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C2C Digital Magazine (Spring / Summer 2020)

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Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) Activities and Assessments for Better Learning Experiences

By Yu-Ping Hsu, Western Illinois University

The little things make the difference between a good learning product and a great one.  It’s important to thoughtfully design learning activities and assessments in online instruction.  Learning how to design effective and enjoyable learning assessment by creating the various learning activities is very useful.  How do you choose the most appropriate and effective type of learning activities? What do you want to measure?  These can change the online instruction from one that's simply tolerated into one that's valuable.  

Learning Assessments

The role of assessment in learning has moved to the foreground of our thinking about assessment, and a parallel shift has occurred towards the conceptualization of assessment as the exercise of professional evaluations.  Assessment not only evaluates learning outcomes but also improves learning interactions.  Assessment, learning and evaluations have thus become central themes in learning. Developing the understanding of learning assessment design can help us understand learners’ experiences (Crisp, 2012).  

TeachThought is one organization that supports K-12 teaching and learning through professional development, recourse curation, curriculum development workshops, and podcast publishing. It has been popular in K-12 education.  According to Gronlund (1998) and the TechThought’s findings, there are six common types of assessments for learning.  Six types of assessments include diagnostic assessment (pre-assessment), formative assessment, summative assessment, norm-referenced assessment, criterion-referenced assessment and interim/benchmark assessment. You can mix different types of assessments in order to more accurately understand learner's experiences with respect to achieving learning outcomes. These are shown in Figure 1.  

Figure 1.  Assessment Types 

What are Technology-Enhanced Items (TEIs)?

Technology-enhanced Items (TEIs) are not new types of assessments since the technology involved in deploying these varied types of assessments has been rapidly developing.  Many learning management systems have built-in features for creating TEIs in lesson modules.  When building meaningful assessments for learners, it is essential to consider the implementation of TEIs.  These assessment items are computer-delivered questions that allow learners to express their knowledge through a variety of formats, including (but not limited to) graphing a word problem, labeling a map or diagram, completing complex algebraic equations, dragging images to proper locations,  selecting words to be capitalized, filling out a table of matching ideas/concepts, and filling in the blanks or identifying keywords/phrases in a literary passage (Whitelock, 2011). TEIs provide countless benefits to students and educators, but oftentimes educators don’t know where to start when building assessments featuring TEIs.

Measure Progress is a pioneer in standards-based assessments and has provide assessment services for many states and companies since 1983. When schools addressed the gap between instructional strategies and the high expectations of the standards measured by the tests from districts, schools, students, and parents, Measured Progress started offered interactive assessment items which are called TEIs in the formative content recourses.  Educators can use the TEIs to yield better information about students’ critical thinking, persuasive writing, and problem-solving skills.  With these results, educators can spend more time focusing on the specific areas where instructional support is needed for students.  There are seven common types of TEI interactive items from Measured Progress.  Most of these TEIs can be used across different subjects.  These types of interactive items may be seen in Figure 2.  

Figure 2.  TEI Interaction Types 

What are Learning Activities?

You may be familiar with theories of "learning styles," and perhaps have applied these ideas in your face-to-face classroom.  An example of the learning style concept would be the idea that a visual/verbal learner prefers to read information, while a visual/non-verbal learner might learn best when there are graphics and pictures to supplements the text.  Research has shown that a rigid concept of learners being locked into a specific way of learning is not really borne out by the evidence so it may be better to think of designing a course with diverse approaches that may have a greater appeal to some learners and at the same time may stretch others to look at things from a fresh vantage point. This “learning activities” approach can be used for learning assessments (Poole, 2002; Smart & Csapo, 2007).    

In thinking about learning activities in the digital world, instructors should be alert to the possibilities for fresh approaches to learning that are inherent in some of these tools, e.g., Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, iSpring Suite, Atomi, and Udutu.  What type of learning activities might be designed for fulfill learning objectives in ways that are perhaps more engaging and, ultimately, how might learners produce even deeper learning than that result from the traditional assignments of term papers and exams?

How to Design Learning Activities

Digital learning doesn't have to be limited to online learning, video lectures, quizzes, and discussions.  The Illinois Online Network provides the Online Teaching Activity Index.  The index includes 49 activities in Table 1 that you can use in either online or hybrid courses.  Each activity includes a description, examples, appropriate content categories, goals and objectives, prerequisite knowledge, material and resources, lesson procedures and so forth. 

Instructional technology can be used in an innovative way to engage learners in active learning.  John Dewey’s theories argued for the need for learners to engage directly with their environment and learn from their experiences.  He saw how learners learn best when they interacted with their environments and were actively involved with the school curriculum.  When learners engaged in hands-on activities, they learned deeply from their experiences.  Take Dewey’s theory of learning by doing into account:  Implementing these learning activity designs can allow learners to gain better learning experiences. Educators can utilize these activities by using different technologies or applications, e.g., Edcite, Edulastic, and EDpuzzle in their online instruction. 

Forty-Nine Online Teaching Activities

Click on any of the following to experience the various resources.  (Table 1) 

Table 1
Forty-Nine Online Teaching Activities are from Illinois Online Network

·   Art Projects

·   Debate

·   Kinesthetics

·   KWL

·   Reflections

·   Article Critiques

·   Discussion Question Activities

·   Group Problem Solving

·   Laboratory Experiments

·   Review (Play, Movie, Audio, Book, etc.)

·   Audio Recordings (Includes Podcasting)

·   Document Analysis

·   Group Reports

·   Learning Contracts

·   Role Playing

·   Blogging

·   Drill and Practice

·   Hypothetical Situations

·   Oral Reports

·   Scavenger Hunt

·   Brainstorming

·   Essays

·   Ice Breakers

·   Peer Editing / Review

·   Simulations

·   Case Briefs

·   Fieldwork (Includes Apprenticeship)

·   Inductive Reasoning

·   Portfolios

·   Socratic Dialogue

·   Case Studies & Case-Based Instruction

·   Fishbowl

·   Interviews

·   Q & A (Students pose questions)

·   Presentations

·   Concept Mapping

·   Gaming

·   Jigsaw

·   Procedural Demonstration (Perform a given action)

·   Webquest or Wikis

·   Literature Review

·   Group Debugging

·   Journaling

·   Quizzing

·   Web designer lorem ipsum generator


Crisp, G. T. (2012). Integrative assessment: reframing assessment practice for current and future learning. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 37(1), 33-43.

Gronlund, N. E. (1998). Assessment of student achievement. Needham Heights, MA:  Allyn & Bacon Publishing

Illinois Online Network. (2020). Online Activities Tools.

Poole, G. (2002). Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. 

Seven Common Types of Technology-enhanced Items (TEIs) [Online image]. (2015). Measured Progress.

Six Types of Assessment for Learning from McGraw Hill Education [Online image]. (2019). teachthought.

Smart, K. L., & Csapo, N. (2007). Learning by doing: Engaging students through learner-centered activities. Business Communication Quarterly, 70(4), 451-457.

Whitelock, D. (2011). Activating assessment for learning: are we on the way with web 2.0. In Web 2.0-based e-learning: Applying social informatics for tertiary teaching (pp. 319-342). IGI Global.

About the Author

Dr. Yu-Ping Hsu is an assistant professor of the IDT program in the Department of Engineering Technology at WIU.  She teaches courses in graphic applications, multimedia instructional design and development, performance technology, and internet resources for teaching and training. 

She was an NNg certified user experience designer at Agile Technology Solutions, University of Kansas, for 3+ years. Her research interest is in the area of user interaction design approaches to learning that emphasize multimedia, collaboration, emotional responses, information visualization, universal design, and accessibility design.  She is a multidisciplinary designer.    
Her email is  

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