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Assessing Students Remotely

Which method of online assessment best aligns with your educational goals?

Assessment Options Overview

Testing remote students create new challenges and make some of the old ones worse. The biggest new one is how to accommodate students in different time zones, so we aren't asking them to take exams in the middle of their night. An older worse one is how to minimize cheating.  

You can find a list of testing options here. They are organized around the basic mechanism used and each includes an indication of how well each method is likely to achieve our accommodation and cheating objectives. Below that, you will see a list of things to watch out for.  

This is not exhaustive and some of it is quite subjective! However, it may give you some ideas.  Please let us know if you can think of other methods or have suggestions. 

Important reminder: No method can eliminate cheating. But we can reduce the incentive and increase both the effort required and the risk of being caught.  Some steps are easy; others require more effort.  Students who feel respected, trusted, and fairly treated are more likely to stick with an ethical frame. Please reinforce the importance of ethics and communicate that we value fairness and have taken steps to ensure the integrity of our exams.

Holding Exams Online During Class Time

Have your students log in to Zoom, so you can keep an eye on them and take questions easily in Chat.  Be sure to set your Chat so participants can chat privately only with you or you are inviting collaboration!  (In the chat window, click three dots at the bottom and select "Host Only".  If you are afraid you will forget, you can change the default in the Zoom web interface under Settings.)  For longer interactions, you can send them to a breakout room and join them there.

The Quizzes tool in Brightspace is a good option for giving exams online during class time.  You can attach your exam document to the assignment and set it to open when the class would usually begin and then set it to close when the class would usually end, plus a short grace period to allow time for scanning, uploading, technical challenges, etc. If your students will need to write or draw (vs. type), they can take a photo of their work or scan it and insert it in the document or upload it separately. A good recommendation for them to scan their document with their phone is the Adobe Scan app.  

Another option is to create your exam as a Google Form and share the Google Form link with your students when the exam starts in an Assignments, in chat, or by email.  The advantage of this approach is that the Google Form puts all the data (including name, response, time, and date stamps) into a spreadsheet, making it easy for you and/or your TF to review the answers in one place. 


How to Minimize Cheating

When students are able to cheat they learn less, we can’t tell how much they have learned, and it’s not fair to students who don’t.  So it’s important to show we care and do what we can. Giving exams online opens avenues to cheating typically only available to students when they are completing take-home exams and other assignments.  That means much of the advice is similar.  
  • Reduce the incentive to cheat by lowering the stakes. Don’t make your exam a large fraction of the final grade, a maximum of 30% and ideally less.  Give multiple smaller midterms or add other deliverables throughout the course.  Not only does it reduce the motivation to cheat, but it’s also better for learning.
  • If you are giving an exam during class time, asking students to log in to Zoom and keep their cameras on may help.  
  • Don’t reuse past exams. Assume that answers to most exams given in the past at Stern are already posted online in CourseHero, Chegg, etc., and have been shared in other ways. 
  • Even if you are teaching a more technical course, use Turnitin (built into the Assignment tool) with questions that require the following:
    • Examples
    • Connections to students’ own experiences
    • Connections to current events
    • Explanations, interpretations & justifications
    • Other kinds of prose answers
    • Answers that draw specifically on content unique to your course
    • Answers that draw on your speakers, class discussions, original cases, etc.
  • Give each student or group of students a different test.
  • Draw questions randomly from a pool.  (If you are using a publisher’s test bank, alter the question wordings slightly.  Assume that all test bank questions are posted online in CourseHero, Chegg, and others, so make the answers harder to find.)
    • Alter the questions by changing a digit in each or using random multipliers.
    • Include N numbers or NetIDs in the questions, so the answers will be specific to each student.
    • Change a key digit in each problem
    • Vary the question order (generally not enough by itself).
  • Make each exam question or set of questions a different test and don’t make the subsequent set of questions available until answers to the prior subtest have been submitted.  This limits Googling for answers and collaboration while allowing for interruptions that are more likely when students aren’t sitting in a classroom.
  • If you are giving your exam during class time, require that students keep their cameras on and add a grace period at the end, after which the exam is considered late. 
  • If you are allowing students a larger window within which they have a shorter elapsed time limit to provide some latitude in when they work on the exam, make it a modest window of, say, 12 hours.