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The Dynamics Concept Inventory (DCI) is a validated assessment tool commonly used to evaluate student growth within core, gateway-level mechanics courses. This research explored the evaluative use of this tool within the context of Freeform – an emergent course system that buttresses active class meetings with blended and collaborative virtual learning environments, themselves founded upon extensive multimedia content and interactive forums – at Purdue University. The paper specifically considers a number of related issues including: (i) the thoughtful development (via expert content validation) and statistical reliability of an abbreviated DCI instrument, which is more amenable to in-class implementation than the much longer full DCI; (ii) the correlation of abbreviated-DCI performance with exam scores and final course grades for a dynamics course using the Freeform framework with an emphasis on both conceptual understanding and traditional problem-solving skills; and (iii) various inter-section performance metrics in a preliminary study on how an implementation of the abbreviated-DCI may help elucidate the impact of the instructor within the Freeform framework. The results of these analyses supported the validity and reliability of the abbreviated DCI tool, and demonstrated its usefulness in a formal research setting. The preliminary study suggested that the Freeform framework might normalize differences in instructor pedagogical choices and student performance across class sections. These findings indicate that the abbreviated DCI holds promise as a research instrument and lay the groundwork for future inquiry into the impact of the Freeform instructional framework on students and instructors alike.