I have been invited to present at the CODE International Symposium committee an annual international symposium to be held in Chiba, Japan, on Thursday, February 16, 2012. The symposium will be held at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan.

The Center of ICT and Distance Education (CODE), the Open University of Japan (http://www.ouj.ac.jp/eng/), is a research center to promote the use of multimedia, information and communication technologies (ICT) in higher education in Japan and holds annual international symposia concerning ICT use in higher education.

This paper is about putting learning at the centre of assessment and reconfiguring assessment design so that the learning function is emphasised. Learning-oriented assessment has three core aspects: Assessment tasks as learning tasks, Student involvement in the assessment processes and Forward-looking feedback.

Because assessment often determines student effort it is essential that we design assessment for distance learning that is learning-oriented. In addition an assessment task should require sustained effort over a period of time in order to promote deep as opposed to superficial learning. Feedback as feed-forward suggests that students receive feedback that can be acted on to improve learning.

“In particular, we are anxious to minimise a common phenomenon in higher education, occurring when students receive most of their feedback after a module is completed and when there is minimal possibility of it being acted upon” (Keppell & Carless, 2006, p. 182). Authentic assessment should also be a key goal.

Assessment for distance learning needs to acknowledge the unique characteristics of the e-learning environment and optimise these opportunities to design learning-oriented assessment. This flexible learning environment provides opportunities to improve the student learning experience through flexibility in time, pace, place, mode of study, teaching approach, forms of assessment and staffing in the distance learning environment.

The paper reconceptualises assessment in distance learning and provides a conceptual background to learning-oriented assessment and case studies of actual implementation. It also examines the challenges in moving to learning-oriented assessment in distance learning.