Assessment of Student Learning During a Global Pandemic

Released September 2020 

As institutions planned for a fall term full of uncertainty, AIR was interested to learn about assessment of student learning in Spring 2020 given the sudden changes that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

A survey of the AIR community highlighted myriad approaches to assessment in spring. The same number of respondents (42%) agreed and disagreed with the statement that “assessment accurately measured student learning,” which further emphasized the unknown of our current reality.  

Survey respondents reported that, on average, 29% of the students at their institutions had taken online courses prior to the pandemic. As such, teaching and learning experiences changed significantly for most people, and spring assessment of student learning reflected new, unexpected circumstances. 

When asked about possible differences in how their units plan to engage instructors in assessment of student learning in Fall 2020, respondents noted that training is needed for faculty related to technology, the pedagogy of online learning, and the transition of course content to the virtual environment. Other changes addressed the form of assessment (mode of delivery) and the ways in which faculty are engaged in the assessment process. Additional topics included restructuring learning outcomes and adapting how assessment data are used and handled in the current reality. 

When asked how assessment of online learning can be improved, respondents prioritized understanding the student experience. They were especially eager to explore the impact of the transition to the online classroom environment on students. Other topics of interest to data professionals included the importance of engagement as a key component of learning, students’ understanding that learning is more valuable than grades, and exploration of the faculty experience.

Survey details: AIR was interested to understand the how institutions assessed student learning in Spring 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. In June-July 2020, a survey was administered to 200 individuals; 43 people responded (22%).