This paper goes beyond the existing literature and explores the innovative topic of designing criterion-referenced assessment for online discussion forums. There are several benefits of embedding online discussion forums into subjects including engaging students in collaborative learning, and encouraging deeper analysis, critical thinking and reflection. Using the assessment principles of validity, reliability and transparency, this paper offers a range of practical strategies to tutors who plan to develop criterion-referenced assessment as opposed to norm-referenced assessment for online discussion forums, applies the assessment principles in the context of an undergraduate law subject, and exemplars a rubric for an online discussion forum in a work placement subject.