Online Assessment Considerations and Best Practices

HWS - Assessments & Considerations:

In alignment with the guidance provided on the HWS "Remote Teaching Guide" web site

If you choose to conduct timed exams, bear in mind that many variables can come into play that are outside of the student’s control, including time zones, Internet connectivity, device processing and reliability and build in some flexibility; please also consider establishing a mode of contact with you during the exam, in the event that students have questions.

Due to theses constraints, it is important to consider whether an asynchronous assessment would be an option for your class. If a synchronous and timed assessment is deemed a requirement for your course; it is encouraged that you utilize tools that the Colleges have available including Canvas and Zoom. Please note: it is not recommended that the final exam be the time you or your students learn new tools or workflows. In this article, you will find information on the key technology considerations that should be taken into account when planning for an online synchronous assessment.

As a primary consideration for online synchrounous assessments, all student accomodations must be included, just as they would in the physical classroom.

As a first planning step, we recommend beginning with a planning outline for your online synchronous session. The planning outline can be thought of as a script for the timing and sequencing of the events that will need to occur to successfully conduct an online synchronous assessment.  Further information on constructing a planning a timeline of your assessment can be found here:

In addition to developing a planning outline; consider offering a mandatory practice exam where students have to submit answers in the same format you are requiring for the Exam. This may help uncover any technology issues that the students may be experiencing.  During practice exam, include a question where students can provide feedback on any technology or timing issues they encountered while completing the assessment.

Finally, develop  a communication plan for communicating with students during the exam.  How will they contact you, if they have a question, and how will you contact them in the event something needs to be communicated during the exam. Choose the preferred channel of communication and share the plan with the students. Include this plan as part of the instructions for the exam.

Although the available tools are stable and reliable, and outages are rare; planning for a technology outage will be important. Contingency plans should include alternative methods for providing access to the assessment and planning for communications with the students should the need arise.

Consider the following :

  • A plan for allowing additional attempts on Canvas for the quiz should there be interruptions to the technology. Makes sure to share this plan with the students before the assessment.
  • A PDF or Word doc copy to send students if an alternative distribution of the exam is needed.
  • If there is a technology outage, make sure you establish an alternative communication channel and share this plan with the students. For example, if Zoom and/or Canvas is suddenly unavailable to both you and the students; make sure the students know how to contact you.

Further Recommendations for your Synchronous Canvas quiz:

  • Any changes to an active or completed assessment is strongly discouraged. Altering the assessment during or after can lead to many technical difficulties which may ultimately lead to disruptions to the grading process. Often, this will increase the turn-around time for grading. This will be especially disruptive during the submission of final grades.
  • For exams longer than one hour it is recommended to break up the exam into multiple parts. 
  • It is recommended to not set an end time in Canvas. Doing so can cause issues for students that need extra time. 
  • For exams with images or other multimedia, it is recommended to either hide the Files navigation menu or use Box.
  • Please note: HWS does not have an online "proctoring" tool; FacIT reviewed proctoring options and piloted a tool in 2018-19 and determined for a variety of reasons to not pursue this further.
    • Some institutions use online proctoring tools, which install key loggers and other invasive software on a student’s computer, and then force them to keep a webcam on them at all times during the exam, with a live ‘proctor’ watching. It is strongly recommended to not use these tools. They’re ineffective, they’re intrusive, they’re expensive, and you’ll need to provide an alternative for students anyways.
    • Also remember that these tools provide deterrence, not prevention, and anything transmitted digitally to your students should be considered public after that point. There’s no way to ‘keep the exam secret’ in practice.
  • Contemplate ways to make the exams more ‘cheat proof’ by focusing more on the process of recall as a goal, rather than evidence of knowledge and memorization.
  • A guide for setting up Canvas quizzes for online exams:

Still thinking about a synchronous exam? If any of these apply to your students we encourage you to reconsider:

  • There are students in various time zones and/or countries.
  • There are students using mobile devices to participate into class.
  • There are students with limited Internet access.
  • The exam is going to be more than 90 minutes.

If you are planning to have a synchronous exam we highly encourage you to consult with a member of the team to discuss options and view examples.  The team would suggest consulting at least 48 hours prior to the planned exam.  

Contact the Digital Learning Team for help with using Canvas and Zoom for online assessments.


Article ID: 105082
Fri 4/10/20 11:38 AM
Thu 4/16/20 3:35 PM