By: Martha Diede, Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, Syracuse University
Rather than plan on large exams, consider smaller, low-stakes assessments for courses with an online component. These assessments give students the opportunity to demonstrate what they know and give faculty the opportunity to see where gaps are appearing in students’ knowledge and skill acquisition. Faculty might also consider assessments alternative to exams, particularly exams that derive their questions from test banks.
Students might be able to suggest other ways that they can show you that they have met the course outcomes. These suggestions might take advantage of new technologies or use existing technologies in new ways. However you construct your assessments, be sure to include three clear parts: purpose (why?), task (what you want them to do) and criteria (what you will evaluate to determine whether the student passed or earned a specific letter grade). Consider this information from Inside Higher Ed.
To adjust your exam for students who have tested COVID-positive and need to isolate:
If the student is well enough to take the exam, you might offer it online at the same time as the in-person exam using Blackboard and its timing function. That way the time is limited and you don’t have the risk of exam items being communicated out because the exams are administered at the same time.
If the student is too ill to take the exam simultaneously with your in-person students, you might need to consider an alternative open book (and perhaps time limited) test where at least a few of the items demand the kind of critical thinking contextualized to the course, using questions that aren't easily searched online.
Consider giving all students an open-book, open-note exam in which you increase the difficulty to the questions so that students need to be able to recall and use information, and where time to look up information if they haven't prepared is insufficient.
Below are some possible ideas for assignments to replace a traditional exam:
Some additional ways to make cheating difficult are as follows:
Consider questions like these ones suggested by Francis Su:
Take one homework problem you have worked on this semester that you struggled to understand and solve, and explain how the struggle itself was valuable. In the context of this question, describe the struggle and how you overcame the struggle. You might also discuss whether struggling built aspects of character in you (e.g. endurance, self-confidence, competence to solve new problems) and how these virtues might benefit you in later ventures.
For any problems you cannot solve on this exam, suggest a strategy you might try to tackle the problem, and show what happened as a result. Describe any strategic gaps you were unable to bridge, and list 3 helpful insights that may help another person trying to tackle the problem. Doing so will earn you up to 1/2 credit on the problem.
Consider reducing the motivation to cheat.
Please also keep in mind that online visual and auditory tasks are especially challenging for students who have visual and hearing exceptionalities. Consider contacting the Center for Disability Resources to ensure you support all of your students.
If you do opt for a test, remind students that taking a test by mobile phone might not be the best option. Also encourage students who have sub-optimal internet access to communicate with you regarding testing.
In challenging circumstances, allowing some flexibility in demonstrating acheivement of course outcomes can help all of the students in your class.