How to Use Formative Assessments in eLearning - Strategies and Tips


Formative assessments help you track your students' progress throughout the duration of a course and offers them feedback that you can use to improve their eLearning experience.

With formatives, you are able to identify areas that might need improvement and pinpoint strengths DURING the eLearning course, as opposed to waiting until the end of each lesson.

Formative assessment is one of the most beneficial assessment strategies because it focuses on what still needs to be learned instead of what  your students should have already mastered.

Unlike summative assessments that are used at the end of an eLearning course to assess the comprehension the learner, formative assessments are diagnostic in nature and used throughout the course. 

In this blog post, you will learn about 4 different types of formative assessments and 4 strategies on best practices in using these types of assessments in an eLearning course.

Why is This Important?

Formative assessments should be mapped to the Enabling Objectives of an eLearning course. By doing so, you can ensure that your students are learning the concepts set out in the planning of that particular module or course.

When your students successfully complete the assessment, it provides both you and your student and with feedback, showing knowledge they have gained, skills developed, and any areas that need to be further developed in that learning objective.

Each successful demonstration of learning builds toward the overall learning for that student.

4 Types of Formative Assessment

Reflection Logs

Reflection logs allow your students to log the details of what they are learning, their thoughts and feelings about the topic, and main ideas of the lesson learned.

You, the instructor can use this log to track your students' progress.


Your students can also work together or independently to create a digital presentation that is presented to their peers via the online discussion board.

Remember that your students should be provided with a rubric beforehand that clarifies expectations and specify which skills and information should be included in the project.

Goal Checks

Goal checks can provide your students with a goal or objective at the beginning of an eLearning lesson or module.

After the lesson is complete, they are given an assessment that determines whether they achieved the goal and how much they have progressed.

Self and Peer Reviews

Your students should be encouraged to reflect on their own progress and determine their proficiency level or knowledge mastery.

They may also be evaluated by their peers, who give them feedback and insight on their work.

This form of online assessment is usually paired with another eLearning activity, such as reflection logs.

4 eLearning Formative Assessment Strategies

Assess Students at the End of Each Module

Formative assessments should be included after students complete each individual module in an eLearning course.

Assessing your students at the end of each individual lesson allows you to determine where the learning has happened in the way it was intended.

Provide Constructive and Immediate Feedback

The entire purpose of formative assessment in eLearning is to give your students timely feedback in order for them to correct their misunderstandings and strengthen the desired knowledge.

Students must be given feedback immediately after they make a mistake. Research shows that students who receive immediate feedback gain more than students who received delayed feedback.

If you notice that a student isn’t fully grasping a concept or is unable to apply their knowledge, then it is the instructor’s job to offer them the required feedback and guidance as soon as possible.

Explain to your students the reasons why they got an answer correct or incorrect. Often a student guesses the correct answer by chance.

Be sure to provide feedback in formative assessments that encourage your student to continue learning. Using words like “good attempt” when a student gets an answer wrong is good practice.

Most importantly, the feedback should tell them WHY their answer is wrong and what the right answer is.

Customize Content Depending on Student Progress

One of the biggest benefits of using formative assessment in an online course is that you can customize the content to meet the individual needs of your learners.

If you find that they are struggling with a particular topic, formative assessments allow you to see this right away. You can then modify the activities, assignments, and assessments in order to improve their knowledge or comprehension of the content. As opposed to assessing at the end, you are given the opportunity to fix the incorrect skills DURING the actual learning process.

Keep Track of the Data

It’s essential that you have quantifiable data that you can actually track. The online assessments help track your students’ mastery of the desired learning objectives.

One way of doing this is by having your students complete a scenario-based learning training at different points throughout the course and keep track of their progress.

Another way is by giving them short, low-stakes quizzes that monitors how they are improving

Most learning management systems include these measurement tools in the platform.


Formative assessment in eLearning provides your students with opportunities to identify areas of improvement and expand their knowledge while there is still time to make the proper adjustments.

Providing feedback is an essential part of formative assessment. It helps summarize to your students what was taught in each module, before moving on to the next.

In this post, you learned about 4 different types of formative assessment and 4 strategies on how to use formative assessment in eLearning.

If you would like to learn additional strategies on how to effectively use formative assessment in eLearning, consider joining the eLearning and Instructional Design for Beginners Community!


50% Complete

60-Day Free Summer Challenge

Until June 24th, I am offering a 60-day Summer challenge for new Community members.

During this 8-week challenge, new members will have full access to the HARPER Method training program to learn everything about effectively teaching online, creating an eLearning course from scratch and monthly member calls! Start your free trial today!

Enter your name and email to get started...