Authentic Assessments

An authentic assessment evaluates if students can successfully transfer the knowledge and skills gained in their course into the real-world. This approach towards assessment creates a richer, more relevant student experience than traditional assessments like tests or exams and offers a compelling strategy towards ensuring academic integrity.


Good assessment design not only gives students an opportunity to demonstrate competencies in a meaningful context, it also removes the temptation and ability to cheat — making it a better investment than trying to chase down cheaters after the fact.



The key to executing an authentic assessment in an online course is thoughtful design. The tasks in an assessment have to be aligned to the content of the course, structured in a way that supports fairness and measurability and those interactions need to be intuitive enough that the students’ brain power can be focused on the behaviors that are being assessed (versus wondering where to click next in the LMS).


For Winthrop’s Social Work 620 course, we helped prepare students for the Applied Practice Exercises (APE) and Practice Exercise Group Agreement with an example video. Unlike basic written tests, these assessments involve roleplaying interactions that social workers would have with clients via with other students using a video chat client. The example video gave students a detailed preview of what their APEs will look like and how they should function. It’s kind of like sports: you watch game film so you know what to expect when you actually hit the field (or court, or ice).


Students then used what they learned from that “film study” to practice the assessment for three weeks as they continued to add and build new skills. On week four, they did their first graded APE. The cycle repeated for the second half of the 7-week course.


We were able to both create an authentic assessment and make sure students were prepared for it.

By supporting students on the technology, providing a framework for the role play elements, and structuring the assessment to approximate true applied practice, we were able to both create an authentic assessment and make sure students were prepared for it. And when students are prepared for the test itself, they can focus on showing what they can do!