Exams can be challenging in an online teaching/learning situation. While the online format does not allow instructors the ability to proctor exams as in a traditional classroom, there are ways to minimize academic integrity violations while ensuring that the exam accurately reflects student learning. The following tips are provided to assist in planning for exams.

Remind students about MSU's policy regarding academic misconduct and refer students to the Student Responsibilities section of MSU's Policies and Procedures.

Embrace short quizzes

Short quizzes can be a great way to keep students engaged with course concepts, especially if the instructor intersperses them with small chunks of video lectures. Consider using very low-stakes quizzes to give students practice at applying concepts. Provide 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 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 circumstances such as social distancing may harm team projects due to a team's inability to meet. Alternatives include:

  • Allowing individual rather than group projects.
  • Having groups record presentations with WebEx.
  • 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. Please 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 how.

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 of solving a question.

Use student-generated questions with explanations

Instead of ensuring 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 specific topic or skill in a meaningful way. You can also assign students to answer each other's questions and state whether those questions assess these skills in appropriate ways.

Ensure clarity in questions and prompts

Especially in a timed test, your students may be unable to ask a question and get a response. Questions and prompts must be clear to novices so your assessment measures what you want. Even if not timed, you do not want to spend your limited time answering clarifying questions.

Consider question formats leading to essays, videos, pictures and other personal responses

If appropriate, ask students to express their learning through essays, videos and pictures. Using other personalized forms of writing, speaking and communicating means that everyone needs to create their own. You can also have students post their responses and assess each other's work through peer grading. Rubrics can help guide students as they develop their work, give each other feedback. Rubrics also provide you and your teaching assistants with a consistent assessment method.

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 or will use. You can often create feedback 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 visiting a classroom. Below is some important information and resources for conducting exams and quizzes online.

Assessment Tools

The Brightspace/D2L Quizzes tool is available for creating and administering quizzes and exams online. There are options for various automatically graded and instructor-graded questions, including multiple-choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, and short answer/essay. In addition, you can time quizzes and exams, select and present questions to students in a random order, and have questions appear one at a time to prevent returning to a previous question. These will mitigate cheating.

Creating Online Exams

You can upload exam questions in batches with a tool called Respondus to avoid creating questions individually.

Tutorials for Creating Exams and Quizzes in Brightspace/D2L

Oral Exams

You can conduct oral exams 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:

Get started with Gradescope

Assignment workflow in Gradescope