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Monitoring student progress online

Malcolm Hewlett

How is monitoring student progress online different from checking for understanding and giving feedback in a classroom? What are some of the options to monitor and assess student learning online?

When everyone is in the classroom, it’s pretty easy to see who’s doing what and student progress is clear. However, when we move online, this can sometimes be more difficult to see. Let’s talk about some of the ways you can monitor students’ progress online to make sure all students are learning.

While the online learning environment differs from traditional ways of teaching, the underlying principles of monitoring progress are the same and using online learning assessment options can provide teachers with some key benefits.


As with all modes of learning, feedback is essential to online learning. Students need to know what you expect of them. Feedback, assessment and monitoring strategies should be an integral part of the learning experience, enabling learners to assess their progress. Through feedback, learners will be able to identify areas to review for increased understanding. They will also build information so they can revise set goals, and work out the next steps to take.

Much the same as a face-to-face interaction, feedback needs to be relevant to the task and be clear about what is required. Consider carefully the tone in which feedback is offered from a distance. To make feedback in online learning spaces more personal, you might share a voice recording as a comment (in a tool like Seesaw), or share a video response (using Flipgrid). You could also offer feedback in real time through a video conference or text.  Examples of quizzes such as Kahoot and Quizizz can be found on the internet.

LearnWell Digital allows you to give video feedback on assessed or non-assessed tasks. You can record directly into the feedback area of a course using the microphone and camera on any device. Options include a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone — there is no need for third party software. Students can access the recording in their ‘Tasks’ area of the course.


One critical aspect of monitoring progress is assessment and online tools can help you collect and use both formative and summative assessment data for more personalised learning pathways. Think about being flexible and responsive when designing online learning assessments so student’s study becomes more meaningful and engaging.

There are many software tools that allow teachers to generate engaging tasks. You can choose a tool that aligns to your student’s needs.

Here are some approaches to assessment that may help with monitoring student progress online:

1. Peer assessment

Constructive peer feedback helps students learn while providing the teacher with insights into progress.  Teachers should model what helpful feedback looks like, and then monitor the comments each student receives to stay informed of individual progress. Peer assessment is much easier than providing written feedback for every student. Feedback can be posted online via a discussion board or a blog where students post their work, or a synchronous tool (e.g. MS Teams, Google Meets or Zoom). These enable students to discuss each other’s work in real time.

2. Independent projects

Project- and inquiry-based assessments work well in online learning because they revolve around independent effort. They also produce a single, substantial piece of work that might be assessed across multiple criteria as opposed to just one or two.

A project could be based around a subject-based research topic, a problem-solving activity, a creative activity, or a mix of different learning opportunities. For example, students could research a real-world problem (such as those from the UN Sustainable Development Goals) and design a creative solution based on what they have learned. As with any inquiry, students would complete a reflection about their learning.

3. Jigsaw

Transform individuals projects into collaborative ones using the jigsaw approach. In The Jigsaw Classroom, students share projects but have different individual roles that contribute to the final product. This approach means a teacher can monitor research and knowledge development, as well as some of the NZC key competencies such as students’ teamwork and leadership abilities. Students could also self-assess their key competencies.

4. Self-assessment

A student’s reflection on their own learning reveals their understanding. It precisely locates gaps and difficulties that need intervention. Self-assessment is invaluable in online environments where you do not get to see student learning in action. Students need some tools to complete a self-assessment. Start with a questionnaire or a self-assessment rubric — this may develop into written, spoken or video self-reflections.

5. Learning journals

Journals, where students write regularly about their own learning, provide a teacher with a constant source of formative assessment. They also build students’ metacognitive abilities – their ability to ‘think about thinking’. Online learning journals can be as simple as a Word or Google document. However, some students prefer to keep video or audio recordings and upload these to the portal shared with their teacher.

6. Portfolios

Portfolios are a perfect assessment tool for distance education, with many schools using digital portfolios before COVID-19 hit. Most LMS systems allow for a designated portfolio space for each student. Alternatively, cloud software such as OneNote or Google Classroom are an option. Students can use this space to upload select pieces of work for assessment. The ongoing nature of a student portfolio means that it can be used as both a formative and summative assessment.

7. Video presentations and podcasts

Oral assessments are more effective online than they are in face-to-face learning. The lack of a visible audience reduces anxiety for some students, and the student has the opportunity to record the presentation as many times as they wish to get the outcome they desire.  The teacher can revisit the presentation as many times as necessary. Tech-savvy students might like to experiment with editing software. Podcasts are a substitute for standard oral presentations. Audacity is popular free podcast software that offers an open-source audio recording and editing tool. Students can also use the recording feature in LearnWell Digital to submit video or audio assessments.

8. Online Discussions

Unlike classroom discussion, student comments on online message boards can be read many times to make an informed assessment of learning. Students also have time to post detailed and considered responses that they would not ordinarily get in a live setting. Online discussion can be factored into a summative assessment when the criteria is clear. It could be used to assess a student’s content knowledge, written communication, and key competencies such as participation, collaboration etc.

LearnWell Digital has a class discussion feature called “Discuss this”. After each piece of content in a LearnWell Digital resource there is a clickable icon that opens a discussion input box. Discussion can be started by the teacher or a student. Everyone in the class can see what comments have been added to the discussion. This allows the ‘reluctant’ student to gain some prior knowledge before joining the discussion or just for confirmation of their own thinking. These discussions remain in the course so that teacher or student can return to them at any time.

Effective solutions for feedback and assessment

Online learning presents many options teachers can use for monitoring and assessing students’ understanding and competencies. Effective, time efficient options assist both the student and the teacher in assessing progress and setting goals. To find out more about the ways that LearnWell Digital can assist you and your learners in and outside the classroom, contact us.

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