One of the key considerations amidst the rapid shift to online learning is how to conduct valid, rigorous and engaging assessments in the online environment.
You will already have a defined assessment strategy set by your module specification and validation documentation. Before considering alternative methods of assessment check the scope of changes you can make within your institution’s assessment regulations.
You can also check what alternative technologies are available from your learning technology team.
Before you finalise your alternative method of assessment, consider the following:
Whether it is possible to closely replicate the existing assessment strategy in an online format, possibly utilising an available learning technology- e.g. a presentation delivered as a live or recorded session.
Co-create your alternative assessment by asking your learner’s for their preferences. This will help them to feel part of the process.
If there is no alternative but to change the assessment format, check that your learners are able to access the necessary technologies.
Be sure to communicate any changes to the assessment as early and as clearly as possible to help manage any student anxieties.
Many institutions utilise traditional examinations as part of, or for all of their summative assessment. Identifying an alternative should be a priority activity.
Some institutions have moved to provide open book examinations as an alternative method to traditional assessments. Consider the following if choosing to deploy open-book exams:
Consider how long the examination will be. It does not have to be the same amount of time offered for a physical examination. Your learners may be slowed by slow internet connection speeds, technical difficulties or the availability of equipment. Offer more time than you would for a face to face exam.
If providing sufficient time, require that students cite their sources fully.
Use the technology already available to you. Your VLE may include a function that supports open book exams by releasing questions at set times and providing a deadline for learner’s submissions.
Set questions that require the learner to analyse, evaluate and synthesise the information.
Ensure your learners have online access to any resources required to complete the open book exam at home.
There is also a range of online examination software options available to replicate the traditional exam experience. Follow the links at the bottom of this page to review a sample of tools available to support you to deliver online exams.
There are a range of potential challenging scenarios which may make offering online alternatives to assessment more difficult in the current situation.
Some of your learners may have reduced access to the internet, a suitable computer or both. This will make managing assessments which require being live on camera or attending a live session particularly challenging.
If you are planning on setting a specific time limit for an online exam or synchronous assessment, such as a live presentation, be prepared to offer a range of time slots to accommodate students in different timezones.
Offering multiple approaches to assessment alternatives will help to ensure that the potential restrictions or access challenges faced by students do not limit them from completing their assessment.
Ensuring that online assessments are equitable with on-campus assessment in terms of academic integrity will also be a key concern. Addressing this concern does not only satisfy quality assurance but will also reassure students that the standards of their course are being maintained.
It is very difficult to guarantee that no student will plagiarise or collude to complete an assessment but the following approaches can help to reduce the likelihood of academic offences:
Utilise authentic assessment approaches, requiring students to incorporate real-world information, perspectives and reflections into their submissions.
Scaffold your assessment to observe the performance of learners over the whole course or module rather than only at an endpoint assessment.
Require an additional audio or video submission for students to describe their approach to the assessment, the sources they used and their reflections on what they have learnt by completing the assessment.
Require a sample of learners, selected at random, to defend their submission through an online viva to provide an additional level of QA.
These strategies do not resolve some of the common causes of academic offences, such as learners’ feeling under pressure to submit assessments against tight deadlines, lack of clear assessment instructions and study skills support.
Ensuring sufficient time and support is available to your learners will help them make the most of their assessment submissions and will help to avoid last-minute work on their assessments or the possibility of resorting to plagiarism.
A message from Pearson
Unprecedented events call for supportive, scalable action. Pearson is committed to providing support and continuity to learners and educators around the world, as the whole Higher Education community prepares to move online.
We’re giving free access to our core range of HE and English Language online courseware to support you at this time.