Lesson 4: Grading and Feedback


Rubrics are a grading and feedback tool that specifies the assessment criteria and level of achievement of an assessment (Cockett & Jackson, 2018; Reddy & Andrade, 2010). For online courses, rubrics can reduce grading and feedback time and ensure shared expectations.

Rubric strategies for online learning:

  1. Share rubrics with students early to communicate assessment expectations and help motivate students. Have a discussion with students in either Zoom or D2L to answer questions and make any clarifications.
  2. When integrating alternative online assessments, rubrics will help you define and communicate assessment criteria, especially for complex assessments that promote deep learning such as research papers, online discussions, infographics, group work, and ePortfolios.
  3. Include common feedback so you do not have to repeatedly write the same comments for individual students.
  4. For large classes, rubrics can streamline grading and feedback time, and also reduce the number of questions about grades and feedback.
  5. Use rubrics to encourage students to assess their own academic growth over time.
  6. Meet with TAs and practice a few assessments to ensure consistent grading between TAs and the instructor.

Provide a big picture by grouping several assessment criteria together to assess student’s overall achievement. Holistic rubrics provide the snapshot of the student’s work and generally used for formative assessment and feedback.

Usually laid out in table form with assessment criterion down the side and levels of achievement across the top. This grid format can be used to be specific and detailed with grading and feedback, and provides students a clear picture of their grade and feedback.

A single point rubric is a simplified version of the analytical rubric so it is easier for students to interpret. The single point rubric is composed of three columns, with the column for criteria that meets expectations down the middle, and areas for improvement and strengths on left and right. This type of rubric is good formative assessments, peer feedback and self-assessment.

Example Holistic Online Discussion Rubric

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Example Analytical Online Discussion Rubric

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Example Single Point Online Discussion Rubric

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Activity - Design a rubric

  1. Decide on the purpose of the assessment to help choose the type of rubric and how it will be used.
  2. Identify the learning outcomes the rubric will be assessing. Use the learning outcomes to write the rubric criteria.
  3. Identify the level of proficiency for each criterion. For a analytical rubric generally have 3-5 levels of proficiency.
    a. You can weight each criterion to reflect the purpose of the assessment.
  4. Draft descriptors for each level of proficiency to distinguish performance levels.
  5. Using one of the templates, create the rubric in D2L or in an electronic document.

Additional resources

Read the article titled "Know Your Terms: Holistic, Analytic, and Single-Point Rubrics" by Jennifer Gonzalez for deep dive on holistic, analytical and single point rubrics on the Cult of Pedagogy blog. 

Does formative feedback always have to take written form? The Dr. Barb Brown's experiment with “one take” audio/video feedback met with a very positive student response. Read the full article on the EdCan Network. 


Ambrose, S.A., Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M.C., Norman, M.K., 2010. How Learning Works, Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Baleni, Z. W. (2015). Online formative assessment in higher education: its pros and cons. Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 13(4), 228-236.

Boud, D., & Falchikov, N. (2006). Aligning assessment with long-term learning. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31(4), 399–413.

Brown, B. (2019, May 15). One take productions for student feedback. Ed Can Network. https://www.edcan.ca/articles/student-feedback/

Cockett, A., & Jackson, C. (2018). The use of assessment rubrics to enhance feedback in higher education: An integrative literature review. Nurse Education Today, 69, 8-13

Evans, C. (2013). Making sense of assessment feedback in higher education. Review of Educational Research, 83, 70–120. http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/ 0034654312474350.

Gonzalez, J. (2014). Know your terms: holistic, analytic, and single-point rubrics. Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/holistic-analytic-single-point-rubrics/

Pereira, D., Flores, M.A., Simão, A.M.V., & Barros, A. (2016). Effectiveness and relevance of feedback in Higher Education: A study of undergraduate students. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 49, 7 – 14. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.stueduc.2016.03.004

Reddy, Y. M., & Andrade, H. (2010). A review of rubric use in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(4), 435-448, DOI: 10.1080/02602930902862859

Lesson checklist


  • Consider the role of feedback in student learning and engagement

  • Apply online grading strategies to collect and grade student work.

  • View rubric examples and identify how to best use rubrics for online grading and feedback

  • Create a rubric for an online assessment


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