Exams and quizzes when teaching remotely

For considerations specific to final exams, see adapting your final exam for the remote teaching environment.

Faculty who assess students through exams and quizzes can continue to do so online. Teaching remotely, however, does pose distinct challenges for testing students and requires instructors to be thoughtful about designing assessments that promote both student learning and academic integrity.

Because high numbers of students may be sick and technologies may not always work as intended in this time of high demand, be flexible in setting parameters for exams. Illness or technological problems may prevent some students from taking exams or turning in assignments as scheduled. Plan ahead for how you will handle this situation and communicate your plans to your students. Consider flexible completion times. Note that asking all students to take a test at the same time may invite problems. 

Proctoring away from the classroom is not practical and the University does not encourage the use of remote proctoring services or using tools like Zoom or BlueJeans for this purpose. Think about strategies for administering and designing exams that mitigate cheating. Consider also whether alternatives to exams would be beneficial in your course. The following suggestions for assessment may help you encourage academic integrity as you evaluate your students.

Strategies for administering tests through Canvas

  • Remind students before they take the exam of Penn’s Code of Academic Integrity.
  • Explain your expectations to students about the extent to which they are allowed to discuss answers with peers or TAs.  Be as clear as possible.
  • Set a time limit for the length of the test on Canvas. This will limit how much time students have to search for information and/or answers. Note that Canvas will allow you to add extra time for students with accommodations that call for extra time on tests.
  • Consider using question banks. Instructors create a variety of different questions that measure similar content and ways of thinking. Canvas can automatically select from the bank so that students get different tests.
  • Consider using question groups in Canvas to randomize questions so that not all students get the same questions. 
  • Hide correct answers and don't post grades through Canvas until all students have taken the test and grades are assigned. 

Strategies for designing tests that promote academic integrity

  • Create open-book exams, with questions that assume all students have access to the book or other materials.
  • Develop open-ended, complex questions that prioritize the thinking you want students to do. Short answers or even multiple-choice questions that include a section requiring students to explain their thinking are more difficult to cheat on than questions that are simply right or wrong. Think about questions that are not easy to search for online.
  • Consider having students submit graphs or drawings by taking pictures of hand drawn images or by creating them digitally on Excel or another program, then submitting images through Canvas. This can be done in addition to choosing their answer on a multiple choice exam.
  • Utilize different versions of the same or similar exam questions by using formula questions or using the question group function.

If you have Integrity Concerns, the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) is available throughout the semester to consult with faculty as you work through questions or concerns regarding Academic Integrity. They are available to talk through preemptive questions or to walk you thru next steps regarding a violation that has occurred. For either a case referral or a consultation, fill out the form on their website. Someone from OSC will reach out to you shortly to set up a time to talk.

Creating different assessments

Teaching courses entirely online often calls on faculty to think differently about how they assess students and develop assignments that take advantage of being online. Consider thinking about alternatives to exams that enable you to see that students have learned what you expect. You may choose to make exams lower-stakes and include take-home assignments as well.

Talking with other faculty and asking about their ideas can be a good first step. Someone in your school or department may already have thought about the challenge of such assignments in a course such as yours. Here are some initial ideas:

  • Ask students to work through a problem and explain why they took the steps they did.
  • Ask students to submit their own multiple choice questions, with answers, or to rewrite a question using other numbers and provide solutions to their problems.
  • Have students consider case studies or applications by addressing short-answer questions or mini-essays.
  • Ask students to write an op-ed on a specific issue or topic or to draft up a brief memo covering key facts for policy makers.
  • Assign an essay or paper that allows students to demonstrate what they have learned. Canvas includes a tool called Turnitin which can check for plagiarism.

Student accomodations

Canvas will allow you to add extra time for students who need additional time for exams or quizzes. If a student’s accommodations are not easy to migrate online, contact Student Disabilities Services.

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