The philosophy and practice of assessing student learning in higher education has given rise to a rich literature. While beyond the scope of this document, it is likely worth spending some time thinking about your assessment goals before you begin to consider how you will assess student learning and academic performance in your hybrid or fully remote course. Stepping back and thinking about your purpose in assessing student performance, and considering how the approaches you traditionally use connect back to your assessment goals, can be helpful as you consider methods of assessment and student feedback while using various instructional modalities.
Conducting assessments and providing feedback to students in a hybrid or remote context can present hurdles. To get over them, consider a balance of design and technology. A variety of options is available to effectively assess how well students achieve learning outcomes. For instance, it is fairly easy to use low-stakes online quizzes to hold students accountable or to provide spot checks on their learning. These might be ideal to keep students on track during brief course disruptions. However, conducting high-stakes tests online can be challenging — the testing tools inside of Moodle can be limiting, online testing may place extra stress on students, and test integrity is difficult to ensure. While thinking about your course and assessment goals, you may want to consider alternate methods and tools besides exams. This is new terrain for many at Colgate — students and professors alike — and thinking creatively about assessment in your courses can open new opportunities for meeting your assessment goals. Can your online exam be tailored to grant students access to course materials and resources? Or is it possible that more frequent, lower-stakes quizzes will fill the need?
The information below — which is far from exhaustive — is intended to offer some guidance and suggestions for you to consider as you plan your hybrid or remote courses with an eye to creating assessments that meet your goals. As you read, keep in mind that in the hybrid and remote environment, understanding how students are learning (formative assessment) is often as important as knowing what students are learning (summative assessment).
Create frequent low-stakes assessments
Consider using Moodle or Google Forms for short quizzes to keep students engaged with course concepts, particularly if these quizzes are interspersed with small chunks of video lecture. Consider using very-low-stakes quizzes — worth just enough points to hold students accountable — to give them practice at applying concepts.
Use Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)
CATs are ungraded, in-class activities that provide a wealth of feedback opportunities. Examples of CATs include Application Cards (asking students to provide a real-world example of how a concept or theory could be applied), Muddiest Point (a brief paragraph summarizing unclear points or ideas from a lecture), and the Exit Slip (asking students to report on what they have learned through a guided or open-ended reflection at the end of a new lesson or topic).
Check for publisher test banks
Does your textbook publisher provide question banks that can be loaded into Moodle? 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 or interactive homework that can help keep students engaged.
Be creative with assignments
Instead of formal essays, consider allowing students to use blogging software, such as WordPress, or create a Google Site to document their work in a course. Can you reduce the hours they spend in front of their computers by creating assignments — a poem or story, a sketch, a handwritten journal entry, a flow chart, or a collage — that are not screen based? What if instead of a final exam you let them turn in a portfolio of work that displays their understanding of the course material?
Assign live or asynchronous presentations
Ask students to use Zoom or Ensemble Anthem to give brief live presentations, performances, or recordings that synthesize their understanding of important readings, key concepts, or course topics.
Use Google docs for commenting
Embed knowledge checks in videos
A tool called H5P can be used to embed questions and prompts within web-based videos. These can be helpful to keep students engaged while watching instructional videos, and they can provide a level of interactivity that can support engagement. H5P is integrated within Moodle, and responses to these video activities can be imported directly into the Moodle Gradebook.
Follow grading rubrics
Consider designing and using grading rubrics that provide students with evaluative feedback as well as guidance for improvement. The Authentic Assessment Toolbox offers useful information on designing and using assessment rubrics. Clearly indicate whether and how the transition from face-to-face to hybrid or remote teaching will affect your rubric — for instance, are you likely to be more flexible about excused absences?
Use social annotation tools
Social annotation tools, like Hypothes.is, allow for commenting and discussion of course readings and websites. Hypothes.is provides opportunities for gauging student understanding of course readings and identification of key ideas that can then be assessed by faculty members.
Rethink ways to assess participation
Provide a detailed description of how the participation grade will be determined. Consider placing less emphasis on conventional oral contributions, owing to the social anxiety that many feel about speaking up on Zoom. Design for disruption by creating assignments that can substitute for class participation if a student falls ill or is unable to attend class for some other (good) reason. Provide a list of activities that contribute to the participation grade (e.g., an additive model, with options for ways students can earn points, such as Hypothes.is annotations, discussion posts, etc.). Invite students to share their ideas for what constitutes meaningful participation in a remote setting.
Adjust office hours to make them more accessible
Offer a range of office hours to accommodate different time zones, and to take into consideration family and work obligations that might fall on evenings or weekends. Schedule preassigned office hour sessions for project groups. Use a consistent communication method so that students know how to find information from you easily. Establish a mechanism to submit questions for office hours ahead of time. Keep in mind that some students are not comfortable approaching faculty for help. In some cases, extraordinary measures may be needed in order to connect with students and give them feedback.
Colgate has a Code of Student Conduct as well as an Academic Honor Code. Consider discussing with your class your expectations for behavior associated with assessments and coursework. Also explain why you care about academic honesty, the values you hope your class community will share, and your rationale for various policies related to allowed and prohibited resources for various assessments.
Include in your syllabus and in your instructions for each assessment exercise clear instructions for what is and isn’t allowed. May students create shared study guides? Talk with each other about general approaches to problems? Use and/or share online resources aside from those you provide? Comment on each other’s drafts? In general, clear, explicit expectations help students understand what is expected and avoid academic honesty issues.
Assessment design can also help promote academic honesty. Consider using low-stakes or no-stakes feedback tools (e.g., simple Moodle or Google form quizzes) for material that is fact-based and/or easy to look up online. Out-of-class, untimed instruments that require students to synthesize, evaluate, or create something while freely accessing online materials can take away some concerns associated with closed-book, timed, proctored assessments.
The Proctoring/Surveillance Question
In some fields, it is common practice to have a closed-book exam in a classroom where you can proctor the exam and control various parameters, and where students aren’t always already connected to the internet. In hybrid or fully remote courses, on the other hand, it can be challenging or impossible to monitor student access to information and/or to completely lock them out of internet access. For students, it can feel inauthentic that you are even trying: Why should they pretend there is no internet when they have to use it just to access the exam? And many of them have access to multiple connected devices.
Faculty who normally rely on in-person proctored assessments should consider three possible approaches in a hybrid or remote setting:
- Clearly instruct students with regard to expectations, remind them of the Honor Code and Code of Student Conduct, and trust them.
- Use alternative assessment approaches that are effective even with internet access and access to course materials and tools.
- Use surveillance software to attempt to replicate the in-person proctored test environment.
Whether and how to monitor students who are learning remotely in order to prevent academic dishonesty is something many faculty think about. As you work to build connections with your students and encourage them to connect with their world, consider the cost of demonstrating distrust via the use of software that attempts to proctor them and/or close down their internet connection; these costs may run counter to your pedagogical aims, and they may have deleterious effects on your classroom culture. In a time when surveillance and electronic monitoring are clearly alienating to many of us (our students included), carefully consider the approaches you take in the name of curtailing cheating. Many of us have serious concerns regarding the ways that surveillance affects classroom dynamics as well as the ethics of the software companies that offer proctoring services.
- The Vanderbilt Center for Teaching and Learning offers this useful summary of general issues related to Student Assessment in Teaching and Learning. In particular, you can learn more about CATs on their resource page.
- You may also find this guide from the Chronicle of Higher Education generally helpful: How to Give Your Students Better Feedback With Technology.
- Faculty who are concerned about academic integrity and plagiarism might find the Conference on College Composition & Communication’s statement worth reading. Further resources on proctoring and surveillance include Our Bodies Encoded: Algorithmic Test Proctoring in Higher Education, from Hybrid Pedagogy, and Big Proctor: Is the fight against cheating during remote instruction worth enlisting third-party student surveillance platforms? from Inside Higher Ed.
Some of the information on this page was inspired by and adapted from Dartmouth University’s “Teach Remotely” page, Middlebury College’s “Teach Remotely” website, and Plymouth State University’s Open CoLab, all published under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 license.