Changing how you assess students is one of the biggest challenges faculty face when asked to teach remotely. This document describes different strategies including alternatives to traditional exams along with technical solutions for conducting exams online. This list is not comprehensive, but meant to share commonly used approaches or inspire new ideas.
Remember, it is important that any changes in format still assesses students based on learning objectives. Make sure the new format is not assessing students on skills you did not teach.
Tests and Exams
If you want to offer a final test or exam, below are technology solutions that can be used with helpful tips.
The Blackboard test tool has many question types (multiple choice, essay, etc.); some are autograded by Blackboard (multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank, etc.), and others require manual instructor or TA grading (short answer, essay). For more information about Blackboard tests, please review the following comprehensive document: https://uis.jhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Tests_and_Surveys_SP13.pdf
Academic Integrity in Bb
Blackboard tests have options which help prevent violations in academic integrity such as:
- time limits,
- randomized questions and answers,
- force completion (students must finish test in one sitting),
- and question pools.
Accessibility Accommodations in Bb
Assign individual students extra time, extended availability, and multiple attempts on tests. This flexibility can also be used to accommodate students in other time zones during a campus closure.
Online Exam Considerations in Bb
Consider the following options when you conduct an exam online:
- Can you use an open-book exam to minimize academic misconduct concerns?
- Can students peer assess their work?
When allowing extended-time exams, including take-home exams, content must be unique and involve higher-level critical thinking. In other words, the questions need to be original because if there is anything on the web that is similar, the students will find it!
Remote Proctoring in Bb
Remote Proctoring with Blackboard Tests using Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitoring. The Respondus LockDown Browser® is a custom browser that locks down the students computer when they take a Blackboard test. Features include:
- Assessments are displayed full-screen and cannot be minimized
- Browser menu and toolbar options are removed, except for Back, Forward, Refresh and Stop
- Prevents access to other applications including messaging, screen-sharing, virtual machines, and remote desktops
- Printing and screen capture functions are disabled
- Copying and pasting anything to or from an assessment is prevented and other features
More information is available at: https://cer.jhu.edu/tools-and-tech/respondus. You can also email email@example.com to have the tool enabled in your Blackboard course.
Live Exams with Zoom
Instructors can hold exams at the same time and place via Zoom. This simple method mimics for the onsite examination scenario and can reduce the risk of academic misconduct. We recommend asking students to turn on their webcams during the exam and for the instructor to record the exam session in Zoom. More information on Zoom is available at: https://cer.jhu.edu/tools-and-tech/zoom
Instructors can also embed short quizzes within a recorded Panopto session. More information about Panopto Quizzes can be found at: https://support.panopto.com/s/article/How-to-Add-a-Quiz-to-a-Video
General Assessment Strategies
Have an Academic Integrity Discussion
Whichever method of assessment you are using, the end of the semester is a good time to remind students of your expectations for academic integrity. Some instructors have drafted academic integrity statements or pledges and will ask students to sign them before taking a test or submitting another kind of assessment. Here is an example of one such statement being used in the Biology department:
Throughout its history, Johns Hopkins University has enjoyed a distinguished reputation for academic excellence and integrity. Each member of the University bears a personal responsibility to uphold the ethical standards of the institution.
I acknowledge that I am aware of the Johns Hopkins University policy concerning academic honesty, plagiarism, and cheating. I further attest that the work I am submitting with this exam is solely my own and was developed during the exam. I have used no notes, materials, or other aids. Before I click "begin", I am (1) closing all windows and tabs on my computer except for this one, (2) putting away all my notes and textbook, and (3) turning off my phone and other electronics.
We suggest that you send the statement out to students in advance of the assessment and ask them to read it and return to you with any questions they have. You might also want to use some class time to discuss your expectations and remind students why the standards of academic integrity still apply and matter in the remote teaching context.
Consider allowing students the choice of how they will be assessed. For example, students could choose to take a test through software or as an oral exam. This may mitigate student anxiety about taking a high-stakes assessment in a new format.
Change the Weighting of Assessments
You may want to change how final grades are calculated if you are concerned about the academic integrity risks associated with high-stakes final exams given remotely. This should only apply to future assignments so students can adjust their study strategies to the new weighting scheme. For example, consider increasing the weight of the remaining homework assignments and decreasing the weight of the final exam.
Decide if you need to provide students supplementary material or instruction to prepare them for an assessment in a new format.
Alternatives to Tests and Exams
Use lower-stake quizzes
Replace a comprehensive final with a series of lower-stake quizzes. Use weekly quizzes instead of one comprehensive test. This will put less pressure on technology working for a high-stakes test offered once at the end of the semester.
Use more homework-like assignments
If you assign homework, can the final assessment be structured to a longer homework assignment.
Send students readings, datasets, or other content to analyze and apply course concepts by summarizing in a short paper.
In smaller classes or those with adequate numbers of teaching assistants, consider using Zoom to give students oral assessments. Use a pool of questions to prevent the students tested early from sharing answers. Oral exams may be stressful for students who haven’t experienced it before. You may also need to provide time for students to develop an answer. Consider sending students the assessment ahead of time so they can prepare so the instructor or TA can then ask the students to share and explain their answer , and asking them to explain their answers to ensure they truly understand it.
Ask students to present on a course concept or topic. Be sure to provide, supportive, constructive feedback that also highlights the successful elements of the presentation. When possible, provide a specific example so students understand your expectations. There are several technologies available to facilitate online presentations.
- Zoom – Students give live presentations to the class.
- Panopto – Students can pre-record a presentation for the class and upload it to Blackboard.
- VoiceThread – Students can pre-record a presentation and upload it to VoiceThread. Within a VoiceThread discussion, students have the option to reply privately to an instructor's comment or question. When they do, only you (the instructor) will be able to see their responses, and the other classmates in the discussion will not. As the instructor, you also have the ability to reply privately to individual student responses, if you so choose. This is one mechanism by which you can solicit & assess individual student input within an online discussion platform. Here's a link that explains how private commenting works: https://voicethread.com/howto/private-reply-to-a-comment
Assign students to develop a lesson plan on a course topic that allows you to evaluate their conceptual understanding
Ask students to apply their learning by writing a paper.
ask students to debate a course concept live using Zoom or asynchronously using a discussion board. Be sure to structure the debate format so students know how many and in what format to engage.
The Blackboard assignment tool allows students to upload files to be graded individually, similar to a ‘drop box.’ The instructor provides directions for students and chooses assignment settings, such as due date, length of availability of assignment, points possible, etc.
Blackboard Assignments via Turnitin
Students submit assignments through Turnitin (plagiarism detection software) which is integrated into Blackboard. Instructors receive an originality report for each submission.
Special Thanks to Prof. Bob Lessick of KSAS’s Advanced Academic Program for sharing several of these strategies. You can view a recording of a faculty discussion about online assessment strategies that Prof. Lessick led.