Handling Exams and Alternate Assessments

Exams and assessments allow students to show their learning and faculty to determine if students are meeting the course learning objectives. When designing assessments for your students in a remote teaching environment, remember to be flexible and think creatively. Exams and activities that work in a face-to-face context will likely need to be adapted and, in some cases, rethought to be effective. Alternate assessment methods can be used, often in combination, to allow students to show their learning in different but pedagogically sound ways.

Think creatively when redesigning exams and assessments.

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Exams and High-Stakes Assessments
Exams during the semester in a face-to-face context are usually completed independently by individual students in the same timeframe. Moving exams and high-stakes assessment online creates some additional challenges that should be addressed. While giving the same exam remotely as you would give face-to-face is certainly an option, Georgia Tech does not currently have a license for digital exam proctoring for residential courses. Student computing equipment policy recommends the ownership of a webcam and headset with microphone, but your students may not have these to allow for an exam delivery that ensures academic integrity and FERPA compliance.  The following resources offer specific examples for alternatives to high-stakes exams and assessment.

Designing Trustworthy Assessments without Digital Proctoring
A white paper by Dr. David Joyner, Executive Director of Online Education, College of Computing, Georgia Tech

Best Practices for Online Testing, Pepperdine University
Ways to design and administer online tests.

Assessing Student Learning with Online Tests, Stanford University
Two suggested options for testing online.

Additionally, when considering how best to move an exam or high-stakes test online, consider how to foster academic integrity remotely. The Georgia Tech Honor Code states:

I commit to uphold the ideals of honor and integrity by refusing to betray the trust bestowed upon me as a member of the Georgia Tech community.

Include this statement on your exam to remind students of this responsibility. Other ways to foster academic integrity include

  • designing tests that are open-book and open-note but still rigorous by, for example, using questions draw from class discussions rather than just textbook material.
  • create multiple versions of the test or use questions from the textbook quiz bank if possible.
  • asking questions that require students to provide a solution to a problem but to also describe their process in writing.
  • asking questions that require students to draw on their own experience in some way.

Low-Stakes Quizzes, Short Assessments, and Responses
Guided by course learning objectives, exams can be replaced or supplemented with other forms of assessment. This section offers tips on lower-stakes testing and ways to turn active learning strategies into opportunities for assessment when teaching remotely.

Teaching Effectively During Times of Disruption, Stanford University
A comprehensive guide for teaching remotely with advice on multiple ways to assess student learning beyond tests. (Scroll to "Other Use Cases" section. (Document is targeted at Stanford faculty, so Georgia Tech learning technologies will need to be substituted.)

Assessing Students During Disrupted Class Disruptions, Indiana University
General tips for assessing students when secure exams are not an available option.

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs): Quick Strategies, Iowa State University
Compilation of CATs that can be adapted into brief learning assessments in an online environment.

Alternate Assessment Options, Portland State University
Administer Assessments, Texas A&M University (Scroll to Teaching section)
Brief lists of alternative ways students can demonstrate learning.

Quick Tips for Collaborative Student Projects, Writing Assignments, and Reflection Opportunities

  • Can the assignment or assessment be collaborative?
    Collaborative assignments, projects, and even tests are an excellent way for students to learn remotely while maintaining a sense of community despite being geographically separated. If your students are already doing collaborative projects in your courses and that work can be done remotely, encourage them to use the features of Canvas and OneDrive to continue their work. Students can use these tools to collaborate on problem sets, analyze data, create learning resources for the rest of the class, and teach each other course material. (Detailed links coming.)
  • Would a written assessment work?
    Written assignments of a variety of lengths and complexities work well in a remote learning situation, and standard research papers and lab reports are only two of the most common genres. As mentioned above, short written "CATs" such as a minute paper or muddiest point can be low-stakes learning checks and give you insight into what all students are learning quickly. You might ask students to submit the answer to a question on the course Canvas discussion board. Written exams or exams that allow students to provide written rationales for the technical answers they are giving allows students to demonstrate what they know in their own voices and may make academic dishonesty less likely. Larger research reports, white papers, etc. can be written by individual students or student groups to meet your course objectives as well. Often a good rubric will ease grading time, and using students to peer review each other's work has learning benefits as well. (Detailed links coming.)
  • Might students demonstrate their learning in a presentation video?
    Student presentations are an excellent way for students to demonstrate their learning, research, and/or success in meeting learning objectives. Presentations can be moved online and delivered synchronously and asynchronously. Video and screen capture technologies make this relatively easy for students. Podcasting can also be an effective way for students to present as well. This resource from Stanford offers excellent specific advice for moving student presentations to asynchronous video (will need to assume using Tech technologies not Stanford's); this article from Faculty Focus offers advice for working with students on video presentations; and this guide from NPR gives advice and assignment options for podcasts.
  • Could you use reflection-as-learning assessments?
    Common in liberal arts and social science disciplines, reflection can be used to demonstrate, contextualize, and explore student learning. You might have students submit a brief response to a learning activity they complete online, detailing what they learned and what is still confusing to them. Reflections can be used at the end of content units or major assignments to allow students to self-assess their work, what they think they did well, where they want to improve, and how they plan to learn in the next phase of the course. End-of-the term reflections and reflective portfolios also give students the opportunity to compile and curate evidence of their learning while reflecting on their learning over time. (Detailed links coming.)


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