Assessment and Remote Teaching
Opportunities and Options for Faculty
Many types of out-of-class assignments that you have planned will not need to change when teaching remotely. The kinds of work that students would have completed individually—assignments such as response papers, problem sets, or essays—might not require modification, particularly when they assess students' ability to do things with readings, data, and/or concepts already found on the syllabus. Things may become more complicated, however, in those cases in which you have asked students to work together, to present their final product interactively in class, and/or to draw on research or other kinds of resources found exclusively on campus. In these cases, you may have to introduce modifications into your original plan, directing students to alternative resources (e.g. online documents in lieu of research in special collections) or alternative platforms (e.g. a voiceover recorded in Powerpoint in lieu of an in-class group presentation).
Here are some considerations to bear in mind as you think about how to preserve/revise your remaining assignments.
Focus on what you want to assess
As you begin thinking about which parts of your assignments you wish to preserve or modify, you'll want to identify, as clearly as possible, the competencies you really care to assess. If it seems too difficult for your students to complete the group podcast you had assigned, you may ask yourself: what were you most interested in learning about your students from that assignment? Was it their ability to engage in collaborative groupwork? Their ability to demonstrate a mastery of audio recording and sound editing? Their ability to interview someone? Their ability to tell a compelling story? Depending on your answer(s), you might arrive at different paths forward. If the core of the assignment was about groupwork, then it might be a good time to start preparing students to hold group meetings by Zoom or Webex; if the core was the storytelling, perhaps you could allow students who won't have the benefit of a cancelled workshop on sound recording to submit a script instead?
Connect students with the resources they need
Make sure that students have access to any software, technology, or other physical resources that are required to complete assignments. Ideally, aim to use software or other resources (e.g. library databases) that are freely available to students from remote locations.
Create many opportunities for dialogue
Whether we recognize it or not, frequent, low-stakes feedback is the currency on which all assignments run. It can be easy, when moving online, to underestimate the many avenues, informal as well as formal, that our students use to ask and answer questions when we are teaching face-to-face. Whether it's turning to the classmate in the next seat or participating in an ad hoc study group, students in face-to-face environments benefit immensely from the opportunity to talk through their ideas. How can we make sure that students retain at least some simulacrum of these resources when we are teaching remotely?
- If you've been planning to have students present their work-in-progress in class, you could ask them to present to their peers and teaching staff through a Zoom or WebEx meeting of the class. Alternatively, students could record a presentation on their phone or computer and submit it through email or your campus learning management system.
- Insofar as your students would benefit from getting peer feedback outside of class, you may want to encourage them to use collaborative tools, such as Google docs, Zoom, and WebEx, to offer each other feedback. You may also want to assign students to study groups and establish formal videoconference rooms for their use.
- You can monitor the chat function that accompanies your Zoom or WebEx class meeting and encourage students who have questions about upcoming assignments to post them there.
Consider alternatives to usual assignments
In designing assessments or assignments for a course, instructors often think of exams or term papers, but there are many other types of assessments that may be appropriate for your course. If you are willing to think creatively about assignments that go beyond traditional exams or research papers, you may be able to design assignments that are more accurate reflections of the kind of thinking and problem-solving you want your students to engage in.
Indiana University - Bloomington's Center for Research on Teaching and Learning has an excellent list of alternative assignment ideas (along with a wealth of other resources on effective assessment practice). The Berkley Center for Teaching and Learning also has some excellent suggestions and tools.
Here are some options to consider when determining how to administer final exams remotely.
Option 1: Alter the exam to lessen the need for proctoring
There are several strategies you can pursue to offer a final assessment without a need for proctoring
- Open book exams, perhaps with more difficult questions that would require use of resources or higher levels of thinking
- Changing to or adding question types such as short answer or essay. Here is a good resource from Indiana University Bloomington regarding essay exams
- Alternative Assignments can allow for better assessment of higher order thinking than traditional exams. Consider developing an opportunity for students to write an essay, work through a set of clinical vignettes or problems, create a mind map about a topic, develop a presentation about a topic, compile an annotated bibliography or dictionary of terms, or create an infographic or fact sheet about a topic.
Option 2: Proctor using a videoconferencing tool
Many exams can be safely proctored through videoconferencing tools like Webex and Zoom.
- Create the exam either in your campus's learning management system or in another format (google forms, qualtrics, or pdf) to be sent to your students at the start of the exam.
- Schedule the videoconference, leaving time at the beginning for instructions and for working through any technology issues. During setup, both Zoom and WebEx have options you can select to automatically record the session for later review.
- Communicate clear instructions to students. For Zoom conferences, you can request for students to share their screens so that your or assistant proctors can observe (and record) whether students are using unauthorized resources on their screen. WebEx does not have this option. In any case, you should communicate clear instructions on how students should log on, confirm their presence and identity, and communicate to you if they have a question or problem. Both Zoom and WebEx have "raise hand" options that allow students to unobtrusively request your attention.
- For exams with a large number of students, both Zoom and WebEx have options for breakout rooms. Breakout rooms allow you to create sub-sessions of the larger video-conference which you or your assistant proctors can enter or exit in order to better observe or record small groups of students.
No videoconference based proctoring solution will be able to fully replicate the security of a testing center or in-person proctoring. As such, you might also consider having students sign an academic integrity statement and/or employ a plagiarism checker for longer essay questions.
Option 3: Proctoring using a professional proctoring service
Most MUS campuses subscribe to a proctoring service that can provide more advanced tools to ensure academic integrity in an online proctored exam situation. These solutions, however, are both expensive and time-intensive to set up. As such, they should be reserved for only the most high-stakes exam situations. Contact your campus eLearning or IT leads if you believe a tool of this type is necessary for your course.
There are likely students in your course with learning or sensory disabilities whose challenges will be exacerbated by remote learning. Provide these students with a clear opportunity to request accommodations or inform you of any challenge they may be facing. Check withyour campus disability service or academic officer on specific accommodations, but bear in mind typical options such as extended time for exams. Consider, too, laptop, software and Wifi access for your students, and be willing to be flexible if students will find it difficult to take an online, timed test at a specific time – consider if there are other ways you can ask them to demonstrate their knowledge of the material.
This page adapts material from Boston University's Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University's Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, and Indiana University Bloomington's Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning.