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Online Assessments

Online quizzes can be a helpful way to assess student learning, however, it is critical to consider how quizzes can best support student learning outcomes in your specific course(s). They can be set up to use a wide variety of question types and responses and can grade student responses automatically, saving valuable grading time. They can also be set up to promote critical thinking and active learning.

Best Practices for Online Assessments

Assessment is a vital component of student learning. Across all modalities, effective teaching utilizes a variety of meaningful and valid assessments, aligned with learning objectives. An online environment offers several advantages and challenges when implementing assessment. What follows are guidelines on how to create effective online assessments:

  • Use a Variety of Assessment Methods: It is not easy to prevent online cheating entirely, however, using a variety of assessment methods will help promote academic integrity. Using only one assessment tool limits multidimensional ways to assess learning achievement. With online courses in particular, traditional tests become a smaller part of the grade as you move towards encouraging student interaction on group projects and other activities. Different types of assessments include: Reading responses, performance video recordings, surveys, interviews, critiques, presentations, discussions, reflective writing, projects (individual and group), role-playing video recordings, research papers, journals, case studies, personalized video recordings, peer reviews, and ePortfolios.
  • Scaffold Larger Assessments into Smaller Ones: Allow students to complete stages of a larger assessment over time. This gives students a chance to get feedback on the process (from instructors, peers, or both), which ideally leads to increased quality in the final product. The Canvas Speedgrader can be used to provide feedback on assignments.
  • Use Authentic Assignments: Authentic assessments require students to apply what they have learned to real-world situations. They can be motivating to students since they require strategies they will need in their professional lives. Rubrics can be helpful in grading these types of assessments. Read more on this topic on Faculty Focus: Alternative Assessment Methods for the Online Classroom.
  • Provide Rubrics and Set Clear Expectations: Design assessments that are clear, easy to understand, and likely to work in an online environment. The use of rubrics help provide grading guidelines, and clear expectations to assess contributions to discussions, assignments, projects, and collaboration. In many online courses, discussions are essential for achieving learning goals. You may require students to participate in a specific number of discussions and define expectations using rubrics. You can add rubrics to your assignments on Canvas.
  • Incorporate Group Work & Collaboration: Working in groups assists students in developing problem-solving, communication and critical thinking skills, and provides them opportunities to work and learn from their peers. It is helpful to assess both individual and team-based collaboration. Student self-evaluation and peer evaluation are effective assessment approaches. Effective group work and collaboration are important to facilitate a social learning environment. Learn more on how to set up groups in Canvas.

Minimize Opportunities for Cheating Online

When giving an online exam, how can we make sure students are doing their own work? How do we know they are not searching online or checking their textbook? What is the most secure way to handle online exams? There are no perfect answers to these questions. Here are some strategies an instructor can use to assess student performance and minimize cheating online.

  • Lower the grade weight of online quizzes. Or break quizzes into smaller ones spaced out over time. The higher the stakes, the more likely students cheat.
  • Limit the time an online test is available; i.e., make sure the test is taken in a certain amount of time.
  • Create Question Groups to randomize quiz question order.
  • Select Shuffle Answers to change the order of multiple choice answers so students receive questions and possible answers differently.
  • Give different questions to different students (consider building an exam pool from which a test/quiz can randomly select. For example, an exam pool of 100 questions with 10 randomly chosen for each student).
  • Present questions one at a time and select the option “Lock Questions after Answering”.
  • Ask students to relate the subject matter to their own personal/professional/life experiences so that their answers are personalized and difficult to replicate.
  • Set up a specific time for online exams/quizzes and do not make them available all the time. Otherwise, students may print out the exams and share with other students.
  • If you want to display the correct answers once students complete their online exams/quizzes, make them available for a limited time to avoid students printing out the questions and answers.
  • Use a log-in password for your online quizzes/exams.
  • Respondus Lockdown Browser prevents students from opening other windows during the quiz. When students use Respondus LockDown Browser they are unable to print, copy, go to another URL, or access other applications. This is particularly helpful for tests/exams in supervised classrooms or lab environments. It is highly recommended to give a practice quiz with LockDown Browser before the graded quiz is given to troubleshoot any technical difficulties students may encounter.

Additional Resources

Please visit the Canvas Guides for more information on using Quiz Settings to Maximize Security.

For additional instruction on creating quizzes in Canvas please visit the Montclair State Canvas Faculty Orientation Course or register for one of our online training sessions: Designing Assessments in Canvas and/or Creating Online Tests in Canvas!