- Cheating in online learning environments is not a given, and there are elements of course design and assessment that you control that can help minimize the pressure to cheat. Students are most tempted to act dishonestly when they are under pressure, or situations with high anxiety, such as the recent transition to online learning. Thomas J. Tobin proposes four easy ways you can help to minimize anxiety for your students: lowering time pressure (e.g., remove timed assessments), lowering due-date pressure (e.g., allow late submission), lower grade anxiety (e.g., redistributing your grades or ungrading, or specifications grading) and lower communication anxiety (e.g., clearly and repeatedly explaining and discussion your course policies). There are many ways to think about assessing learning that presently may be better options for your students than replicating high stakes summative assessments (exams, prelims, finals). When thinking of your choice, it is important to consider the welfare of your students, and who you may be privileging in your decision.
How to write good assessment questions for online learning
Did you “Google” it?
Once you have written your exam, take a few minutes to Google your question and see what kinds of responses may already exist. If your desired answers appear readily, you may want to revise the question.
Can you tailor it to be for specific situations?
Make the question specific to a scenario, place, or student experience that is anchored in a real-world authentic situation. This approach will make it much harder to find answers by digging into a textbook or search engine.
Can anyone pass it?
Have a novice answer your questions, if they can – you may want to consider revising.
How to encourage original student work
- Limit time on assessments or assignments
- Address academic integrity by asking students to commit to an Honor Declaration or other similar statement
- Randomize questions and use refreshed questions pools with a mix of objective and subjective questions
- Create a question that only the individual can answer – like their ID number, or recalling part of the course syllabus
- Encourage creation of information from their own situational experiences
- Constrain the pool of sources students can cite from to make it easier for you to detect plagiarism
- Constrain/define the length of student responses
Assessment Options Potential Impact on Students If you are able to give alternative assessments in your course other than high stakes summative exams: Ongoing low-stakes online assignments: such as essays or reflections requiring synthesis of various topics and ideas. Written assignments can be submitted in Brightspace. An equitable teaching approach that will likely have the least impact on student anxiety and/or performance. The nature of these assessments reduce the opportunities or motive for academic dishonesty. Open book short answer online assessment. Multiple choice quizzes and exams can be converted into a variety of assignment types to replace traditional exams such as:
- Student video presentations
- Case studies
- Group projects
Clarity of expectations will be really important in these types of open-book assessments. Students may need to learn a bit about this approach, but it is generally a lower stakes strategy that gets more to student knowledge and skills than test performance. Removing time pressure from your assessment is a great way to remove pressure. Ongoing low-stakes quizzes rather than one large exam requiring a small amount of cumulative material each week in combination with new materials A good strategy for any assessment approach is to redistribute the weight of your assessments into small ongoing opportunities for students to demonstrate knowledge. This approach is more resilient to unexpected disturbances that may result during times of distress. If you are required to use the same structure in your summative assessments (exams, finals): Use an open book exam online, that is unproctored. You can choose to make these timed, but we would recommend a large window of time (a full day) to accommodate disruptive schedules (e.g., parenting, working etc…) This approach is a good middle ground if you are required to use summative assessments. Although your students may need to learn a new approach to testing, open book exams often generate additional learning opportunities Use a proctored online exam (Brightspace + Respondus). These too can be timed for a given period. Here, you can make taking the exam available for an entire day, but allow students a set amount of time to complete it after beginning. Proctored online exams pose issues with equity, access, and reliability. They often also tend to be a huge source of anxiety for students. Students not used to learning online will have a steep learning curve performing in this environment. High stress in conjunction with a high stakes assessment may result in poor performance that may or may not be indicative of student learning or effort. Students may also refuse to use the tool, and you will need to be prepared to provide alternative solutions.