In distance education, assessment is even more central than in conventional face to face programmes. It could be argued that unless an effective assessment strategy is in place, good course materials and successful teaching on contact sessions could have next to no impact on student learning. Assessment tasks compel students to engage with what has been taught, and the way assessment tasks and marked encourages learning processes that are either helpful or unhelpful, that contribute to the goals of the programme or that distract students from achieving them.

In the NADEOSA Quality Criteria, high quality assessment is described as follows:

Assessment is an essential feature of the teaching and learning process, is properly managed, and meets the requirements of accreditation bodies and employers.

The first element in this criterion elaborates:

Assessment is recognized as a key motivator of learning and an integral part of the teaching and learning process. It is used to inform teaching practice and improve the curriculum.

Saide's work in distance education assessment has been of three kinds:

Evaluation of assessment practices in distance education programmes, for example:

  • Evaluation of the Assessment Practices in the Wits Flexi- B Ed programme, 2001.

Workshops on assessment, for example:

  • Assessment in Distance Education, for the NADEOSA conference in 2001 ( Tony Mays).
  • From Policy to Practice in Assessment at UWC: report of a workshop for UWC Staff – 17 and 18 November 2004 (Tessa Welch).

Support to institutions in developing assessment strategies and policies, for example:

  • Towards an Assessment Model for the School of Education, University of the North, 2003 (Tessa Welch).
  • Towards an assessment policy for the University of Venda: Report of a consultancy to develop draft assessment policy, 2006 (Tessa Welch and Tony Lelliott).