Tips and strategies for conducting online exams/quizzes and grading
From the MSU Roadmap
- Strategies to meet learning expectations: Expanded options for exams/tests/quizzes and other assessments to be administered virtually using Brightspace or socially distanced using larger alternative locations.
Exams can be challenging in an online teaching/learning situation. While the online format does not allow instructors the same ability to proctor exams as in a traditional classroom, there are ways to minimize academic integrity violations while still ensuring that the exam accurately reflects student learning. The following tips are provided to assist in planning for exams.
Embrace short quizzes
Short quizzes can be a great way to keep students engaged with course concepts, particularly if they are interspersed with small chunks of video lecture. Consider using very-low-stakes quizzes to give students practice at applying concepts—just enough points to hold them accountable, but not so many that the activity becomes all about points.
Move beyond simple facts
It is good to reinforce concepts through practice on a quiz, but generally it is best to move beyond factual answers that students can quickly look up. Instead, write questions that prompt students to apply concepts to new scenarios, or ask them to identify the best of multiple correct answers.
Check for publishers' test banks
Even if you don't use these questions for your exams, they can be useful for simple quizzes. Some textbooks also have their own online quizzing tools that can help keep students engaged with the material.
Update expectations for projects
Campus disruptions may limit students' access to resources they need to complete papers or other projects, and team projects may be harmed by a team's inability to meet due to social distancing requirements. Alternatives include allowing individual rather than group projects, having groups record presentations with WebEx or adjusting the types of resources needed for research papers.
Allowing exams to be open-book/source
Assume students will use resources while taking an exam and even encourage them to do so. Try to ask questions that probe deeper levels of knowledge and understanding, enabling students to apply, assess and evaluate concepts and facts in meaningful ways. Encourage students to share and cite where they get information from and what resources they use.
Encourage students to collaborate/share questions and ideas
Students will likely work together when they are stuck or confused. You can encourage working in small teams and ask them to include who they work with and in what ways.
Focus on solving problems while showing work and explanations
In many cases, students may get the same answer, but showing their work reveals meaningful differences in understanding. Sometimes there may only be a few ways to show work, so you may ask for brief prose explanations, or have students record a video of them talking through the process to solve a question.
Use student-generated questions with explanations
Instead of trying to ensure everyone answers your limited number of questions on their own, ask every student to create their own question with an explanation of how it would assess a certain topic or skill in a meaningful way. You can also assign students to answer each other’s questions and state whether those questions actually assess these skills in appropriate ways.
Ensure clarity in questions and prompts
Especially if your test is timed, your students may not have a chance to ask a question and get a response. It is vital that questions and prompts are clear to novices so your assessment measures what you want it to. Even if not timed, you do not want to be spending your limited time answering clarifying questions.
Consider question formats leading to essays, videos, pictures and other personal responses
If your class lends itself to it, having students express their learning through essays, videos, pictures or other personalized forms of writing/speaking/communicating means that everyone needs to create their own. You can also have students post their responses for each other and assess each other’s work through peer grading. Rubrics can help guide students as they develop such work, give each other feedback, and, of course, allow your teaching assistants and you a consistent method of assessment.
Respect your own time
Most of these ideas take time to grade. Try to determine what is feasible in your situation, and use feedback-based or hand-grading intensive assessments sparingly. Also consider how much feedback students need/will use. Feedback can often be created for the whole group based on common challenges or problems, as opposed to individual responses.
The Quizzes tool in Brightspace/D2L allows students to complete exams and quizzes online without having to visit a classroom. Below is some important information and resources for conducting exams and quizzes online.
The Brightspace/D2L Quizzes tool is available for creating and administering quizzes and exams online. There are options for a variety of automatically graded and instructor graded questions, including multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank, and short answer/essay. To mitigate cheating, quizzes and exams can be timed, questions can be selected and presented to students in a random order, and questions can appear one at a time to prevent returning to a prior question.
Creating Online Exams
Exam questions can also be uploaded in batches using a tool called Respondus to minimize time creating questions one-by-one.
Oral exams can be conducted using the WebEx web conferencing tool.
Grading with Gradescope
For grading, faculty have access to an online tool called Gradescope. To learn more or to get started with Gradescope: