Assessment Strategies

The strategies below will help you adapt your exams and assignments for teaching remotely., These flexible, supportive recommendations provide options for conducting final exams with or without the use of identity verification and proctoring. Consult with your discipline-specific colleagues and work with your chair or associate dean for undergraduate or graduate education, especially when determining alternative means of assessing learning outcomes.

Quick Tip Sheet: Assessment Types & Recommendations (pdf)

1. Be Flexible and Understanding

Consider disruptions and potential limitations students might be experiencing and be as flexible as possible. Limitations may include things such as loss of access to preferred devices, software, or consistent high-speed internet, and other challenges such as time zone differences, personal illness, or family obligations. Stay in communication with your students regarding your expectations and their needs. Be flexible with due dates, participation windows, and alternative ways to access course content.

2. Adapt an Existing Assessment

Adjusting your assessment strategy may be more challenging in some disciplines than for others. By reflecting on the essential learning outcomes, leveraging technology, and providing the appropriate support and feedback for students, we hope that you will be able to measure student learning for the things that matter most for your course. Email KeepTeaching@umd.edu if you would like a consultation on your assessment plan.

View the assessment types below and our recommendations for how you might plan, prepare and leverage technology to accomplish your course goals:

Assessment Types and Recommendations for Adaptation

Midterm Exams

  • Reduce or Reconsider. Consider the possibility of delaying or dropping a mid-term exam and replacing it with smaller assignments that might assess the key learning outcomes.
  • Lower the Stakes. Reduce the stakes of these grades as much as possible, given that students may have limitations or interruptions with their technology and internet access during these first weeks of remote learning.
  • Add more Time. As students adjust to working in online testing environments during a high-stress time, all students may need more time than usual to navigate the interface, process questions, and type their answers, particularly if they must diagram or create equations using LaTeX notation. (If you usually allowed 55 minutes in class, you might offer 90 minutes online).
  • Leverage Technology. After creating hand-drawn equations or diagrams students can take pictures of their work or scan the images and submit by email [using a scanning app such as Adobe Scan to PDF APP (part of the UMD creative cloud) or Microsoft Office Lens if students have access to the appropriate devices]. Recorded voice messages can also be used, where students can describe the process they employed to get to an answer.
  • Support Students who Require Accommodations. If you use timed exams, quizzes and assignments, you need to verify if your students require extended time and breaks. Some students may also require use of adaptive technology, captioning or other accommodations during assessments. Review instructor resources on how to implement accommodations in online courses and consult with the Accessibility and Disability Service if you need assistance to implement accommodations online.
  • Uphold Academic Integrity. Use Honorlock, the University’s online proctoring software. If you intend to use this for a final exam, consider first using it for your mid-term as a lower-stakes way you to practice with the tool.

Final Exam

  • In addition to the recommendations for mid-term exams:
  • Leverage Technology. Use ELMS-Canvas Quiz tool and develop a strategy for an exam format that will work remotely. Questions typically distributed on paper can be uploaded in ELMS in a variety of formats, including multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the blank, and essay questions. Responses for multiple choice or true/false can be automatically scored. Questions can be randomly shuffled for each student, ensuring that each student receives a different, but parallel, form of the test.
  • Leverage Technology. Create a timed exam that can be done with an open-book.
  • Leverage Technology. Write additional questions and use quiz banks to randomize the questions and question order. Insert more open-ended questions, including ones that ask students to describe their process or thinking for arriving at an answer.
  • Uphold Academic Integrity. Make academic integrity expectations clear in the exam directions. Ask students to sign and submit an integrity commitment before the exam takes place, or create a first or last question within the exam itself asking them to commit to your integrity expectations.
  • Uphold Academic Integrity. Provide a proctored final exam with Honorlock

Writing Assignment

  • Leverage Technology. You may have a final that takes the form of a paper, written or visual project, data analysis, or some other document. These can be submitted in ELMS-Canvas using the Assignments tool. Double-check that the assignment type is “Online” and allows for file submissions. You may have already created this assignment in ELMS-Canvas in the process of managing your gradebook.
  • Uphold Academic Integrity. Use the built-in Turnitin plagiarism check tool in ELMS-Canvas.
  • Uphold Academic Integrity. Provide a proctored, written exam with Honorlock

Practical / Performance Assessments

  • Reduce or Reconsider. If your students are performing a practical or applied final, decide whether this must take place in real-time or if it can be recorded.
  • Leverage Technology. If a committee must interact with the student in real-time, schedule a Zoom meeting.
  • If the performance can be recorded, create a ELMS-Canvas assignment and allow students to upload a video file or share a link to a streaming video.
  • NOTE - These options require a device with a camera and microphone and high-speed internet access. Work with your students to determine who cannot meet those requirements. If you have students who will not have access for the duration of the exam, work with your department chair to find access alternatives.
    The Dance Studios Association have published a list of resources for moving dance-based pedagogy online.

Individual or Group Presentation

  • Reduce or Reconsider. If presentations are an important final assignment, there are many options students can use to create a presentation and submit it to ELMS-Canvas. NOTE: Assess only the key course outcomes. Unless digital recording and virtual public speaking skills are part of the learning outcomes, keep the grading and feedback focused on the content rather than the delivery.
  • Leverage Technology. Access to both preferred devices and stable consistent internet are key considerations when determining which option will work for your students. Here are some options:
    • Video recording: Students can record a slide presentation in PowerPoint or in a recorded Zoom session; they would then submit a link to an ELMS-Canvas assignment.
    • Slides and notes: Students create a PowerPoint or Google Slides file with typed notes for the spoken presentation. This is a good option for students without a microphone or webcam and those who don’t have high-speed internet to upload a large video file. It could also drastically reduce your grading time.
    • Zoom meetings: If you feel the presentation must be live, offer multiple time slots and allow students to sign up for times that work for them.
    • Virtual poster session: If having students share work with each other is essential, create a virtual poster session by creating a Discussion in ELMS-Canvas. Each student posts their presentation and gives feedback to others. Offer options for peer feedback including text or audio responses. In large courses, use the Groups tool to create small groups (of 4-8 students) and ask them to comment on two others so everyone receives feedback.
  • Support Students who Require Accommodations. Consult with the Accessibility and Disability Service if you need assistance thinking through accommodations for your students.

Graduate Thesis and Dissertation Defenses

  • Consider. By policy, Master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation defenses require an in-person meeting with the student and committee chair(s), and for dissertations, the dean’s representative. However, the Graduate School has created a new process (go.umd.edu/gs-rdef) and policy (go.umd.edu/gs-p-rd) for conducting a remote defense during a public health emergency.
  • Leverage Technology. Committee chairs should review those documents and then request permission for a remote defense at go.umd.edu/gs-rrd. Other meetings (e.g., dissertation proposal) can be conducted via Webex or Zoom without permission in advance. For technical support, committee chairs should contact itsupport@umd.edu. For technology-related needs, please visit this page to explore options that will support work remotely during prolonged campus closure. For current information from The Graduate School and answers to frequently asked questions, please visit gradschool.umd.edu/coronavirus.

3. Create a New Assessment

Design an “Un-google-able” assessment. Creating assessments that allow students to demonstrate what they know, think, and are able to do while minimizing cheating can be a complicated task in ordinary circumstances. You don’t need to have every assignment revised all at once, focus on the big ones for now and make a plan to circle back later.

  • Consider other ways that the primary learning outcomes could be assessed. Would a paper or video presentation be possible? For ideas, see Ryerson University’s “Best Practices for Alternative Assessments”.
  • Could you create an open-book or open-resource assessment? How might the skills or knowledge be used in a real-world setting and how could you have students perform a similar task?
  • See additional tips for constructing take home exams from Bengtsson, 2019.

When transitioning to a new assessment, be sure to:

  • Describe what students will need to know or be able to do (i.e., identify what will be assessed) and how they should complete and submit the assessment.
  • Identify how points (and how many) will be awarded for each prompt/component.
  • Let students know how, if at all, the new assessment(s) will affect the way course grades are calculated (note: try to keep these changes minimal).
  • In all cases, share with students that this is new for you as well, and solicit their feedback to clarify assessment expectations.

Need support? Email keepteaching@umd.edu and ask for an “assessment consultation”.

4. Plan How You Will Grade and Provide Feedback

Offer formative feedback: If at all possible, give students clear feedback and allow them opportunities to revise and resubmit their work so that their mastery can develop over time. This is especially important if the assignment is new, and there might be misunderstandings about your expectations.

Create and Grade assessments in ELMS-Canvas. Our learning management system has a series of tools to make feedback and grading easier and to increase academic integrity. Consider Using tools such as:

  • The Quiz tool to provide automatic feedback and grade many question types, giving you more time to grade essays or short answers.
  • Speedgrader makes virtual grading easier for you and provides more timely feedback to your students.
  • Provide a weekly summary through ELMS-Canvas announcements, either as text or in an audio recording right in the tool.

Have questions? Attend a webinar hosted by DIT to learn more about these tools. In order to maximize your time and provide adequate feedback to your students, adjust your assignments to assess only the essential learning outcomes.

  • Example 1 - a major concept is usually assessed in three essay questions at the end of an exam where you also assess the concept in multiple choice questions. Reduce your plan to include only one essay or a few multiple-choice questions.
  • Example 2 - instead of one large final with a large grading load, consider breaking those questions into shorter quizzes or writing assignments each week to test concepts as they appear and spread your grading load over time.

5. Prevent Cheating -- Proctoring

Online proctored exams are possible using the quiz tool in ELMS-Canvas and the HonorLock remote proctoring tool. However, proctored online exams have several drawbacks. We strongly encourage instructors to consider whether proctoring is truly necessary.

Things to consider: 

  1. Stress. Online proctoring tools create more stress than in-person proctored exams, which can negatively impact student performance.

  2. Access. Students must have strong wifi access, a Chrome browser, a video camera, an audio input device and complete privacy for the duration of the exam. This may be a significant challenge for some students and instructors will have to make accommodations. See the HonorLock FAQ

  3. Setup. Online proctoring tools require substantial setup and practice on the part of the instructor as well as the student. A no-stakes, “trial run” proctored assignment should be provided to give students a chance to experience the software prior to the real exam.

  4. Privacy. Students may have privacy concerns about third-party recorded remote proctoring. This FAQ about Honorlock may help clarify questions and concerns related to this matter.

  5. Extra work for you. After the exam is finished, there are often many flagged instances, many with false indicators, that have to be reviewed and considered by the instructor.

For the reasons mentioned above, we recommend using alternatives to timed, proctored exams wherever possible. Large courses reliant on in-person exams should consider open-book exams or frequent low-stakes assessments as alternative assessment strategies that are relatively easy to grade. (See tips for Adjusting your Exam content.)

6. Communicate Expectations

In general, students commit academic misconduct because they are anxious about their performance, are unable to meet deadlines, or do not understand the rules and expectations for assignments. All of these stressors are heightened as we move online. The Office of Student Conduct has provided the following recommendations:

  • General information for instructors
  • Consider alternative modes of assessment. If possible, structure your assessments so that peer-to-peer collaboration and access to resources (e.g., the internet, books, notes) are acceptable.
  • Give students clear instructions on citing sources in written responses.
  • Enable Turnitin for written final papers. Let students know you will check for plagiarism.
  • Communicate expectations for academic integrity. Explain which resources are and are not allowed for each assessment and discuss the importance of trust in the classroom, and consider best practices for reducing cheating on take home exams.
  • Enable student access to the Libraries’ course reserves and interlibrary loan services online. There may be delays in response time due to limited staff, so we encourage everyone to request electronic resources whenever possible.
  • In traditional classroom settings faculty have required the use of Respondus Lockdown Browser (LDB) to secure the ELMS-Canvas testing environment. This may not be an optimal solution for students in remote locations, however. Students will have access to more than one device, textbooks and notes; in addition variable internet bandwidth can cause LDB to freeze, precluding students from successfully completing the quiz. Consult these academic integrity resources for administering an assessment.

7. Practice Beforehand

This is a new and unsettling process for both students and instructors. Give yourself and the students low stakes opportunities to practice using any new technology.

  • Hosting a webinar presentation? Jump online together prior to the big day to let everyone test their camera, lighting, microphone and practice sharing their screen.
  • Proctoring an exam with Honorlock? Provide a pre-test in the tool and give points for completion.

Ask for help if you need it. Your colleagues, staff, TAs and all of us here at KeepTeaching@umd.edu are available to provide support for whatever you may need.

8. Assessment Technology Resources

9. Assessment Pedagogy Resources