Resources: Conducting Assessments Online–How We Can Support Our Students

Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning (CDTL)

Photo courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

In a previous post, I focused on the options faculty can consider for conducting assessments online. While these may be important, it is far more important to think 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 also need to give our students the best opportunity to complete their courses.

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

Minimising additional anxiety for students in these difficult times.
Recognise the fact that students may be facing challenging personal circumstances while working and studying from home. This is particularly so when entire families are working and learning from home during this period, where students may find it challenging to look for a quiet spot to attend live lectures or take an exam. There may also be unexpected occurrences, for example, students may have periods of illness during reading weeks, revision, and/or examination periods.
Offering flexibility in assessments, while maintaining accountability.

  • Be flexible with deadlines.
  • Have extended durations or provide longer time for students to complete the assessments.
  • Offer multiple attempts for students to complete an assessment and take the average score of the best attempt or best two attempts.
  • Give choice in the topic, method, criteria, weightage, or timing of the assessments.
  • Give students 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 up with a second copy of the same exam, but as an automated take-home online assessment. The student may use class notes, the text, or any other available reference materials except checking with their peers or others. Use a grading formula that is adjusted to suit the teacher’s preference to calculate a composite grade adapted from “Better testing for better learning” by Murray (1990)
Allowing students to decide to do group or individual projects.
Offer students the flexibility to work in groups or alone. Working in groups during challenging times may be stressful, particularly when their grades have to depend on their peers’ work as well.
Recognising that students may experience varying levels of digital literacies and internet connectivity, while completing their assessment tasks.
Providing a robust assessment method but still be able to meet the needs of students with diverse needs, including being open to making reasonable adjustments.

Finally and more importantly, we should ask ourselves if our assessments can offer an equitable solution for us and our students. An equitable solution refers to assessment practices where ‘students are assessed using methods and procedures that are most appropriate’, and is likely to vary across students depending on their prior knowledge, cultural context, and cognitive style (Suskie, 2000). It would be worthwhile to consider how we can make our assessments inclusive and equitable to ensure that most, if not all students can reap learning benefits from it.

Kiruthika RAGUPATHI is Associate Director at CDTL and co-leads professional development programmes and oversees the centralised teaching quality instruments at NUS—student feedback and peer review. Her research work focuses on assessment, student living-learning experiences, academic development, and technology-enhanced learning.

Kiruthika can be reached at


Murray, J. P. (1990). Better testing for better learning. College Teaching, 38(4), 148-152. Retrieved from

Suskie, L. (2000). Fair Assessment Practices: Giving Students Equitable Opportunties to Demonstrate Learning, AAHE Bulletin May 2000. Retrieved from

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