Reimagining authentic online assessment for large classes in a low-tech environment

Authentic assessmentOnline assessmentLarge classes
The chapter is divided into two parts. The first part discusses the theoretical framework of authentic assessment proposed by Ashford-Rowe et al. (2014) and presents two case studies on student presentations to illustrate the principles of the framework. The second part addresses practical considerations for designing authentic online assessments in the South African higher education context, specifically for large classes with limited resources. The chapter provides practical examples based on the author's experience working with academics from various disciplines. The concept of authentic assessment is explored, emphasising its alignment with workplace demands. The eight principles identified by Ashford-Rowe et al. (2014) are outlined, providing guidance for the design of authentic assessments. The chapter further examines how authentic online assessment can be implemented effectively, considering the affordances of technology in a low-tech environment. Two case studies, focusing on video presentations and poster presentations, demonstrate how authentic online assessments can be integrated into courses. Challenges related to internet access and device availability are discussed, along with strategies such as flexible deadlines and alternative submission methods. Overall, this chapter aims to present a comprehensive understanding of authentic online assessment in a resource-constrained context, offering practical insights and recommendations for educators and academic developers in South Africa and similar environments.


As demands from employers for a more professionally skilled workforce have increased over the last few years, higher education institutions have progressively turned to authentic assessment to improve the preparation of students for the workplace (Sokhanvar et al., 2021). Well-designed authentic assessment can enhance employability because it promotes the development of skills that employers seek such as critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills (Riyanti & Rahmawati, 2021). In addition to the potential authentic assessment holds in developing better-equipped graduates, it also fosters deep learning, enables knowledge transfer from different domains, can increase students’ commitment and motivation and enhance students’ engagement (Sokhanvar et al., 2021; Villarroel et al., 2018).

South African higher education institutions are progressively turning to blended learning and, consequently, online assessment. This shift is not only due to the COVID-19 pandemic but also due to political disruptions that have become prevalent in the sector since the #FeesMustFall protests in 2016 (Czerniewicz et al., 2019). There is also a need for assessments that are suited for large undergraduate classes that are becoming commonplace as the demand for higher education access increases (Mohamedbhai, 2014). In this context, there is a need to not only design authentic assessments but to design authentic assessments for large classes in an online environment.

The digital divide between developing countries and developed countries limits the possibilities of educational technology and requires new ways to implement online assessment (Gillwald et al., 2019). Although South Africa has a higher penetration of internet use than most other African countries, still only about half (53%) of the population has internet access (Mothobi & Gillwald, 2018). In addition to insufficient access to the internet, the populations of developing countries often do not have access to internet-capable devices (Gillwald et al., 2019), which means that students rely heavily on the infrastructure provided by higher education institutions. Another key consideration is network quality in developing countries. Mothobi and Gillwald (2018) report that none of the 46 African countries ranked in their comprehensive study on digital access in the Global South obtained broadband speeds above 10Mbps with the median speeds between 2014 and 2018 at between 1Mbps and 1.5Mbps.

As an academic developer at a university in South Africa with urban and rural campuses, I work with academics from a range of disciplines to find assessment solutions that are simultaneously and pedagogically sound and practically implementable. As an academic developer, I wear several hats: curriculum designer, trainer, critical reader, and other times, I just need to be a soundboard for a lecturer to help them refine their ideas.

The work that we do as academic developers in this context often requires balancing competing demands. On the one hand, we need to prepare students for the world of work by giving them opportunities to hone and practise skills they will need in the workplace through authentic assessment. On the other hand, we need to find ways to assess large groups of students without overburdening lecturers with marking. Additionally, we need to effectively incorporate online assessment into more flexible assessment strategies, while being cognisant of the unequal access students have to reliable internet and electronic devices.

This chapter, divided into two parts, seeks to reimagine authentic online assessment with a resource constrained context in mind. In the first part of the chapter, authentic online assessment is framed within a theoretical framework put forward by Ashford-Rowe et al. (2014). Two case studies on student presentations are presented to contextualise the principles of the framework. In the last part of the chapter, practical considerations to address two main challenges in the South African higher education context (large classes and limited resources) are discussed. In this part, I also provide several practical examples based on my experience of working with academics in different disciplines to show how these considerations can be implemented.

Authentic assessment

What is authentic assessment?

An authentic assessment requires students to use skills, knowledge and attitudes that they would one day need to demonstrate in the workplace to complete a product or performance. The purpose of authentic assessment is to create a task that closely resembles what students would encounter in the workplace to better prepare them for employment and to improve their employability skills (Sokhanvar et al., 2021). Ashford-Rowe et al. (2014) identified eight principles of authentic assessments to guide the design of these types of assessments (see Figure 1). The principles put forward by Ashford-Rowe and colleagues are broad enough to be operationalised in different contexts such as a resource-constrained environment characterised by large classes as is the case in the South African higher education context, while simultaneously being specific enough to provide guidance to both lecturers and academic developers.

Figure 1

Principles of authentic assessment (adapted from Ashford-Rowe et al., 2014)

The eight principles (Ashford-Rowe et al., 2014) are:

Principle 1: The outcome of the assessment is in the form of a product or performance.

The assessment should require students to apply skills needed in the workplace and knowledge of the course content to produce something – either a product or performance.

Principle 2: The assessment design should ensure knowledge transfer.

An authentic assessment task requires students to draw from and integrate skills and knowledge from different domains to apply in a single domain. Knowledge and skills gained in one area can (and should) be applied to other, often seemingly unrelated areas.

Principle 3: Metacognition is a component of authentic assessment.

Metacognition was first researched by Flavell (1979) who defined it as “knowledge and cognition about cognitive phenomena” (p. 906). In its simplest terms, metacognition can be viewed as thinking about one’s thinking. When designing an authentic assessment, there must be opportunities for students to critically reflect on their learning and for self-evaluation of their work.

Principle 4: The assessment requires accuracy in performance.

An authentic assessment is one that simulates the needs of a real-world environment and where the value and connection to the real-world are clear.

Principle 5: The assessment environment and tools used to complete the assessment are authentic.

When designing an authentic assessment, it is important to try and ensure that the environment in which the assessment is completed closely resembles the real-world environment, and that students use the tools that they would one day be required to use in the course of their employment. Here it should be noted that a traditional sit-down examination in which students write down answers to questions on a piece of paper probably does not closely resemble the environment in which they would one day be expected to demonstrate and use their skills and knowledge.

Principle 6: The assessment design should include opportunities to discuss and provide feedback.

In a workplace, it is essential to be able to receive and respond to feedback. Feedback is also a critical component of assessment for learning.

Principle 7: Collaboration is valued.

Collaboration can be understood in various ways. First, it is important that students develop the skills needed to effectively work with their peers in completing a product. An example is group work that requires teamwork and communication skills. However, collaboration also has to do with seeking out external sources for gathering data. This means that even if students complete an assessment individually, they are never really relying solely on their own skills and knowledge. The key is to ensure that students understand the value of collaboration in completing an authentic assessment.

Principle 8: Authentic assessments are challenging.

The degree of challenge that is required to successfully complete an assessment is a determinant of the assessment’s authenticity. Students should be establishing connections between real-world experiences and the course content and should be relying on not only their ability to recall information but to apply and integrate skills and knowledge.

Authentic online assessment

An assessment may be considered authentic if the principles put forward by Ashford-Rowe et al. (2014) are embedded in its design. However, it does not need to meet all eight principles. In the examples that follow, I illustrate how some of these principles can practically be embedded in the design of authentic online assessments in the South African higher education context.

One of the affordances of online assessment is that it can expand on traditional methods of assessment and enable new practices, not always possible in face-to-face settings. The use of multimedia is one example (Byrne, 2016; Grieger & Leontyev, 2020; James et al., 2019; Ras et al., 2016). Instead of a traditional written essay, for example, students can create a podcast, a digital story or an electronic poster. Over the past few years, and especially since 2020, I have seen examples of innovative ways to approach assignments from lecturers. In the section that follows, I share two case studies of South African Sign Language (SASL) lecturers who implemented digital student presentations as authentic online assessments in their modules.

Case studies on student presentations as an authentic online assessment

Oral communication and presentation skills are important in many workplaces yet public speaking is one of the most prevalent fears that people have in social situations (Smith & Sodano, 2011). One way for students to develop these skills in a safer environment is online student presentations. Online presentations, when implemented well, are an effective way to promote deeper understanding of a topic, increase students’ confidence and ability to present a topic to an audience, as well as improve students digital skills in using technology that they would likely need to use in the workplace one day (Amin et al., 2021; Grieger & Leontyev, 2020; Smith & Sodano, 2011).

At the University of Free State (UFS), student presentations are often group assignments and, before 2020, these were mostly conducted in a face-to-face environment where a student or group of students would do a presentation in class. When the university moved to emergency remote online teaching in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, some lecturers implemented student presentations as an online assessment.

Video presentation

One SASL lecturer at UFS, with approximately 80 students in her class, assessed her students through three-minute video presentations in which they were required to introduce themselves and their families by using SASL. Figure 2 is an excerpt of the assessment instructions.

Figure 2

Excerpt of assessment instructions for video presentations in a SASL course (used with permission from the lecturer, Ms Susan Lombard).

What works particularly well with this assessment is that the students experience an opportunity to build confidence in their ability to use SASL in an environment in which they are comfortable. They can use their cell phones to record their videos and can stop and redo their presentations until they are satisfied with the product, although the lecturer does include instructions (point 7) for how to deal with making a mistake. The lecturer also includes some guidelines for how to produce a professional video with considerations for the background (point 2), lighting (point 3) and dress code (point 6). This teaches students what they will need to focus on the workplace.

Feedback from the instructor

Feedback is integrated in this assessment; each student receives detailed feedback on their video. The video submissions ensure that, unlike when a student would do a short presentation in a face-to-face environment, students can go back and watch a section of their videos to see exactly where they need to improve. Students can upload their videos to the learning management system (LMS) or email their video submissions to the lecturer. A positive aspect for the lecturer in this regard is that she can take a little more time to view and provide feedback on each video than would not have been the case in a face-to-face environment. The lecturer uses rubrics to grade and provide feedback to students which saves her time in marking and helps to provide detailed feedback to students.

The biggest challenge with this assessment is unequal access to the internet and internet-capable devices, as well as loadshedding, where electricity is unavailable for parts of the day, making it difficult for students to achieve strict deadlines. To address these challenges, the lecturer communicates the assessment deadline well in advance and leaves the assessment submission box on the LMS open for a week to allow students with limited access to the internet to secure access and submit their assessments in time. She also allows students to email their videos to her if they struggle to submit their assessments via the LMS. This flexibility has been characteristic of many lecturers during the Covid-19 pandemic and when I spoke to the lecturer about this assessment for the purpose of writing this chapter, her passion for her students and their learning was evident. What she enjoys most about this assessment is to see the effort that students put into these videos and how it builds their confidence to use SASL.

Authentic assessment principles addressed with the assessment

Figure 3 shows a summary of the authentic assessment principles addressed in the video presentation assessment. The assessment is challenging and ensures transfer of knowledge because it addresses and integrates three different outcomes of the course (i.e. master the SASL alphabet, produce understandable basic SASL signs, and formulate basic, structurally-correct SASL sentences). It requires accurate performance as students are required to perform the task professionally, in the sense that they need to be mindful of elements in their videos that will be relevant when they work as interpreters in a workplace (e.g. their dress code, the lighting, the distance and angle of the camera etc.). They will need to become comfortable in front of a camera and this assessment helps them to practice. Additionally, feedback plays an integral role in this assessment and students are encouraged to watch their videos again after receiving feedback to analyse where improvements are needed.

Figure 3

Authentic assessment principles addressed in the video presentation assessment

Poster presentation

Another SASL lecturer, with a class of approximately 800 students, designed an online poster and presentation assessment (Figure 4 is an adapted excerpt with the assessment instructions). The assessment consists of two parts. First, students have to design a poster on one of three topics and then they have to do a short virtual presentation about their poster. Since this is a large class, the lecturer encourages students to work in groups of up to four students, but students who prefer to work alone are allowed to submit their posters and do their presentations individually. Before the pandemic, about 80% of the class preferred to work in groups, but the lecturer noticed a decline in the proportion of students in her class who worked in groups when students were studying online from their homes. Suddenly, students were geographically dispersed and it was more difficult to meet with and connect with other students.

Before 2020, students did their presentations in a face-to-face class but the lecturer adjusted this component of the assessment, requiring students to do their presentations virtually on Blackboard Collaborate (video conferencing tool on the LMS). When students did the presentations in class, approximately 60% preferred to do the presentation live while the remaining 40% preferred to prepare a recording of their presentation. During 2020 and 2021, these numbers switched around with 40% of the class preferring to do the presentation live in the Blackboard Collaborate virtual class and 60% preferring to upload recordings of their presentations. Students’ proficiency and familiarity with technology played a role in this shift with some students not feeling comfortable with presenting live in an online environment. Another challenge was that some pre-recorded videos were too big to upload to the LMS and many students needed to learn to either compress their videos or to make use of other software, such as WeTransfer, to share their video presentations with the lecturer.

To address this issue, the lecturer arranged an extra class in which she explained the different options for compressing a video or sharing a large video in alternative ways. She also made the recording of the extra class available so that students could view the steps and options again. While this reduced the number of student queries she received, the lecturer noticed that not all students attended this class nor did all students who ended up contacting her for assistance viewed the recording. She decided to make how-to documents and shorter videos available to students from 2022 to see whether providing assistance in different formats, and from the start of the course, would reduce technical queries from students.

What did work well with the combination of designing a poster and presenting on it was that students took ownership of their assessments and took pride in the products that they produced as part of this assessment. It provided them with a formal opportunity to work on their oral presentation skills and having to assess their peers provided additional opportunities to give and receive feedback. Students seemed to appreciate having choices with this assessment. The fact that they would choose a topic, whether to work individually or in a group, and whether to present live or submit a recording contributed to students’ sense of ownership for their work.

Feedback from the instructor

Ms le Roux is a passionate lecturer and in my interactions with her for the last few years I have always admired how willing she is to try new things in her teaching and assessment practices. She also never frets much about the challenges of large class teaching but tends to focus on what worked well and what can practically be done to improve aspects that did not work well. When I spoke to her about her and her students’ experience with this assessment, she highlighted how rewarding it was to see students develop and grow, how they are active participants in their assessment and not only passive observers who need to memorise something from a textbook and recall it in an examination. While grading can be time consuming in a large class, she finds rubrics helpful to standardise her feedback and marking, as well as to save time.

Figure 4

Excerpt adapted from poster presentation assessment (used with permission from the lecturer, Ms Annemarie le Roux)

Authentic assessment principles addressed with the assessment

The poster presentation assessment addresses seven of the eight authentic assessment principles put forward by Ashford-Rowe et al. (2014). Not only do students have to produce a poster, they also have to make a presentation to successfully complete this assessment. They have to integrate several learning outcomes and use different skills to complete this assessment which ensures knowledge transfer. By designing a digital poster and presenting their work digitally (either via a video recording or using video conferencing software for a live presentation) they learn to use tools that they would one day use in the workplace. This assessment also has built in opportunities for feedback, not only from the lecturer but also to and from peers and the option to work in groups allows for collaboration.

Figure 5

Authentic assessment principles addressed in the poster presentation assessment

Authentic online assessment in large classes and a low-tech environment

South African academics need to be skilled in designing online assessment as traditional contact-based higher education institutions in the country are progressively turning to blended learning. Additionally, as the demand for access to higher education in the country increases, large undergraduate classes are prevalent (Mohamedbhai, 2014). A critical third consideration in the South African context is digital inequality among our students as could also be seen from the two case studies above. Designing an online assessment while considering the elements of authentic assessment is one thing, but to design an authentic online assessment in a low-tech environment for a large class or both is something else. An assessment, no matter how authentic or pedagogically sound, needs to be feasible. We cannot design assessments (or teach for that matter) in a vacuum. In the sections that follow, practical considerations for authentic online assessment in large classes and a low-tech environment are explored.

Large class considerations

One of the most significant assessment challenges in a large class is grading (Broadbent et al., 2018). Without additional marking assistance it can be difficult to manage the workload. However, additional markers introduce the challenge of consistency and reliability of grading across the board. Providing feedback to students on their assessments is an additional challenge in large classes. For feedback to have a positive effect on student learning, students need to receive clear and specific guidance on how to close the gap between where they are and where they need to be. Giving good quality feedback takes time and even more so in large classes (Henderson et al., 2019).


Detailed, sometimes called analytic, rubrics are an effective way to not only ensure consistency in large classes but also serve as a form of feedback as students can easily identify areas for improvement. While it may take some time to create an effective detailed rubric, it saves time in grading and feedback. Additionally, if students have access to the rubric before starting with the assessment, it also serves to clarify expectations. In both aforementioned case studies, the lecturers used rubrics for feedback and made the rubrics available to their students together with the assessment instructions. This helped students to understand what is expected of them.


Chunking, or breaking down an assessment into steps, is one way to lessen a lecturer’s marking load. It is also easier to give quality feedback quicker if the assessment is shorter. Assessment chunking benefits students in that it allows additional opportunities for feedback throughout the course that they can use to correct mistakes and improve their performance (Hornsby, 2020).

Chunking can be approached in different ways. An assignment can either be broken up into steps that build on each other almost like different pieces of a puzzle to create a final product – product chunking. Another way to approach chunking is to break down the process that students need to follow to get to the final product almost like climbing a ladder ring by ring to get to the final product – process chunking. Figure 6 shows an example of the assessment instructions for an authentic podcast assessment by a UFS lecturer in Medical Physiology. This example illustrates how product and process chunking can both be applied to one assessment. From week 2-5, students work on completing a transcript for their podcasts little by little, an example of product chunking. In weeks 6-8, they work on finalising the recording of their podcasts which is further product chunking. Students complete the task by completing different aspects of it. First, they identify a title, then they complete a transcript, then they record their podcasts, an example of process chunking.

Figure 5

Excerpt for podcast assessment instructions (used with permission from the lecturer, Dr Janelle Govender-De Bruyn)

Group work

When students work together on an assignment, they develop their communication, critical thinking and teamwork skills (Ashford-Rowe et al., 2014). Group work, if designed well, does not only have academic value but also develops the skills students will need in the workplace (Labeouf et al., 2016). Additionally, group work reduces grading time which in turn allows lecturers to provide more timeous feedback.

When designing a group assignment, lecturers can combine group work with chunking. Students can either complete the entire assessment as a group (see Digital Story example in Table 2) or the assessment can be broken down into group and individual submissions (see the Interdisciplinary Assignment example in Table 1).

Table 1

Group work examples

Assessment exampleHow group work can be incorporated
Digital StoryA group of students can work together to complete an assignment, such as a digital story, by collaborating from start to finish. Process chunking can work well in completing a digital story too where students complete the following steps:
  1. The group first submits a planning document in which they explain the topic they will address in their digital story and a timeline that includes actions and responsibilities of each group member. Students can get feedback here on the topic they are planning.
  2. The group submits either a visual or text storyboard.
  3. The group submits their digital story.
Interdisciplinary AssignmentStudents can work together in groups to finish different parts of an assignment and not necessarily the entire assignment. Interdisciplinary assignments will typically work like this. Education and agriculture students can work on an interdisciplinary assignment in which agriculture students need to communicate/ explain a topic on sustainable agriculture to Education students. The Education students then need to design a lesson plan at a relevant grade-level to teach the sustainable agriculture principles they’ve learned to school learners. Group and individual assessments can be submitted for this assignment:
  1. A group of Agriculture students do an online presentation to a group of Education students explaining a topic on sustainable agriculture. The Education students can ask clarifying questions about the presentation (Agriculture students assessed groups).
  2. The Education student group prepares a written summary of what they learned from the online presentation (Education students assessed in groups).
  3. The Education student group shares the summary with the agriculture group who gives feedback to the Education students on the summary (Education group assessment and Agriculture peer assessment in group format).
  4. Education students individually submit a lesson plan to teach the sustainable agriculture principles that they learned about to school learners (Education students assessed individually).
This example illustrates a combination of group and individual work for Education students. Additional steps with a combination of individual and group work for Agriculture students can be added before they do their online presentation.

Peer assessment

When students evaluate their peers’ work, they internalise the grading criteria and benefit from seeing examples of different ways to approach a task. Moreover, receiving feedback from peers allows students to get feedback from multiple perspectives (Kulkarni et al., 2013). Peer assessment can alleviate lecturers’ marking load and increase the frequency of feedback during a course (Hornsby, 2020).

Peer assessment and feedback can be combined with chunking to create more feedback and reflection opportunities for students as they finalise an authentic online assessment. If peer assessment is combined with product chunking, it can help students to improve the quality of their final product by implementing the feedback as they progress. Peer assessment combined with process chunking can offer students insight from different perspectives and expose students to more solutions and strategies than if only the lecturer assessed their work. In the poster presentation assessment case study shared earlier in this chapter (see Figure 4), peer assessment is used for the poster section of the assessment. Students give feedback on other students’ posters and use the feedback they’ve received from their peers before planning their presentations.

Low-tech considerations

Digital inequality broadly includes both the gap between people with access to digital technology and those with limited (or no) access, as well as discrepancies in digital skills. Many rural areas in South Africa have underdeveloped technological infrastructure and unreliable access to electricity making it difficult for students who reside in these areas to participate in online learning (Williams et al., 2019). At UFS, a study was conducted at the beginning of the first nationwide lockdown at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to determine students’ access to data and devices in which 13 505 students participated. The results showed that 13% of students do not have any access to the internet off-campus and that while 70% of students are able to access the internet off-campus by purchasing data from a service provider, 56% cannot afford more than one gigabyte of data to complete academic activities. Slightly more than half (56%) of students have access to a laptop but 81% own a smartphone (Centre for Teaching and Learning, 2020). This means that, when designing online assessment activities, the extent to which students are reliant on smartphones to complete the assessment should be considered.

Asynchronous assessment

One way to address digital inequality in online assessment is to design assessments that students can complete asynchronously. This way students do not have to be online at a particular time but can participate in the assessment at a time that is convenient for them. Students who have unreliable, limited or no access to the internet where they live can submit the assessment when they do have access such as on campus. This often means that students have to travel to a place where they can access the internet to complete academic activities for more than one course. Bearing this logistical demand in mind, it is important that deadlines for assessments or components of an assessment are communicated to students well in advance.

Downloadable resources

In addition to designing assessments that students can complete asynchronously, it is important to consider how students access the information and content that they need to complete the assessment. Since many students have limited access to reliable internet, they need to be able to download content and information that they can use offline to complete the assessment. Keeping in mind that many students only have access to limited data and, in many cases, are likely to be using mobile phones with limited storage, downloadable resources should not be large files.

Chunking assessments can help lecturers to organise the content and information that students need to download into smaller sections that students can use to complete different parts of the assessment. This way, students do not have to download all the content and resources in a course at once. Some practical examples of downloadable resources students might need as they complete authentic online assessments are shown in Table 2.

Table 2

Problem-solving assignment: An example of downloadable resources for an authentic online assessment

How the assessment can be chunkedDownloadable resources
  1. Introduction that includes the scope and background of the problem
  • Word/ PDF document with detailed assessment instructions (the purpose of this part of the assessment, the tasks that need to be completed and the criteria for success).
  • PowerPoint/ PDF document with an overview of a list of problems that can be used as a topic together with a short description of each.
  • Additional reading material (e.g. journal articles) in PDF about some of the problems on the list.
  • Examples of problem-solving essays.
  • How-to document for submitting an assignment via the learning management system.
  1. Description of the problem and why it needs to be addressed
  • Word/ PDF document with detailed assessment instructions.
  • Examples of problem-solving essays with explanations of why this part of the essay (problem description) in the examples are helpful or not helpful.
  1. A solution (or multiple solutions) to the problem
  • Word/ PDF document with detailed assessment instructions.
  • Examples of problem-solving essays with explanations of why this part of the essay (solution) in the examples are helpful or not helpful.
  1. Final essay including a conclusion and call for action
  • Word/ PDF document with detailed assessment instructions.
  • Additional resources (PDF) on writing a conclusion.


Another way to address digital inequality when designing an authentic online assessment is flexibility. Flexibility in this context means offering students choices. Since we know that many students extensively use their smartphones for academic activities, this limits the types of assessments that they can effectively complete. Allowing submissions in more than one format and allowing students to choose from different types of assessments can offer opportunities to mitigate accessibility issues. When having to submit written work, allow students to submit a photograph of a handwritten paper. Examples of flexibility were illustrated in both case studies earlier in this chapter. In the video presentation case study above, the lecturer allows students to email her with their videos if they’re unable to upload it to the LMS. She also keeps the assessment open for an extended period to account for varied levels of access to reliable internet. In the poster presentation case study, the lecturer allows students to choose to work in a group or work individually, she also allows them a choice between doing a live presentation and recording their presentation in advance. Flexibility is a key component of successful authentic online assessment in our context.

Key takeaways

The benefits and potential of authentic assessment are well-documented in the literature. However, the success of any assessment is inextricably linked to its feasibility. To ensure that our students benefit from authentic assessment, we cannot ignore the realities of the context in which we assess. The realities of digital inequality and large undergraduate classes in South African higher education combined with the drive towards more effective ways to assess students online require a rethinking of authentic assessment in this context.

Designing effective authentic online assessments in a South African university means first planning an assessment that incorporates the principles of authentic assessment. But even with principles considered, additional planning is needed to make the assessment feasible. In large classes, the marking load and providing regular good quality feedback are challenging. Using rubrics, which are already well-suited for most authentic assessments, can alleviate these pressures. Group and peer assessments also alleviate lecturers’ marking load but also enhance student learning in many ways. Product and process assessment chunking, while requiring some additional planning, is a fairly simple way to address not only the challenge of large classes but also digital inequality. The final takeaway from this chapter is that contextualising good assessment practices is not an insurmountable obstacle but rather a rethinking exercise.


Amin, H. A. A., Khalil, H., Khaled, D., Mahdi, M., Fathelbab, M., & Gaber, D. A. (2021). Case item creation and video case presentation as summative assessment tools for distance learning in the pandemic era. Medical Journal Armed Forces India, 77, 466–474. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mjafi.2021.05.018

Ashford-Rowe, K., Herrington, J., & Brown, C. (2014). Establishing the critical elements that determine authentic assessment. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 39(2), 205–222. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2013.819566

Broadbent, J., Panadero, E., & Boud, D. (2018). Implementing summative assessment with a formative flavour: A case study in a large class. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(2), 307–322. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2017.1343455

Byrne, A. (2016). Podcasting for Learning and Assessment in Undergraduate History. Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, 8(12). https://doi.org/10.21100/compass.v8i12.258

Centre for Teaching and Learning. (2020). UFS Student Access to Devices & Data. Internal University of the Free State report: unpublished.

Czerniewicz, L., Trotter, H., & Haupt, G. (2019). Online teaching in response to student protests and campus shutdowns: academics’ perspectives. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 16(1), 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-019-0170-1

Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive-developmental inquiry. American Psychologist, 34(10), 906–911. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.34.10.906

Gillwald, A., Calandro, E., Chair, C., Onkokame, M., & Rademan, B. (2019). Understanding Digital Access and Use in the Global South. Research ICT Africa. https://idl-bnc-idrc.dspacedirect.org/bitstream/handle/10625/58175/58311.pdf

Grieger, K., & Leontyev, A. (2020). Promoting student awareness of green chemistry principles via student-generated presentation videos. Journal of Chemical Education, 97(9), 2657–2663. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jchemed.0c00639

Henderson, M., Ryan, T., & Phillips, M. (2019). The challenges of feedback in higher education. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 44(8), 1237–1252. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2019.1599815

Hornsby, D. J. (2020, June 14). Moving large classes online: Principles for teaching, learning and assessment [Conference session]. 6th International Conference on Higher Education Advances, València, Spain. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3893426

James, P. R. A. P., Yong, K. L., & Yunus, M. M. (2019). Hear Me Out!: Digital Storytelling to Enhance Speaking Skills. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 9(2), 190–202. https://doi.org/10.6007/ijarbss/v9-i2/5533

Kulkarni, C., Wei, K. P., Le, H., Chia, D., Papadopoulos, K., Cheng, J., Koller, D., & Klemmer, S. R. (2013). Peer and self assessment in massive online classes. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, 20(6), Article 3. https://doi.org/10.1145/2505057

Labeouf, J. P., Griffith, J. C., & Roberts, D. L. (2016). Faculty and Student Issues with Group Work : What is Problematic with College Group Assignments and Why ? Journal of Education and Human Development, 5(1), 13–23. https://doi.org/10.15640/jehd.v5n1a2

Mohamedbhai, G. (2014). Massification in Higher Education Institutions in Africa: Causes, Consequences and Responses. International Journal of African Higher Education, 1(1), 59–83. https://doi.org/10.6017/ijahe.v1i1.5644

Mothobi, O., & Gillwald, A. (2018). Lagging ICT adoption in SA reflects social and economic inequalities. Research ICT Africa. https://researchictafrica.net/publication/lagging-ict-adoption-in-sa-reflects-social-and-economic-inequalities/

Ras, E., Whitelock, D., & Kalz, M. (2016). The promise and potential of e-assessment for learning. In P. Reimann, S. Bull, M. D. Kickmeier-Rust, R. Valtrapu, & B. Wasson (Eds.), Measuring and visualising learning in the information-rich classroom (pp. 21–40). Routledge.

Riyanti, E. D., & Rahmawati, N. N. (2021). Digital poster project as an assessment in extensive reading class. Beyond Linguistika: Journal of Linguistics and Language Education, 4(1), 1-9. http://dx.doi.org/10.36448/bl.v4i1.1976

Smith, C. M., & Sodano, T. M. (2011). Integrating lecture capture as a teaching strategy to improve student presentation skills through self-assessment. Active Learning in Higher Education, 12(3), 151–162. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469787411415082

Sokhanvar, Z., Salehi, K., & Sokhanvar, F. (2021). Advantages of authentic assessment for improving the learning experience and employability skills of higher education students: A systematic literature review. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 70, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.stueduc.2021.101030

Villarroel, V., Bloxham, S., Bruna, D., Bruna, C., & Herrera-seda, C. (2018). Authentic assessment : creating a blueprint for course design. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(5), 840–854. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2017.1412396

Williams, M. L., Dhoest, A., & Saunderson, I. (2019). Social media, diffusion of innovations, morale and digital inequality: A case study at the University of Limpopo Libraries, South Africa. Library Hi Tech, 37(3), 2019. https://doi.org/10.1108/LHT-12-2018-0192

Anneri Meintjes

University of Pretoria

Anneri Meintjes has worked in different roles in higher education since 2012, with a broad focus on blended learning and educational technology but a particular interest in the use of online assessment in the South African higher education context. She is also involved in (and passionate about) academic development in good blended and online learning practice, as well as curriculum design.

This content is provided to you freely by EdTech Books.

Access it online or download it at https://edtechbooks.org/ldvoices/authentic_online_assessment.