Remote Exam Strategies Guide
- Reflect on your intentions for the exam
- Demonstrate compassion and care for everyone involved
- Review UBC and Arts examination policies and guidance
- Design the exam
The purpose of this guide is to support Arts instructors to create and implement online formal examinations quickly and efficiently during COVID-19. Below we provide resources to address a range of common issues.
While preparing your final assessment, reflect on your intentions for this assessment; consider how you demonstrate compassion and care for yourself, your students, and your instructional team; design the exam; and address academic integrity in advance of the exam.
Reflect on your intentions for the exam
- What form do exams tend to take in this course when it is delivered face-to-face? What form do they tend to take in your discipline or field? To what extent will you follow these norms or depart from them as you deliver this course remotely during COVID-19? Why? Why not?
- When you were an undergraduate, what kinds of exam experiences did you find most and least helpful in assessing your own learning? What have your students found helpful in the past? How might you adapt helpful kinds of exams in your course?
- How much time and effort are you willing to spend adapting your existing exam strategy for remote teaching delivery?
- How might you create powerful, authentic assessment tasks on the exam so students can meaningfully demonstrate the skills and capabilities they have developed during the course. L. Dee Fink’s feedback and assessment procedures in his “Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning” (2005, p. 13-15) offer a helpful step-by-step process for thinking through the tasks you will set.
Demonstrate compassion and care for everyone involved
- Help students prepare for the exam by giving them a no-stakes practice quiz.
- Build flexibility and choice into the exam so students can demonstrate their areas of strengths.
- Eliminate non-essential or tangential questions or tasks.
- To foster dialogue between instructors and students and encourage students to see feedback as a process that they have some control over, consider adding an interactive cover sheet (ICS) to your assessment. The ICS will provide space for students to comment on their perceptions of their own learning process and identify areas they would like feedback on.
- Don’t add to your grading load. Consider providing feedback more efficiently by these features of Speedgrader:
- Rubrics to help make feedback reliable and consistent and more efficient for essay questions.
- Video/audio feedback. This has been shown to be more well received and enhance student engagement during online learning. By hearing your voice and tone and seeing your facial expressions and gestures, feedback has been shown to be received in a more effective and constructive manner.
Also, consider providing thorough feedback for the first exam and more concise and tailored feedback for subsequent exams to clearly demonstrate your expectations for students.
- Think though a contingency plan or alternative examination task in case a student requires an accommodation.
- Offer live support during exams for both instructors and students.
- Encourage your students to enroll in and use the Arts ISIT Exam practice module to become more familiar with the technologies used for exams.
Review UBC and Arts examination policies and guidance
UBC, The Faculty of Arts, and your academic unit or program have established policy and guidance about exams. Key documents and resources include:
- UBC Vancouver Senate policy abstracts on examinations
- UBC Arts AIR page on Academic Policies
- UBC Faculty of Arts procedure for Academic Concession.
Please review guidance you have received from your academic unit or program chair and consult your department if you have any concerns.
Design the exam
Online exams can take many forms. While the approach of giving a timed exam during a specified time window may be the most straightforward translation from the standard approach in face to face classes (and the best option in many cases), it may be helpful to consider other options depending on your pedagogical objectives.
As you consider what form the exam should take, it is helpful to revisit your learning outcomes and consider ideas and approaches that best assess the type of learning you aim for students to achieve.
- Review suggestions in the UBC wiki on Reimagining Assessments
- L. Dee Fink’s self-directed guide on creating educative assessment tasks
Timed Exam – Timed exams are completed entirely within the course’s scheduled class time or the officially designated final exam time slot. These types of exams are often the best solution for large courses, especially those that cover a wide breadth of learning outcomes since they are able to assess a wide range of knowledge in a relatively efficient manner. While automated grading of multiple choice or other similar questions can save time, it is important to account for the time needed to design effective questions that assess higher order learning.
Take home exam - Take home exams can be an effective way to assess higher order learning and reduce the student anxiety and potential for technical challenges timed exams can produce. The key is to design questions that require synthesis across learning goals, more complex analysis or application of course concepts to real-world scenarios. The challenges with fully take home exams are that they can require more time in preparation and in grading, so may not be an efficient form of assessment in larger courses. They also are more effective at assessing higher order learning, so may not be a good fit in introductory courses that focus on covering a wider breadth of learning outcomes (include link to resource for creating effective take home exams)
Hybrid exam – This model combines elements of both the timed exam and take home models. Typically an exam in this format would be separated into two sections. One example would be to have students complete a first section that would be a standard exam where all students complete it at the same time during a specified window. Then, once the students submit, they receive a second part to the exam which provides an essay question to respond to or case study to analyze and then upload a file with their response. You can design the total exam time so that students can complete it all within the specified exam time, but then give students extra time if they choose (such as a 24 hour window) to complete the second part.
In-Tray/Box Exercises – This model uses a timed exam during the standard time slot, but students are presented with materials, such as a case study or real world example, ahead of the exam for them to review and analyze ahead of the exam. As part of the exam, students are asked a series of questions about the pre-sent materials. While they have the materials ahead of the exam and could potentially collaborate on studying, they won’t know which questions will be asked about it. This allows you to assess more complex application or analysis skills while mitigating for the effects anxiety can play if students are asked to read and comprehend a complex reading or case in a high-stress, timed environment.
- The University of Saskatchewan has created an excellent guide for thinking through the implications of different kinds of exams during remote teaching.
- UCL’s guide, Designing Effective Online Assessments, provides a number of options for alternatives to traditional exams.
- What are the 1-2 most important intended learning outcomes of your course? In other words, what do you expect students to know and be able to do after the course is over? Think of your final exam as a final opportunity for students to demonstrate how well they have achieved these essential goals.
- Based on your experience, what problems or questions positively challenge students to demonstrate their level of mastery in the course? These questions or problems may be ones that surface common sense thinking or misconceptions by students.
- For each task you set on the exam, how will you assess whether students have achieved the learning outcome? What level of competence must students demonstrate? What criteria and indicators of success will you consider?
- Consider using an exam blueprint to help you align your intended course learning outcomes and the questions you ask on the exam.
- Consider helping students succeed by framing it in the context of how it is important to master the material for their future careers (I.e structural and civil engineers need to have a mastery in concepts such as X, Y, Z, so they can design, construct, repair bridges, tunnels, and other structures that are stable and safe for the public to use).
- Consider connecting concepts taught in class to real-life examples so students can see the relevance and importance of what they are learning
It is possible for exams to accurately assess student achievement of course learning outcomes, without contributing to student test anxiety. Below, you will find some concrete suggestions can be implemented into existing online exams to allay unnecessary student stress during their final assessment:
Design a pre-exam writing task
Research has demonstrated the power of positive self-reflections as a way to reduce test anxiety and enhance students’ self-efficacy and exam performance (Ramirez, G. and Beilock, S. L., 2011). Specifically, it has been shown when students write about their past challenges and the strategies they used to cope with such challenges in a successful manner prior to a high-stakes assessment, they are able to enhance self-efficacy, alleviate test anxiety, self-doubt, and fixed-mindset which interferes with learning and performance.
Example of a prompt to include at the front of exam:
Please use the next 3 minutes to answer the following question. This section is not graded and is not counted as part of your exam time.
“Write about a positive experience in which you coped with a challenge in a successful manner while feeling joy and pride. Describe these feelings and explain what these experiences mean to you”
Construct effective questions and exam assessment tasks
Adapt the kinds of questions you would ask on a face-to-face final exam for online delivery by asking fewer multiple-choice questions and asking more questions that assess higher-order thinking skills. For guidance on adapting your exam tasks, consult the following resources to get started:
- UBC CTLT Remote Teaching Institute workshop on Creating Multiple Choice Questions for Higher Order Thinking
- Writing Good Multiple Choice Test Questions (Vanderbilt University)
- Writing Good Multiple Choice Exams (University of Texas at Austin)
- Chapter 17 - Writing Multiple Choice and Other Objective Tests (from Assessing Student Learning, 3rd Edition)
Include a post-exam reflection
Consider including a reflection activity at the end of your exam. This will help students to reflect on their own learning process and help them to share learning achievements that they may not have had the chance to share in the exam.
An unscripted reflection activity that assesses personal engagement with course content can also help to ensure academic honesty.
What are some study strategies you used for studying for this exam? How did you feel about the effectiveness of your study strategies for this exam?
No matter what you do, there will always be some students who cheat online or in-person. Experts report some of the reasons for why students feel a need to cheat are due to stress, amotivation, and disconnection. Consider setting testing conditions so cheating temptation is low and the barrier to cheating is high.
Below are some practical tips to use in the classroom to promote academic integrity:
- Review the policy and procedures outlined on the Arts AIR Academic Misconduct page.
- Review the UC San Diego COVID-19 Resources for Educators and steps for promoting integrity and creating an academic culture of integrity.
- Clearly define in advance what exam writing behaviours are academically honest and those that are not. For example, UC San Diego recommends defining what “open-book, open notes” means clearly.
- Have a dialogue with the class about cheating before the end of term. Give them examples of cheating behaviour you have seen in the past and encourage them to visit the Chapman Learning Commons student guide for academic integrity.
- Consider adding an integrity pledge at the front cover of exam. Examples of academic integrity pledges: UBC Science; UBC Okanagan
- Create a fair, fit-to-purpose online exam
While some level of exam stress for students is to be expected, instructors are able to implement strategies to help students to manage anxiety that could negatively affect their exam performance. Preventing anxiety by helping students prepare for an exam is one of the most effective ways to manage exam stress. Here are some ways to minimize exam stress, in advance:
- Consider giving the entire class a short survey to evaluate their test anxiety. This will help you gauge the level of anxiety for the entire class and for specific individuals.
- Survey: Test Examination Anxiety Measurement (TEAM)
- Design learning activities and assignments that will prepare students for what they will be tested on in the final. The learning outcomes that will be tested in the final assessment should be familiar to students.
- Give students a practice exam so they are familiar with the format and layout of exam.
- Consider including a short and encouraging statement on the front of your exam.
- Provide students one minute before the start of exam to flip through the entire exam. Encourage students to attempt questions they know how to do to enhance self-efficacy at the beginning of the exam. During this time, they should not write anything down.
- Share resources and tips for students to manage their own exam anxiety. Resources such as UBC Wiki Exam Strategy Guide can empower students to adopt positive study habits that will reduce their stress levels.
- Encourage students to take advantage of the Wellness resources available to all UBC students through the UBC Wellbeing Guide.
- For more suggestions, see the Student Health and Well-Being Teaching and Learning Resources.
Aside from enabling students to write exams remotely, online assessment tools can help to make final assessments more secure, more effectively gauge student understanding of course concepts and faster to grade. There are numerous exam tools that are available for free at UBC and are integrated with Canvas.
Exams can be administered to students through Canvas Quizzes, Crowdmark or Gradescope. Because a Canvas Quiz allows use of Canvas Speedgrader and can be used with proctoring technology like Respondus Lockdown Browser. However, large classes with numerous TAs or a more complex grading scheme may benefit from using Crowdmark or Gradescope. Refer to our matrix which provides a comparison of the different functionalities to each exam delivery and grading tool.
For a detailed comparison of Exam Platform features see the UBC Skylight Guide.
To ensure that use of any new teaching tool goes smoothly, it is important to select tools carefully and prepare your students for these technologies beforehand.
- Communicating with your class about which tools they will be using, and the reasoning behind your choice, will help to allay anxiety they may feel around being watched or restricted in their online activities.
- Having your students do a test run of the technology you plan to use, will troubleshoot possible tech problems before the day of the exam.
- Arts ISIT has set up an Exam Practice Run course that students can self-enrol in. It includes student set up guides and test quizzes that will ensure tools such as Respondus Lockdown Browser, and Zoom are compatible with their devices.
- Be available to your students during the exam
- To minimize the isolation that can come from remote assessment activities, instructors can connect with their students during the exam through a video conferencing tool. Students can write their entire exam in a Zoom session the instructor has created or the instructor can just make sure they are available through Zoom, so students can drop by with questions.
- Make use of the tech support available for instructors and make sure students are aware of the technical support that is available to them.
- Instructors can take advantage of extended Arts ISIT exam hours to connect with tech support by virtual drop-in, by phone or email: https://isit.arts.ubc.ca/contact-us/.
- Students can contact the Chapman Learning Commons through email or virtual drop-in. They can also email or phone the UBC ITSC Helpdesk.
Most instructors will opt to deliver their exam through Canvas Quizzes because students already have access to the platform and are familiar with the interface. Canvas Quizzes also has settings that can help to enhance exam integrity and effectively assess student mastery of course learning outcomes.
- Time limit: Setting a time limit in a Canvas exam is good practice for timed exams. Not only will it enable an individualized timer to help students manage their exam time, but it will also auto-submit any exam work that students may have forgotten to submit. The Canvas exam timer ensures student work is not lost. Using the time limit feature on a Canvas Quiz also reduces the time that students can spend looking up answers or communicating with other students- it ensures they use their exam time only to write the exam. Tip: time limits can be adjusted before or during the exam through the “Moderate this Quiz” tool.
- Show/Hide Answers: Canvas Quizzes include features that will “Let Students See Their Quiz Responses,” as well as the correct answers, after writing a Quiz. For final assessments, it is advisable to either not allow students to view their responses automatically or to make sure answers are not visible until all students have written the exam and no longer visible after the exam ends. At the same time, students value feedback as an important part of their learning, so it is important to have a strategy for students to be able to find out what they got wrong and what the correct response would have been.
- Question delivery: The option to only “Show one question at a time” and to “Lock questions after answering” can be enabled through Quiz Settings. Limiting student access to one question at a time and not allowing them to change their answer can discourage collusion and sharing of answers. Not allowing students change responses or go back to review previous questions can also be a source of anxiety and may limit certain exam time-management strategies students use such as first responding to the questions the student knows before returning to complete the questionsthey are more uncertain of. Usefully, Canvas has a list of all questions in the top righthand corner of a student’s test page, to help them manage the time spent on each question.
- Availability Dates: The Available From and Until dates in Canvas Quizzes restrict student access to an exam. It is a good idea to only make the Quiz “Available” on the date and time of the exam. Note that availability dates cannot be adjusted in the middle of an exam so they should not be used in the place of a time limit.
- Randomize Question Order: By putting Quiz questions into Canvas Question Groups, you can randomize the order they appear for students. You don’t need to have Question Banks set up to make use of these question pools. You can just create the Group and then add existing questions from the Quiz to it.
Tip: Group similar level question together for exam consistency. See the Question Pools page of The Faculty of Applied Science Remote Assessment Guidebook to view a sample exam pool layout and more details on how many questions of different learning outcome levels to include in each question pool.
Some faculty members choose to use technology to make exams more secure. In addition to the internal Canvas Quiz features, there are third party options that can help to enhance the security and integrity of exams as well. Respondus Lockdown Browser and Zoom are available to UBC courses, for free and are integrated with Canvas. Turnitin for plagiarism detection is also available for free for UBC. While these tools can help to deter academic dishonesty, they are best used as part of an overall strategy to promote academic integrity.
- View Arts ISIT’s comparison chart of tools for securing and proctoring exams
- View UBC Skylight’s comparison chart for exam and invigilation technologies
During the Exam:
Respondus Lockdown Browser:
Respondus Lockdown is a custom browser that restricts student from accessing other applications on their computer, such as internet browsers or chat tools, while writing their Canvas exam. Because this tool is integrated with Canvas Quizzes, it is simple to implement. For more information about this tool and instructions on how to set it up, see Arts ISIT's resources on Respondus Lockdown Browser and how to use Lockdown Browser with Zoom.
Connecting with students through the Zoom video conferencing tool or is one of the ways instructors can try to emulate the in-class exam writing experience. When students join an exam Zoom session and have their cameras on as they write their final, instructors can be readily available to answer questions and monitor student behaviour. For added security, a Zoom link can be added to a Respondus Lockdown Browser Quiz. This allows instructors to view students writing their exams, while also making sure students cannot leave the exam writing window. For instructions on how to use Zoom for an exam or how to add a Zoom link to a Lockdown Browser Quiz, see the Arts ISIT's resource on how to Monitor Your Online Exams with Lockdown Browser and Zoom.
After the Exam:
Canvas Quiz Analytics:
All student quiz activity in Canvas is logged. This ensures student work is not lost, as quizzes are auto-saved every few seconds. It also allows instructors to view details of student quiz activity, including incidents of students leaving the exam or accessing another window. For more information on how to access this information, see the Canvas Quiz Log instructor guide.
Turnitin OriginalityCheck helps to check student work for improper citation or potential plagiarism by comparing submissions against Turnitin content databases, including other student submissions, web content and publisher databases. The originality of student content can be confirmed by students before submission or instructors after submissions. For more information about setting up Turnitin for your courses, see the Arts ISIT resource page on Turnitin.