Teaching Strategies

Assessing Learning

The remote environment allows you to evaluate your students’ learning through a variety of assessment types. Whether formative (low stakes/ungraded) or summative (high stakes/graded) in nature, the technology available allows you to approach assessment in both traditional and creative ways, such as:

  • Papers or Essays 
  • Presentations or Demonstrations
  • Problem Sets 
  • Projects or Portfolio Assignments
  • Case Study Analyses
  • Group Projects or Simulations
  • Infographics or Digital Posters
  • Quizzes, Tests, or Exams

These approaches can all be facilitated using available tools such as the Assignment, Discussion Board, and Quiz features in Canvas as well as related tools such as Zoom, Perusall, Google Apps and others. 

Considering Exams in Remote Environments

While it is possible to facilitate timed and even proctored examinations in a remote setting, it is worth considering modifying your exams to minimize the technology required and to reduce stress both for you and for your students as you adapt to this new remote teaching and learning environment. For example, you can:

  • Break larger examinations into smaller quizzes to be administered over more than one week
  • Turn higher stakes exams into the equivalent of “take home” exams, allowing students to use open notes or open books (putting a time limit on an open book exam can discourage students from being too reliant on their texts) 
  • Modify multiple choice exams into essay-based exams, project-based, or presentation-based assessments
  • Allow students to complete quizzes or exams via Canvas, but utilize question banks and randomization to ensure each student gets a unique version of the exam. 
  • Consider Authentic Assessment strategies which focus on projects where students focus on “real world” applications of the knowledge and skills learned. 

Academic Integrity in Remote Contexts

Instructors now teaching in remote contexts may find that the common sense steps they’ve traditionally taken to encourage academic integrity (i.e. proctoring exams) are no longer as easily available. While Proctorio is available for high-stakes testing situations, it is not the most intuitive tool and some faculty are unsure how to balance a commitment to academic integrity with a commitment to respecting student privacy.

For those who’d rather not pursue high tech proctoring, there are assignment design approaches that can help encourage academic integrity. Offering flexibility in assignments, creating assignments that are tailored to the course and therefore difficult to cheat on, and providing opportunities for low-stakes assessment can all serve to minimize cheating. Some instructors have experimented with having students sign an honor pledge before beginning the assignment, a low-tech solution that is shown to reduce rates of academic dishonesty (Ariely 2013).

High-pressure academic environments often contribute to a culture of academic dishonesty. While COVID-19 has caused mass disruptions and much worse to communities across the globe, the crisis also invites all of us to think about the fundamental purpose of our learning and teaching. Demonstrating care and compassion to our students can also contribute to a culture of academic integrity that is humanizing for students and instructors alike.

For more information, see the CTE’s handout on Fostering Academic Integrity in Remote Settings or our more extensive resource on Cultivating Academic Integrity.

What Does This Look Like? Four Examples

Below are examples from BC online courses of different types of assessments the you might adapt for your own course

Take Home Exam

A take-home exam takes advantage of Canvas’s Assignments tool to task students with completing an examination paper over a specified period of time. The focus here is typically not on tasking students with remembering specific information but with getting them to grapple with key questions and concepts. 

This type of exam is a nice compromise for instructors who want their students to demonstrate comprehension of key knowledge and concepts, but who also want to reduce anxiety and stress for students over exams given the current context. 

This example showcases how the instructors wanted their students to demonstrate their understanding of key concepts in the first section of the take home exam, and then apply those concepts to a previously unseen scenario.

This guide from the Canadian government (of all places) provides an excellent overview of the positives (and the negatives) of take home exams and how to construct effective questions for them.

Authentic Assessment

Many courses seek to build specific skill-sets in students that lend themselves to their application in real-world tasks. This type of final assessment tests students in their ability to apply their learning to a specific challenge. 

The key to this form of final assessment is to consider what kind of realistic challenge from your discipline would require students to demonstrate both comprehension of the subject matter and application of key concepts to new areas, in a format that showcases key skills.

This example showcases how one professor wanted their students to demonstrate mastery of the subject matter by crafting a real-world application of the discipline: a briefing paper. Note the extensive detail in the rubric and guidance for students in what the instructor would be examining in this assessment. This is vital for providing students with clarity on what concepts, knowledge, and skills they are expected to demonstrate.

More examples of this form of final assessment can be found here:  What is Authentic Assessment – Authentic Assessment Toolbox (Mueller) and How do you Create Authentic Assessments – Authentic Assessment Toolbox (Mueller)

Canvas Quizzing

Of course not every course can easily migrate its assessments to take-home exams or assessments drawn from real-world applications of the discipline.

Here the Canvas quiz tool can provide a simple and practical tool for students taking exams. Canvas quizzing offers many choices of question type, such as multiple choice, true/false, and short essay response. Canvas quizzes can easily be set up to provide individual students with additional time to complete the exam if needed.

Example 1: Multiple different question type exam.

Example 2: Multiple Choice Question type exam

For more details on how to set-up Canvas quizzing please see the Canvas Community pages on Quizzing. 

Remote Proctored Exams

For Professors concerned about preserving the academic integrity of their exams then the remote proctoring service Proctorio can work very well. BC has secured a college-wide license for Proctorio, meaning all instructors have access to it. This software integrates well with Canvas and allows for Professors to facilitate a traditional timed proctored exam to students who are remote. The set-up for Proctorio allows the instructor to customize numerous elements of the exam. It has been used successfully at BC for specific online programs. 

Proctorio requires extensive preparation  to set-up and may not be the best solution for every proctoring need, so we encourage instructors wanting to use this software to review the information on High-Stakes Testing in Canvas well ahead of using it and  to contact centerforteaching@bc.edu with any questions. Professors concerned about student privacy data should be aware of what using Proctorio entails before they use it for their exams. See the Remote Assessment FAQs for information about requirements, accommodations and other points to consider.

Accessibility Concerns with Assessment

As with all other aspects of remote courses, we must keep accessibility in mind when developing materials associated with remote assessment. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that faculty utilize assessment tools supported by Boston College, such as those included in Canvas and other learning technologies supported by CTE, CDIL, and ITS. 

Additionally, we must consider accommodations for students with documented disabilities when creating remote and online assessments. Many students require accommodations for extended time on examinations and assignments, while others require in-class note taking support and other supports. If you have concerns about how best to meet documented accomodations in a remote setting, please contact the BC Disability Services office.

In order to ensure that remote assessments are accessible for all students, consider taking a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach and proactively remove potential barriers for all students. These approaches might include:

  • Making tests, quizzes, and exams untimed or extended time for all
  • Providing students multiple ways for completing an assignment (submit as a paper or a recorded presentation, for example)
  • Allowing the option for assignments to be completed in groups or individually

Further Resources

If you would like to explore these or other adaptations or would like to discuss remote exam proctoring options, please contact centerforteaching@bc.edu for a consultation. 

Please review these further resources for ideas on creating online/remote assignments & assessments: