvantages of the most common question types, check out these Best Practices for Designing and Grading Assessments (University of Michigan).

Question Types Description
Multiple Choice A multiple choice question in an assessment provides pre-written choices from which the student will select.
Multiple Answer Multiple Answer questions allow students to choose more than one answer. Use this type of question when more than one answer is correct.
Matching This question type allows the student to create a numbered list of choices and a corresponding drop-down list of matches.
Ordering Students select the correct order of a series of items. For example, you can give students a list of historical events and ask them to place these events in chronological order.
Either/Or Students are presented with a statement and asked to respond from two-choice answers: Yes/No, Agree/Disagree, etc. 
True/False Students choose true or false in response to a statement question.
Short Answer/Essay This question type presents students with a question followed by a text box in which they enter the answer. This type of question must be manually graded.
Fill-in-the-Blank This question type presents students with a question followed by a text box in which they enter the answer; each student’s answer is compared to a list of allowed answers.
Calculated Numeric This question type presents students with a question followed by a text box in which they enter a numeric answer; each student’s answer is compared to a list of allowed answers.
Calculated Formula  Question A calculated question calculates new answers for every test, based on variables whose value changes each time. The answer is based on a formula using those variables.
Hot Spot This question type presents an image and students identify a specific area of that image as their answer.

Using Blackboard Survey Tool

The Survey tool is useful for polling, and for conducting evaluations and random checks of knowledge. Surveys are a particularly useful means of gathering information from students, enabling faculty to get valuable feedback regarding the progress of a specific course activity or of the course in general. Surveys function in the same way as do Tests and offer most of the same options. The important distinctions between the two are that survey questions are not assigned any point values, cannot be graded, and all feedback is anonymous and aggregated (not individual).

Using Blackboard Portfolio Tool

The Portfolio tool in Blackboard offers a means to demonstrate formative and/or summative progress and achievement. Students can start with an empty portfolio, or faculty and programs can request a template be created to provide students with an initial structure. In Blackboard, students can build their Portfolio with text, documentations, presentations, images, videos, and many other types of files or multimedia. The artifacts can be added directly to a portfolio, or converted from a previous assignment submission. The latter can even include the grade, rubric, or feedback provided by the faculty, at the student's discretion. Learn more about how students create portfolios and add content.

Using Qualtrics

Survey students to learn more about them. Qualtrics is a survey tool that you can use to poll students throughout the semester. Common goals for these surveys include assessing students’ previous knowledge, evaluating the course at midterms, and learning about their skills for group formation. 

Incorporate peer evaluation in assessments. Peer evaluation gives students an opportunity to learn how to critically reflect and provide constructive feedback. Here are some tips for facilitating peer evaluation for student work: 

  • Use a feedback rubric to give reviewers structure and consistency in the review process.
  • Have students review others’ work anonymously to minimize any potential bias.
  • Remind students that peer review should be appropriate, constructive, kind, and specific. 

Creative Commons License

Flexible Teaching guides were developed by Duke Learning Innovation and adapted for NIU by the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. They are shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


Didn’t find what you were looking for? Need more information? Contact the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) with your feedback and questions about this resource.

Workshops & Support

CITL staff are available to answer your questions about Flexible Teaching. Give us a call or text 815-797-2477 or email citl@niu.edu for assistance. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our staff.

View CITL upcoming events to view available upcoming workshops offered or to register.

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