Another Node On the interNet


Michael E. Ritter

Dept. of Geography/Geology

University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Stevens Point, WI 54481


John C. Butler


University of Houston

Houston, TX 77204



From The Associate Editor


There is a fair  amount of experimenting with how the Internet can help create learning environments.  Michael Ritter wrote one of the first books on using the Internet in the Earth Sciences and clearly is one of the leading experimenters.  Although his essay deals with undergraduate education, his assessment of self-assessment strategies should be of interest to anyone who wants to use the Internet for distributing learning materials.


Leveraging the Web for Student Self-Assessment


Prompt feedback on learning is an important aspect of good practice in undergraduate education (Chickering and Gamson,1991). Such feedback is usually in the form of graded assignments, exams, or assessment of class participation as provided by the instructor.  Self-assessment occurs when students evaluate and make judgments about their own learning and helps uncover deficiencies to improve their knowledge. Self-assessment engages students in the learning process by providing a locus of control over their work (Polson,, 1996). It requires the student to think, talk, and write about what they have learned. The proliferation of personal computer ownership and the Internet has enabled teachers to engage students in new ways of learning, as well as create an environment for active self-assessment.


Immediate access to assessment tools via the Internet facilitates ongoing and continual evaluation of learning.  By continually assessing their learning, students can better manage their time. Trouble spots can be identified early and remedies sought before their semester disintegrates into confusion and frustration. This is especially true for young students. At the beginning of their undergraduate career, new students need frequent opportunities to receive feedback on their learning. Without the benefit of such feedback, students have difficulty knowing if they are meeting the expectations of their instructor. Ongoing self-assessment keeps students on task, another important element of good educational practice. Busy and conflicting student and instructor schedules can prohibit individualized, face-to-face communication or delay feedback on assignments. The “anytime-anywhere” access of the Internet enables students to evaluate their learning whenever they wish.


When students are involved in the assessment process, they have a stake in their performance and wish to improve. Though students are in control of their own self-assessment, instructors must play an active. Instructors put a great deal of time in creating their own assessment methods, yet opportunities for self-assessment are often left for the student to design without criteria to judge their learning against. By providing self-assessment opportunities, instructors can express their expectations for learning, another important element of good educational practice. Communicating high expectations is important for all learners, whether under prepared or bright and enthusiastic. Conventionally, our expectations are communicated through our grading criteria. Lecture objectives give students a standard they can assess the learning against. If students can adequately meet the objective then they have achieved the instructor's expected level of learning.


Constructive self-assessment requires students to reflect on what they have learned in a variety of ways. Drill and practice quizzes are easily implemented over the Web. Reading comprehension questions submitted via email can assess student comprehension of text material.  Self-assessment can take many forms and the list below offers a few self-assessment tools that can be delivered over the Internet:




Providing students with online self-assessment tools requires extra effort to develop and implement. Fortunately, there are a number of Web sites that provide templates or software interfaces to create many of the assessment methods described above (Detwyer, 2000). JavaScript is widely used to create interactive assessment materials and with a little effort is relatively easy to modify for one’s own purpose. A select group of sites of value to geoscience educators is given below:


JavaScript for Science Courses


Several free JavaScript to create buttons that display a correct answer when pushed, image map rollovers, auto answering text fields and radio buttons that pop up responses to multiple choice questions


JavaScript Examples


A collection of JavaScript quizzes to evaluate student answers and provide feedback.


JavaScript Quiz Maker


Fill out a form and the Quiz Maker will generate the code for practice or graded quizzes.


ZDNet JavaScript Library


Dozens of scripts useful for online teaching and learning.


Numerous “cut- n – paste” scripts and JavaScript tutorials.


Online self-assessment is a valuable way to enable your students to take charge of their learning. I've used many of the techniques listed above in my introductory physical geography class over the last several years. Student responses to survey questions about the use of the Web for self-assessment and learning have been very positive with nearly 90% of respondents feeling that such materials were beneficial in learning course material (Ritter & Lemke, 2000). Though it does require additional effort on the part of the instructor to create these tools, students benefit from enhanced learning.




Chickering, A.W. & Gamson, Z.F. (1991) Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education, in: A.W. Chickering & Z.F. Gamson (Eds) Applying the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, New Directions for Teaching and Learning No. 47 pp. 63-69 (San Francisco, Iossey-Bass)


Detwyler, T. (2000) Ways to assess student learning in web-rich courses,, (Last accessed May 1, 2000)


Polyson, S., Saltzberg, S. and R. Goodwin-Jones (1996) “A Practical Guide to Teaching with the World Wide Web” , Syllabus., (Last accessed May 1, 2000)


Ritter, M. E. & Lemke, K. A. (2000) Addressing the 'Seven Principles for Good Practice in undergraduate education' with Internet-enhanced Education, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 24 (1) pp. 100-108.