Remote Testing and Assessment
Remote Exams and Assessments
With remote teaching continuing through the end of the semester, it is important to begin planning remote assessments and final exams. Moving face-to-face proctored exams to an online format requires modifications beyond the transfer of the exam content to Canvas. Consider test length, time for downloads and uploads, resources students will need, testing accommodations, as well as the irregular testing environment and technology limitations of students as they are engaged in the online assessment.
Traditional timed, proctored exams are possible using the tools available in Canvas and the remote proctoring tools of Respondus (LockDown and Monitor—see TLOS handouts). However, proctored remote exams have several drawbacks. Proctored remote exams:
- Are often more stressful for student than in-person proctored exams, which can negatively impact student performance.
- Require advanced planning and setup for the instructor and student, and Monitor can generate many “false flags” that must be reviewed by the instructor after the exam.
- Require students to have access to the appropriate technology including reliable internet, laptop, and webcam.
- Require faculty to plan for what to do if the service crashes during the exam or if students lose connectivity (communication is made more difficult because students are in LockDown).
- Prompt student privacy concerns with the use of a third-party recorded remote proctoring. Although Respondus was vetted by the university, COVID-19 has forced the move to online education; therefore, the students experiencing the third-party monitoring systems did not agree to remote instruction when they registered, unlike students who register for online courses. Instructors will need to make accommodations for a student who raises a privacy concern and offer an alternative assessment.
For these reasons, during this time, we recommend using alternatives to timed, proctored exams whenever possible. Large courses which rely on in-person exams should consider more frequent, shorter tests or open-book exams as alternative assessment strategies that lower testing anxiety while still assessing the essential learning outcomes. See alternatives below for additional advice.
Alternatives to Proctored Exams
Begin with the student learning goals when considering alternative assessments: what do you hope students will be able to demonstrate by the end of your course, in what ways can they demonstrate their skills and knowledge?
Offer student choice. Offer a proctored exam or students can choose an alternative provided by the instructor. Or, you may shift from the use of a high-stakes exam to one of the alternatives below:
- Series of quizzes: offer a low-stakes opportunity for students to demonstrate mastery of material, and give you ongoing information about student understanding. Frequent quizzing has also been shown to reinforce student understanding. Canvas can randomize questions in quizzes, making cheating more difficult.
- Open-book, home assessments: many disciplines already have a tradition of take-home exams, typically involving more conceptual or applied questions that students cannot quickly look up in a textbook.
- Professional presentations or demonstrations: students can create audiovisual presentations using a variety of media (Powerpoint, Prezi, and other tools).
- Annotated anthology or bibliography: this project gives students choice in selecting works while assessing their higher-order abilities to evaluate sources, compare multiple perspectives, and provide rationales for their choices.
- Fact sheet: students create a one-page fact sheet on a topic. Students must select relevant facts and explain them clearly and concisely.
- Peer- and self-review activity: these allow for personal reflection on learning and peer-to-peer instruction, both of which reinforce and deepen understanding. Students do need instruction in the task of providing constructive feedback. Targeted rubrics laying out expectations for student work are very helpful.
- E-Portfolio: a student-selected portfolio of work from the semester. Students compile their best or representative work from the semester, writing a critical introduction to the portfolio and a brief introduction to each piece.
- Non-Traditional Paper or Project: creative assignments work best when they have some “real-world” relevance and offer students some choice in delivery format.
- Group Project: group projects require students to demonstrate mastery of subject matter and develop their ability to communicate and work collaboratively. It is crucial to make your assessment criteria and grading scheme clear, and to ensure that there are clear, explicit expectations for each team member.
What to do in quantitative or technical fields?
STEM and other quantitative courses face a particular challenge in creating effective online exams, in part because it's easier for students to share answers and in part because so many questions are computational (from Joe Guadagni, Rutgers University Mathematics Department).
- Ask more conceptual questions (e.g., "what is the next step in this problem?", "state the definition of...", "explain why this hypothesis in the theorem is necessary").
- Ask students to identify an error in a proof or computation (this is particularly effective since it can't be googled).
- Eliminate multiple-choice and fill-in questions in favor of a smaller number of “show-all-work” questions where students have to scan and upload their work (remember, uploading work will require additional time).
- When randomizing the exam, don't just randomize numbers. Also randomize discrete parts of the problem. For instance, one version might have a problem like "maximize the volume of the box given its surface area" whereas another version might have "minimize the surface area of a box given its volume". (The numbers can even be the same for the two versions.)
- Avoid questions that consist of only simple computations. For example, instead of "calculate this integral", present students with an application which requires the set-up of a proper integral. "Write an integral expression that is equal to the probability that..." or "write a triple integral which is equal to the mass of the region" are good alternatives. There are online calculators that will not only solve many computational problems, but also give step by step solutions. Adding more words and applications to a problem tests the real learning goal: do students know how to apply basic principles?