Teaching Strategies

Assessment in a Remote Course

Remote courses tend to present two significant challenges for student assessment:

  • How to evaluate students’ understanding of material when more student learning takes place asynchronously and when instructors’ informal strategies for assessing student comprehension don’t translate readily to a remote synchronous classroom.
  • How to assess students’ comprehension, knowledge, and skills in courses that traditionally use timed exams taking place in a physical classroom.

These two challenges fall within the two types of assessment instructors most typically pursue:

  • Formative assessment consists of regular, lower stakes work students do to show the progress of their learning and receive feedback for improvement.
  • Summative assessment consists of less frequent, higher stakes tasks such as exams or longer papers that measure learning against a given standard.

Formative Assessments

When instructors first shift to teaching in remote or online contexts, they often become aware of how much they have grown to depend on the informal evidence of student learning gleaned from classroom interactions in face-to-face courses. Without the real-time feedback of a student’s confused look or a question during lecture, instructors can find themselves unsure if students are keeping up during lectures or discussions. Formative assessments can help instructors to gauge student learning frequently in a remote course.

Types of Formative Assessments

  • Classroom Assessment Techniques are ungraded activities that allow instructors to assess student understanding efficiently. These can be done during a synchronous session or asynchronously on Canvas.
  • Scaffolded assessments for higher-stakes assignments might provide a small percentage of the grade for a larger assessment they build up to. For a final exam, the scaffolded assessments might be short quizzes that allow students to practice types of questions that appear on the final exam. For a longer paper or final project, scaffolded assessments might include shorter writing assignments, outlines, or partial drafts.

Ideally, formative assignments will give you an opportunity to see students’ learning during the semester and provide them with timely feedback that will help them practice or prepare for higher-stakes assessments.

Summative Assessments

Summative (or high stakes) assessments typically seek to measure how well students have met the learning goals of a course and can take many forms:

  • Papers or Essays 
  • Presentations or Demonstrations
  • Problem Sets 
  • Projects or Portfolio Assignments
  • Case Study Analyses
  • Group Projects or Simulations
  • Infographics or Digital Posters
  • Quizzes, Tests, or Exams

Many of these are fairly simple to adapt to the remote context. A final paper can be submitted easily via Canvas and even student presentations can be simple to adapt using recording platforms like Panopto or even Zoom. However, high-stakes exams may require more significant reimagining, since students will not be able to take a proctored exam in a classroom as they would in an in-person course. BC instructors have taken several different paths to reimagine high stakes assessments for a remote context.

  • Authentic Assessments allow students to apply course learning to imagined “real world” situations and case studies.
  • Open book exams can test student recall in a similar format to a closed book exam, while simultaneously inviting students into more higher level engagement with course materials through application, synthesis, or analysis.
  • Canvas Quizzes provide flexibility and allow for a variety of question types: multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, file upload, and others. The file upload option is particularly useful for tests with essay questions, allowing students to upload a Word Document from their computer. For tests that require students to show their work, you can create a final file upload question and prompt students to take a photo of their work to submit for your review. Canvas Quizzes also offer randomizing features like question banks and rotated questions.

Academic Integrity in a Broader Context

High-pressure academic environments often contribute to a culture of academic dishonesty, while demonstrating care and compassion toward students can contribute to a humanizing culture of academic integrity. For some ideas on building a culture of academic integrity into your course more generally, see the CTE’s handout on Fostering Academic Integrity in Remote Settings and our more detailed resource on Cultivating Academic Integrity.