Conducting assessments online: How can you support your students?

In a previous post, I focused on the options that teachers may consider for conducting assessments online. While these may be important, it is far more important to start thinking about students and their well-being. The current COVID-19 outbreak is indeed a difficult time for our students as well, who may be dealing with a great deal of anxiety and stress. While we need to ensure the quality of our courses and the assessments, we need to give the best opportunity for our students to complete their courses.

Therefore, when designing your assessments, it may be good to think about:

  • How you can minimise additional anxiety for students in these difficult times.
    Recognise the fact that students may be facing challenging personal circumstances while working from home. Particularly when entire families are working/learning from home during this period, it may be challenging for them to even find a quiet spot to take the exam or attend your live lectures. Or that students may have periods of illness during reading weeks, revision and/or examination periods.
  • What you can do to offer flexibility in your assessments, but of course, while maintaining  accountability. For example, you could:
    • Be flexible with your deadlines.
    • Have extended duration or provide longer time to complete your assessments,
    • Offer multiple attempts for students to complete an assessment. You could then take the average of the best attempt or best two attempts.
    • Give choice in the topic, method, criteria, weighting or timing of assessments.
    • Give freedom and autonomy on the assessment format (essay/paper, poster, presentation, video, infographic).
    • Provide a second chance for students. Have students take a time-constrained closed-book online exam, and then follow it up with a second copy of the same, but as an automated take-home online assessment. The student may use class notes, the text, or any other available reference materials except other checking with their peers or others. A composite grade is calculated using the following formula: in-class exam score plus the product of half the points missed on the in-class exam times the percentage score on the take-home exam. (adapted from “Better testing for better learning” by Murray, 1990 In College Teaching)
  • Group work and/or projects. While using group projects as your assessment, think about if your can offer flexibility in whether they can work in group or alone. Working in groups during this period may be stressful particularly when their grades have to depend on their peers’ work as well.
  • How students may experience varying levels of digital literacies and internet connectivity, while completing their assessment tasks.
  • How you can provide a robust assessment method but still be able to meet the needs of students with diverse needs, including reasonable adjustment.
  • Finally and more importantly, how your assessments can offer an equitable solution for both you and your students.
[This post is a reproduction from my other blog on Towards Open Learning]

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