In an essay the student is expected to produce a structured text that responds to the question or challenge posed by the teacher. The nature of an essay may vary, determining different Learning Outcomes. Essays allow for assessing deep learning instead of rote learning. Essays promote understanding, analysis and evaluation as well as the integration of different types of knowledge and skills. Depending on how essays are designed, they may contribute to the acquisition and assessment of transversal skills like communication, working in teams, lifelong learning.

E-assessment implementation of essays

File Upload

Assessment using essays is a traditional method that may be implemented online in a straightforward manner. Any tool that allows the student to send a single text file to the teacher may be used. This includes e-mail, assignment tools in LMS(Learning Management System) that allow the uploading of files. Using a LMS has advantages since it allows the automated control of the submission processes in an organized manner: number of submissions per student, size of the file, deadlines, etc.

Essay Question in online exam

Most LMS or online testing software includes a type of question that is “Essay” that allows the writing of text or the submission of a file.

Discussion Forum

Discussion forum allow the uploading of files but these will be available to a larger audience that may be controlled by the teacher. This is a good alternative if peer assessment is wanted and will contribute for the development of critical thinking and evaluation skills in both assessors and assessed students. However, the submission process won’t be as controlled as described previously. Teacher may structure the discussion by assigning a specific work to be assessed by one specific student or group of students. The student that is being assessed may defend his work, initiating a dialogue among students. This process can be supervised by the teacher.

Published media

The teacher may ask the student to publish the essay as a webpage that maybe shared with the teacher, with peers or with a larger audience. The advantages of using a webpage as the output format is that will contribute to the development of other skills and knowledge. For producing a webpage, students will have to address issues related with online communication that include:

  • Technological issues during development: choosing the technology, producing results and others
  • Awareness of the importance of web-design
  • Structuring information in a non-linear format using hyperlinks, tags and other navigation tools
  • Using different types of media to enrich the message (image, audio, video, etc.)

By having their work publicly available to a larger audience may increase responsibility of the students. Their accomplishments as well as their mistakes will be visible not only to the teacher but also other students and the general public.


Wiki is a tool that may be used for group work since it allows students to work collaboratively in developing one or more documents. The great advantage is that it keeps records of the process of development by the students: “who” did “what” and “when”. However, some studies point to several difficulties of assessing collaboration since the use of the tool by the students may interfere with the results. As an example, it is customary for students working in group to develop the work offline and having only one student publishing the content in the wiki. To overcome these obstacles, it is necessary that the assessment criteria and process is very clear to the students.

Concept maps

Concept maps may be used to assess the early stages of writing an essay, organization and planning. There is software available that allows the online development of CM and in some cases it allows the collaborative development by different users.


Depending on the assignment design, an oral presentation of the essay by the student may be necessary. This can be done online using videoconferencing facilities. The presentation may be done in real time, allowing for feedback and interaction among the users. In other cases, the student may record a video presentation and send it to the teacher.


The chat tool may be used for discussion of the essay for assessment purposes. It may be done during the development process as formative assessment or at the end of the assessment with a summative purpose. One of the advantages of using chat is that the session is usually recorded in a text file that can be accessed afterwards. Chat discussions may be used with assessment by the teacher or by peer although the latter may be more complex to implement.