Assessing student learning is a critical component of all complete instructional designs. Instructors with experience teaching will be familiar with a variety of assessment techniques and tools, and are likely to be effective in using them to assess learning in their primary instructional delivery mode. The major challenges for assessment in a FurmanFlex or online course are to:
- develop assessment skills using techniques and tools effective in alternative F2F modes (online synchronous and asynchronous, most commonly), and
- ensure that assessment in any mode measures equivalent learning outcomes and maintains expectations around rigor and academic integrity.
Adapting Traditional Exams
It can be challenging to replicate standard, timed exams in online environments for a number of reasons, not the least of which is concerns about academic integrity. If you elect this approach, Moodle has a quiz feature with built-in capability to scramble answer and question order for added protection against academic dishonesty and faculty can elect to utilize Safe Exam Browser in conjunction with the platform. More information about developing non-biased, application-based multiple choice questions is available here.
- How much time should you give students on a timed asynchronous online exam? One simple approach is to take the exam yourself and allow students at least triple the time it took you to complete. However, especially if you have students in different time zones, you may consider providing at least a 24-hour window in which your timed exam can be completed. To do so, set the quiz/assignment to be open for a 24-hour period in Moodle to let students start whenever they wish, but restrict the time in which it must be completed to however long you’ve determined is necessary (one hour, two, three?). This allows students to take the quiz/assignment when they are able, but they all have the same time limit in which to do so.
- As you calculate exam time periods, please note that time accommodations are not granted for “X number of minutes” but rather “X amount of time beyond that given to all students.” A student with a time accommodation will need additional time to demonstrate the same level of achievement/knowledge as can be demonstrated by classmates in the time allocated. For example, you write an online quiz to take 15 minutes, but plan to give the entire class 45 minutes to complete it. A student in your class has a “time-and-a half” accommodation. Therefore, that student is allowed 1.5 hours to complete the quiz.
If you do utilize standard exams in your course, you might also think about incorporating exam-wrapper activities into your assessment system. You can find a detailed exam-wrapper step-by-step guide from Stanford or look through examples from Duquesne and Carnegie Mellon. If you feel as if proctored, synchronous exams are essential for your course, you might consider proctoring those via an online video conferencing platform like Zoom. In order to do this, you would set up a timed Moodle Quiz, gather students in a Zoom session, and proctor the exam live.
Expanding Assessment Practices
If you are looking to expand your assessment practice to respond to FurmanFlex or online teaching, you might consider open and closed-book application activities. Assessing learning through project reports, individual or group presentations (delivered live or recorded and shared online), and other forms of authentic assessment are often appropriate in all modes of instruction with very little variance needed. Consider adopting project-based learning strategies and encouraging students to work in small teams and asking them to include who they work with and in what ways as a part of the assessment. A hybrid version of this includes two-stage collaborative exams.
For those interested in capturing more advance input responses (formulas, calculations, etc.), consider using draw and write with ink features in Office 365 applications (word, excel, PowerPoint) for capturing student work (equations, formulas, show-your-work scenarios) for assessment.
Integrating robust self-assessment and peer assessment activities not only provide opportunities to collect rich evidence of student learning outcomes, but also help students develop valuable analytic and critical thinking skills.
Finally, instead of confining assessment to a few high-stakes evaluations, you might consider assessing student learning more often with regular low-stakes classroom assessment techniques and creative alternatives. For example, using index cards (or virtual note codes) to ask students to apply a concept to a real-world situation in class, or having students write down the most important point of the class and submit their answers is a quick and simple strategy to assess comprehension. Using classroom polling is another opportunity to have students answer a variety of questions to gauge understanding in real-time. You might even elect to conduct assessments verbally, in small groups, where you can set up individual online video meetings with students and ask them to respond to questions in the moment. This option enables you to give immediate feedback to students, which often enhances their learning.
Consider modifying and including one of the sample statements below to provide students with clarity about your integrity protocol expectations.
- Option 1: Stress-Reducing Version: The exam is open-note, open-book, but not open-person. It must be your own work in accordance with Furman’s academic integrity policies. Please do not discuss the exam with other students until after all students have had a chance to take it.
- Option 2: Direct Version: Students are required to refrain from discussing the test until they receive an email from the instructor that all exams have been completed.
- Option 3: Consequence Reminder Version: You are expected to turn in your own work, not give un-permitted aid to others, and not consult unauthorized sources for support. You are also expected to provide a statement indicating as such at the conclusion of and prior to submitting your test. Moodle provides mechanisms to analyze your responses against your classmates. All matters relating to academic integrity violations will be forwarded to the Academic Discipline Committee.
If you are using Moodle to administer assessments, you could require students to provide a confirmation that they have abided by integrity policies by including one of the statements above in the exam (for each page of questions, and/or as a question at the middle or conclusion of the exam). Or, you might ask students to type a statement, followed by their name, in a blank essay box indicating that the work being submitted is their own and has been completed without unauthorized aid: “On my honor, I have neither given nor received aid completing this test.”
Additional Tips to Consider:
- When it comes to assessment, less might be more. In alignment with your course learning outcomes, what do you really want your students to know? What evidence of that learning is most critical?
- Providing assessment options can allow students to demonstrate evidence of their learning in ways that play to their strengths and interests. As long as you have clearly articulated learning outcomes and have determined what kinds of evidence will demonstrate that outcome, you might find that students are able to show that in many different ways. Grading may be more interesting for you, too!
- The use of well-articulated rubrics for assessment is advisable as this alleviates student worry by outlining your specific expectations and criteria and helps to ensure that no matter the mode or format of assessment, you are evaluating student learning in an equitable and consistent fashion. Rubrics are also helpful at streamlining your grading. Moodle provides options to utilize traditional rubrics and grading guides in the online system.
- Check out these seven tips for promoting academic integrity in your virtual or hybrid classroom without joining the “arms race” in cheating-prevention tools.
Exam Review Pro Tip
Mac McArthur (Communication Studies) suggests using a Think-Pair-Square-Share strategy in Zoom breakout rooms for exam or culminating project review. After developing a set of review questions, proceed through the following steps with your students:
1. First pose a question to the full class and ask students to take a few minutes to jot down their own response to the question/problem (THINK).
2. Then assign pairs of students to discuss responses into named breakout rooms – as students are writing their personal responses, create enough rooms to accommodate students in pairs of two (10 students = 5 rooms) and use a standard naming convention to demarcate each room (Group 1A, Group 1B, Group 2A, Group 2B, etc.) (PAIR).
3. Once students have discussed responses in pairs, join pairs into groups of four by moving, for example, the members of Group 1A into Group 1B for additional discussion and problem-solving (SQUARE).
4. Finally, each group of four reports back to the full class – either by noting their responses to the questions, or areas where they need more clarity (SHARE).
Repeat as many times as necessary to work through essential questions/issues for review.
Still looking for assessment ideas? Check out this resource bank, these quick tips, or these helpful videos on the practice of assessment.
- Beatty, B. J. (2019). Hybrid-Flexible Course Design (1st ed.). EdTech Books.
- Ciabbocchi, E. & Mathes, M. (2021). Compassionate, Equitable, and Inclusive Assessment of Online Learning. Association of American Colleges and Universities Liberal Education Blog.