the e-Assessment Association

Five Formative Assessment Tools  – fun, free and friendly

Five Formative Assessment Tools  – fun, free and friendly

Edit: Please note this is an article that was originally written and published in 2014.

Last year I looked at the ‘free’ tools available on the web for formative assessment, this is the pick of this year’s tools.

Critical success factors

For a tool to be useful for educators it needs to be:

  • Engaging – it encourages your learners to participate.
  • Easy to use – time is the most cited reason why educators don’t make greater use of e-learning tools, so finding tools that are simple to use and quick to create something useful with is critical.
  • Collate results effectively – it’s no use running some kind of formative assessment unless the results are captured effectively. Educators need to be able to look at results both on the big picture level and individual level to assess progress.
  • Platform agnostic – wherever possible the tool should run on any device, with the growth of BYOD the expectation from learners that they can use their phone or tablet is de rigueur.
  • Free – well we all know what the budget situation is. If it is free, even for a limited period it allows you an opportunity to test its usefulness with your learners.


Kahoot is a new tool that has been so well received everywhere I’ve shown it. Think game-show meets formative assessment and that’s what Kahoot is! Participants can make use of any browser based device; it means that mobile phone can instantly become a voting pad.

The interface is very simple and allows you to create MCQs with up to four possible answers. To add images it’s a case of drag and drop. Even better at the end this tool lets learners vote on your quiz so you get feedback on your performance too.

The possibilities are both multiple and limited. Limited by the number and length of MCQ answers. However the interface allows inclusion of YouTube video clips so you could use it to recap before the quiz as participants log-in, and there are a good range of symbols for maths and engineering available. The quiz can also be run as a poll, so could become a focus for starting discussions.


Blendspace (formerly EdCanvas) is an interesting tool that lends itself to several possibilities. From an educators point of view you can bring together a set of resources on a topic as a canvas. In the canvas there is the function to add MCQs, learners could use these as a self-checking mechanism and you can view the results too. Alternatively your learners could collate resources around a topic, add their own quiz then share with others. Again the tool can be used for polling by deselecting the ‘correct’ option. Sharing options for the quiz allow you to make use of social media.


Zaption cleverly combines YouTube and other videos with the ability to ask questions at appropriate points in the video. Through a simple drag and drop interface, you stop the video and then add in MCQ, free text questions, instructions, images/diagrams, drawings to highlight areas for attention. The MCQ are automatically marked but the free text has to be sifted through manually. However this tool gets round any issues with copyright as the video stays in its original location and all you are doing is stopping it at selected points.

Purpose Games

Purpose Games is a quite different tool, useful for learner self-assessment as it doesn’t record individual progress. What this tool allows you to do is to make use of your own uploaded images and add either buttons or hotspots and set captions for them. When you run the quiz the caption appears and you have to identify the button or area that it relates to. One area where this was well received was with engineering tutors, they saw the possibilities for helping learners learn the name of machine parts.


NearPod was mentioned last year but it has advanced its functions and so deserves another mention. The tool now functions on multiple devices not just the iPad, as when it was originally launched. This tool is a rapid way to convert those old power points into something interactive. It offers a range of assessment tools, including the ability to draw which can be used for labelling or highlighting areas of a picture.


FlipQuiz isn’t strictly an assessment tool in the sense of the others, however in terms of engaging a class this has possibilities. You set up a board with up to six categories, each containing five questions. The questions all have different scores and players turn them over to reveal the question, and after giving the answer. Although results aren’t collected it can provide a tool for recap at the start of a session or as a way to judge learning at the end, and it will work instantly with an interactive whiteboard or touch screen.


Judy Bloxham, November 2014

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