Use the questions and strategies below to guide your approach to remote assessment, especially during the unusual circumstances. Even if you will not teach remotely, the suggestions can guide you to more meaningful approaches to learning about your students' learning.
- What will your assessments measure? If you want students to learn how to do X or how well they do Y, then assessment should measure if they can do X and how well they do Y. This concept of alignment is deceptively simple, but revisiting your course learning objectives and connecting them to your planned assessment can reveal clear priorities.
- How will students receive feedback about their learning? Clear and structured expectations about when students receive feedback, in what form, and what they should do with that feedback are especially important in online environments. Frequent low stakes assessments allow you and students to monitor their learning and enhance retention. Teaching assistants in a remote course may need more specific guidance for their duties, too.
- In what ways might the assessments be inequitable, especially considering this change is in response to a crisis? Think about students who are in different time zones, students who have inconsistent internet access, students who are ill or caring for ill relatives, students with accessibility accommodations that need to be adapted for online environments, and so forth. Having multiple and flexible ways for students to demonstrate their learning is ideal.
Assessment strategies in a remote environment carry the same responsibilities and challenges as face to face. If you are unexpectedly teaching remotely or using remote teaching as a break in your routine, you can still gauge student learning from afar.
- 1. Clarify and articulate your course learning objectives.
- How does the new environment fundamentally change the skills, knowledge, and values that students can learn in your course? This consideration is especially relevant for community-engaged, experiential, and laboratory/studio learning.
- Understanding how assessment tasks connect with the broader goals and objectives of the course will help students organize and prioritize their work, and can contribute to their overall motivation.
- Most courses have a set of objectives for students to achieve that can truly be independent of modality (remote, hybrid, in-person). For courses in which the modality is intertwined with objectives (community-engaged learning, experiential learning, or laboratory), a shift in priority or emphasis may be necessary.
- 2. Distribute assessments throughout the semester.
- Rather than one large final exam, consider smaller and lower stakes assignments. Avoiding high stakes exams and projects with lots of moving parts can reduce stress during uncertain times and create smaller chunks of grading for you.
- Make due dates consistent and predictable (e.g., due at the same time every Friday).
- Break up larger assessments, like projects and papers, into smaller components that are lightly graded or ungraded.
- Use a combination of formative (progress focused) and summative (overall or culminating) assessment types.
- 3. Use a variety of assessment types.
- Pay attention to the nature of the work you assign to students. Many instructors in remote teaching lean heavily on writing as a modality. Are there other ways that you could assess their learning, such as asking students to produce a podcast or other digital media? See more specific techniques below.
- A mix of assessment formats can also support student motivation by giving students choice or helping them see the broader applicability of the course.
- For assessment formats that are new to you or to students, share clear criteria and rubrics ahead of time to help students succeed and help you assess their learning.
- 4. Consider alternatives for feedback and grading.
- What kinds of feedback do students need on assessments? Consider the purpose of the assessment (formative or summative) and how students should use the feedback. Peer feedback, audio feedback, or generalized group feedback (i.e., your overall impressions from all students’ collective work) can be more sustainable. Make use of Collab/Canvas tools like the comments box to minimize time downloading and reopening files.
- Recognize the difference between grading and assessment, and what grading means in your course/curriculum/disciplinary context.
- Reflect on your own relationship to grading and how it influences your perceptions of equity in your course.
- 5. Identify flexibility in your assessment plan and grading schemes.
- Can students choose a select number of assessments to complete for credit? Consider making more assignments for peer review, self-grading, and rubric-based grading, or use overall alternative approaches like contract or specifications grading.
- For in-person and remote instruction, consider the ways in which your gradebook can respond to student absences, TA absences, your own absence, and other disruptions in instruction.
The following section describes intersections of pedagogical practice with specific technologies. There are many tools supported by UVA that may not be referenced below for brevity. Consult with your school’s LSP to learn more about tech tools supported by your school.
Performances and presentations | Physical portfolios and objects
Exams and quizzes
Operate as if these are open-book and for the sake of fairness, encourage all of your students to use their books and notes. Bear in mind that students will be completing their work in distracted and nonideal environments; thus, they will probably require more time. Some questions you may consider: Does the assessment align with what students have experienced in the course so far? Do they know what to expect? Is the exam accessible to all students in terms of formatting and timing?
- Crafting questions.
- Question variety. Use a variety of question types to assess different types of learning
- Randomization (general recommendations and specific tools within Collab). For multiple choice questions, randomize answer choices. Randomize the ordering of all questions. Use a set of questions to create different assessment versions that test similar ideas. For quantitative questions, Collab enables you to enter a range of possible values to randomly generate unique questions for each student.
- Wording. Reword questions to prevent students from performing an internet search on the text (e.g. change names, subject matter, and other small details). You can also insert words as image files to prevent copy/paste.
- Approaches to exams.
- Frequency and timing. Consider smaller stakes and more frequent assessments over high stakes. It is unlikely that all students are available to take an exam at exactly the same time. Instead, consider a broad window (e.g. 24 hours) in which they can start the exam/quiz.
- Student experience. Provide clear guidelines for what students can expect during the assessments especially technology limitations (e.g., Collab quizzes are not designed for mobile devices) and general format (e.g, provide a practice test). Have students review these guidelines for taking online tests in Collab. Collab support will also help you review your settings to ensure that your time windows, permissions, and other settings are as you intended.
- Collaboration. Consider allowing students to work together on assessments after completing an individual assessment. Collaboration can be motivating and reassuring, and a great opportunity for students to learn from each other. Monitor group formation to prevent students from being left out.
- Consider new strategies for grading. Can some questions have different point values/weights than in a traditional setting? What is the purpose of the grades, and how does it connect to student learning?
- Tend to how grading changes affect TAs.
- If you are grading open-ended questions in a large enrollment course, consider a tool like Gradescope. It enables facile grading and feedback for open-ended and calculation questions for large enrollment courses. Contact A&S LDT or your school contact for more information.
- Collab support for Test and Quizzes
Support group dynamics. Support them from afar with check-ins and instructions for how to use technology in a collaboration.
Valuing process and/or product. Decide which aspects of group work align with your course learning objectives, and design your assessment accordingly. Should students learn to work together as an extant objective (process)? Is the quality of their product indicative of their ability to work together (product)? See more on group work and collaborative learning.
Note that unstructured group work is a common site for students to be marginalized and experience discrimination. Support students in building inclusive and supportive groups by providing guidelines for interactions. See more about group work and inclusive virtual teaching on the Teaching Continuity website, and in the e-book Collaborative Learning Techniques.
- Define and differentiate writing tasks. Consider that different kinds of written work should warrant different levels of investment from students. Depending on your learning objectives, some written work (e.g., reflections and discussion board posts) may not necessitate the same scrutiny (e.g., as research papers). Let students know these important differences so that their discussion posts don’t become mini research papers (unless, of course, you intend them to).
- Workload. Notice if your course design relies heavily on written work from students. Streamlining your assignments and their assessment process will benefit both you and your students. Approaches such as checklists of criteria, peer-evaluation, and self-evaluation can do double duty in terms of allowing students to benchmark their progress and giving you insight into their learning.
- Know students’ access. Survey students at the beginning and middle of the semester to be sure they have tools suited to their written work, especially for online courses. If students can only use mobile devices for their work, lengthy written assignments can be more challenging than necessary.
Performances and presentations
- Synchronous experiences. Use Zoom for synchronous scene work, debates, rehearsals, and presentations (screens can be shared), etc.
- Recordings. If students have the right technology available, guide them to record their presentations to be watched by all students in the class on their own time. Use synchronous Zoom meetings or forum discussions to reflect.
- Evaluating technology. If a learning objective could shift to incorporate use of technology for a particular skill (e.g., self-taping, learning a design software), value the use of technology in your evaluation, and be sure to introduce and teach the skill thoroughly beforehand. Otherwise, avoid evaluating students based on fluency with educational technology.
- Application. Performances and presentations are all about making knowledge. Is there a way for your students to find a creative form to present their knowledge to the world during this specific time? Can they move a PowerPoint presentation to a chalk-on-the-sidewalk lesson for all of their neighbors? Can they host an Instagram Live or record a podcast?
Physical portfolios and objects
- Remote showcasing of objects/portfolio. Is it possible for the object/portfolio to be filmed, scanned, or photographed while the student presents? Provide transparent instructions and rubrics.
- Relocating objects. Is it possible to mail the object? If so, take care in packaging and documenting the object.
- “Using” objects at a distance. If an assessment requires students to interact with physical materials that they cannot access (but the instructor can), can they provide evidence of learning by directing the instructor to complete specific steps over zoom - the steps the students would themselves take if they had access to the materials?