Assessing student learning

Use the Virtual Campus (Brightspace) to ensure a smooth process for submitting student assignments, implementing quizzes and providing feedback.

Things to keep in mind

Ideas for student assessment

There are many possibilities for alternate students assessment online, such as presentations, student-created videos, and online discussions. 

Learn more about student assessment

Collecting assignments online

Set up a Brightspace assignment for students to submit their works. Students can submit links to their online presentations, attach files, and also view any provided feedback through this tool.

Learn more

Grading and feedback

Use the Brightspace gradebook to organize, record and communicate grades to students. The Gradebook can also be used to calculate the final grades.

Provide feedback to students individually through the Assignment tool, gradebook, or email. You can also use the discussion board to provide feedback to the entire class.

Learn more about grading and feedback

Using online quizzes

The Virtual Campus can be used to implement quizzes online including multiple questions, fill in the blank, written responses and more.

Learn more about online quizzes

Academic integrity and online learning

Academic integrity is a commitment to, and the demonstration of, honest and responsible scholarship. Support student learning in an online environment while educating them about maintaining academic integrity through utilizing D2L tools. 

Learn more about academic integrity and online learning

Academic regulation I-9

We also recommend that you consult the University of Ottawa's Academic Regulation I-9 on the evaluation of student learning.

Read the Academic regulation I-9

Alternative online assessments

There are many online alternative student assessment possibilities, such as presentations, student-created videos, and online discussions. 

Case studies

A case study presents students with a real-life or hypothetical scenario specific to the discipline and potentially what students might face in their careers. Case studies can be multidisciplinary and provide opportunities for students to apply concepts, research and evaluate other sources of information, work in groups, and present their ideas. Cases can be simple and short to long and complex. 

A quality case study has the following characteristics: 

  • there is no one clear answer or solution 
  • has sufficient information to promote a thorough analysis 
  • requires the student to think critically and analytically to recommend potential solutions 

Assessment strategies for online case studies 

  • Post the case study in Brightspace, and each student submits their response in the Assignment tool. 
  • Present the case study in the Virtual Campus and then have students work in groups using the discussion board. Individual students can be assessed through their discussion contributions and submitted assignments. Students could also complete the case as groups and submit a group assignment. 
  • Use the Virtual campus quiz feature to create case-based questions for students to answer. 



A podcast is an audio narrative that uses audio recording to capture student self-expression and analytical skills in creative ways. A podcast is not a recording of a student reading a traditional paper. This assignment can be done individually (a voice memo) or collaboratively (conducting interviews).  

What to consider: 

  • Have students listen to sample podcasts and share their thoughts in the discussion board 
  • Keep it simple, have students use their phones to record a 3-5 minute podcast. 
  • Require students to write a script they will submit alongside their audio file.  
  • Use a rubric to grade their final podcast assignment 


Assignment Design  

Rubric ideas 

Critical reflection

A critical reflection paper combines critical and reflective thinking skills to articulate transformative learning supported by course learning materials and lived experiences. A critical reflection is not a summary of reading but rather an opportunity for students to internalize and evaluate significant shifts in perspective that require openness and curiosity.    

What to consider 

  • Provide examples and non-examples of critical reflection papers for students to read  
  • Use the discussion board to encourage conversation and questions about the papers 
  • Remind students to avoid thinking of this assignment as a diary entry  
  • Have students submit their critical reflection assignment via the Assignment tool 


Assignment Design  

Assignment Templates 

Rubric ideas 

Concept maps

A concept map is a visual organization and representation of how different concepts or ideas are intertwined and connected. It is a visual teaching tool to organize and structure knowledge to deepen understanding and comprehension. Concept maps can also be used to assess students’ knowledge and comprehension of abstract and complex concepts.  

What to consider: 

  • It could be an individual assignment or a collaborative group assignment.  
  • Students could draw concept maps using pens and paper or create maps digitally. 
  • Get students to write a short paragraph explaining the concept map they’ve created or reflecting on the process.  
  • Provide specific instructions and expectations, such as a grading rubric for this assignment.  


Digital concept mapping tools: 

Using concept maps for assessment: 


Read about it:

Student-created Infographics

An infographic is a visual representation of information, including charts, diagrams, pictures and icons that are used with text and color to convey that information in a way that makes it easy for viewers to understand. When students create infographics, it requires them to analyze information, select the most salient content, and decide how to convey it to others. The infographic can be submitted alone or with a short written paper in which the student outlines their decision-making process.

Finished assignments can be posted to a discussion board or used in an online student presentation.

Examples of student-created infographics:

Annotated bibliography

An annotated bibliography assignment requires students to summarize the most salient literature on a course topic, making it a good choice for learning one topic in depth. Students develop skills in locating relevant literature, analyzing the quality of articles, understanding the arguments being made, and summarizing them in a brief description.

Example assignment guidelines:

News article critique

Critiquing a current news article can be a meaningful learning experience as news articles are relevant and provide an opportunity for critical analysis. Students will need to critique a selected news article or find one based on specific criteria. This type of assignment can assess students’ ability to identify credible news sources, research and provide other sources of supporting or contradicting information, express and justify their positions, and communicate their ideas.

What to consider

  • Provide examples of a news article critique and use the discussion board to discuss the elements of a good critique and news source. - Post a rubric or assessment criteria to help guide student's work
  • Break the class into small discussion groups to provide each other with peer feedback
  • Use the Assignment tool for students to submit their assignment
  • Give students the option of using media to complete their assignment (such as recording a video or creating an infographic)

Guiding Questions: From Passive to Active Learning

The instructor develops guiding questions to help students focus on their learning from an assignment. This technique actively engages students as they read, watch, and/or listen toward an identified goal (what you want them to know).

What to consider

  • Using an assignment already planned or identified in the course outline, select an article, chapter, blog, or other documents, post, youtube, video etc., for students to actively read and/or watch.
  • The assignment will be aligned with the course learning outcomes; the difference is if it were planned as an in-class assignment, it would be adapted to an online class.
  • Develop focused, guiding questions related to the assignment.
  • Students will use the guiding questions to work on the assignment.
  • Students can submit the assignment in the Assignment tool and graded.


McCall, B. (2016). Notes on McKeachie’s Teaching Tips.

McKeachie, W. & Svinicki, M. (2013). McKeachie’s Teaching Tips (14th Ed.). Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Academic Integrity

Support student learning in an online environment while educating them about maintaining academic integrity though utilizing Brightspace tools.

Influencing Factor


Student lack of knowledge about academic integrity.

  • Provide examples of proper academic work, discuss common academic misconduct examples. 
  • Communicate expectations early and provide opportunities to discuss with students. 
  • Create a Brightspace FAQ discussion for students to ask questions. 
  • Provide opportunities for students to submit assignment drafts for feedback. 

Lack of opportunity for the instructor to form in-class relationships with students.

Get to know students written work through the discussion board and other frequent small stakes assessments.

Student anxiety about technology.

Provide opportunities for students to learn the technology to reduce their anxiety before a test or project is due, such as a practice quiz that has no grades association.

Time management for students.

Time management for students in online courses is challenging. Communicate expectations early, set due dates and provide opportunities for feedback.

Build community.

  • Create activities that have students engage with each other and you to build a sense of a supportive community 
  • Encourage students to talk about academic integrity through the discussion board.

Nature of assessments.

  • Use diverse assessment types to provide a variety of opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning. 
  • Use frequent short low-stakes assignments and provide timely feedback. 

Brightspace Strategies

Virtual Campus (Brightspace) quizzes has a few options to help mitigate academic misconduct including the ability to randomize the questions each student receives, randomize the answer order for each question, set a time limit for quiz completion, and display 1 question at a time with no backtracking.

  1. Randomize questions for each student using the question library. For example, 20 questions for each student can be randomly selected from a library of 50 questions, giving each student a different set of questions. 
  2. Use the randomize answer order for each question. Even though the answers options will be the same for all students, the order will be different. 
  3. Show 1 question at a time and prevent moving backwards through the questions. This option requires students to answer a question before moving to the next one. 
  4. Set a tight time limit which will require students to focus and work through the quiz relatively quickly. 
  5. Make tests available for limited time period, requiring all students to complete the test at the same time 
  6. Hide all submission view options, so students do not see the questions and their responses. You can always release the quiz, student results, and correct answers at a later date. 
  7. Show the clock to help keep students on time. 
  8. Only allow 1 attempt. 
  9. Disable right click to prevent quick copy/paste. 

To learn more about Brightsoace Quizzes online, visit Best Practices: The Quiz Tool or see those videos

Tips for online quizzes: 

  1. Create a practice quiz with the same settings as the actual quiz to provide an opportunity for students to experience the technology and process. This will help reduce their anxiety about seeing the technology for the first time as a graded test. 
  2. Have a back-up plan as some students might experience technology or internet troubles. Back-up plans include having students write a paper or complete another project. You can also release the quiz again or a different quiz to select students using the Special Access option.
  3. Use frequent low-stakes quizzes.
  4. When creating a new quiz, preview the test to identify any errors
  5. Explicitly state academic integrity expectations, such as graded tests must be done individually.
  6. When students submit the quiz limit the information provided back to them (eg. Do not show submitted questions and answers)

Virtual Campus Class Progress 

In your Brightspace course, under the main menu bar, you will find Class Progress. Class Progress is a feature that shows you student activity in your course such as content viewed, discussion posts, assignment submission and Virtual Campus login history. 

Adapted from the document found on the University of Calgary's Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning website : Taylor Institute for Teaching and learning