Remote Exams and Assessments-Rutgers

Remote Exams and Assessments-Rutgers 

Tips for Exams and Alternative Assessments 

We now know that remote teaching will continue through the end of the semester. It’s important to start thinking about how you will handle remote assessments and final exams. 

Proctored Exams 

Traditional timed, proctored exams are possible using the tools available in Canvas and Sakai and remote proctoring tools like ProctorTrack. However, proctored remote exams have several drawbacks: 

  1. They are often even more stressful for students than in-person proctored exams, which can negatively impact student performance. 

  1. They require substantial planning and setup on the part of the instructor and the student, and proctortrack can generate many “false positive” flags that must be reviewed by an instructor after the exam. 

  1. Not all students have access to the appropriate technology to use services like ProctorTrack; instructors will have to make accommodations for such students. Please keep in mind that Chromebooks are not currently supported for remote proctored exams. 

  1. The technical infrastructure of services like ProctorTrack has not been utilized at this scale before, so planning must include what to do if the proctoring service crashes during the exam. 

  1. Students may have privacy concerns about third-party recorded remote proctoring. Unlike when students agree to the use of such systems when they register for online courses, students did not agree to remote instruction when they registered for spring 2020 and instructors will need to make accommodations for these students. 

  1. Since the transition to remote instruction, we have routinely received reports that students find remote proctoring systems relatively easy to circumvent. 

For these reasons, during this time 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 the sections below for details and advice. 

Alternatives to Proctored Exams 

Your learning goals are an excellent place to start when considering alternative assessments: what do you hope students will be able to do by the end of your course, and in what ways can they demonstrate what they know?  

This presentation by Karen Harris of Rutgers’ Teaching and Learning With Technology presents an excellent list of 10 suggested alternatives to exams that can be aligned with many different subjects and goals. 

Below is a quick list of her suggestions; see the presentation for much more detail: 

  1. Series of quizzes: offer a low-stakes opportunity for students to demonstrate mastery of material, and give you ongoing information about student understanding. Frequent quizzing has also been shown to reinforce student understanding. Both Canvas and Sakai can randomize questions in quizzes, making cheating more difficult. 

  1. Student-developed quiz questions: writing quiz questions both builds and demonstrates students’ understanding of the material. This assignment can be structured as a collaborative group activity. 

  1. Open-book, take-home assessments: many disciplines already have a tradition of take-home exams, typically involving more conceptual or applied questions that students cannot quickly look up in a textbook. 

  1. Professional presentations or demonstrations: students can create audiovisual presentations using a variety of media, powerpointprezi, and other tools. 

  1. Annotated anthology or bibliography: this project gives students choice in selecting works while assessing their higher-order abilities to evaluate sources, compare multiple perspectives, and provide rationales for their choices. 

  1. Fact sheet: students create a one-page fact sheet on a topic. Students must select relevant facts and explain them clearly and concisely. 

  1. Peer- and self-review activity: these allow for personal reflection on learning and peer-to-peer instruction, both of which reinforce and deepen understanding. Students do need instruction in the task of providing constructive feedback. Targeted rubrics laying out expectations for student work are very helpful. 

  1. E-Portfolio: a student-selected portfolio of work from the semester. Students compile their best or representative work from the semester, writing a critical introduction to the portfolio and a brief introduction to each piece. 

  1. Non-Traditional Paper or Project: creative assignments work best when they have some “real-world” relevance and offer students some choice in delivery format. 

  1. Group Project: group projects require students to demonstrate mastery of subject matter and develop their ability to communicate and work collaboratively. It is crucial to make your assessment criteria and grading scheme clear, and to ensure that there are clear, explicit expectations for each team member. 

For more detail on each of these 10 suggestions, please view the presentation here. 

STEM and other quantitative courses face a particular challenge in creating effective online exams, in part because it's so easy to cheat and in part because so many questions are computational. Joe Guadagni has compiled this advice from the Mathematics department: 

  • Ask more conceptual questions (e.g., "what is the next step in this problem?", "state the definition of...", "explain why this hypothesis in the theorem is necessary"). 

  • Ask students to identify an error in a proof or computation (this is particularly effective since it can't be googled). 

  • Eliminate multiple-choice and fill-in questions in favor of show-all-work questions where students have to scan and upload their work. 

  • If using problems from a textbook, change not only the numbers but also the names (e.g., John to Alice) and the scenario (e.g., pulling a boat in to letting a kite string out). The reason for this is that popular textbooks will probably have many of their problems already solved online somewhere, for example, on Chegg. 

  • Use letters and variables in place of specific numbers. 

  • When randomizing the exam, don't just randomize numbers. Also randomize discrete parts of the problem. For instance, one version might have a problem like "maximize the volume of the box given its surface area" whereas another version might have "minimize the surface area of a box given its volume". (The numbers can even be the same for the two versions.) 

  • Avoid questions that consist of only simple computations. For example, instead of "calculate this integral", present students with some application in which they also have to set up a proper integral. "Write an integral expression that is equal to the probability that..." or "write a triple integral which is equal to the mass of the region" are good alternatives. There are online calculators that will not only solve many computational problems, but also give step by step solutions. Adding more words and applications to a problem makes it more difficult to cheat and also tests the real learning goal: do students know how to apply basic principles? (Ultimately, anyone can use a calculator, but only if you know what you want to calculate.)