In recent years, online learning is adopted in many higher institutions and assessing students remotely is being challenging, particularly in ensuring academic integrity. Educators are compelled to devise a strategy for an appropriate remote assessment method. A variety of remote assessments are available to evaluate students’ online learning. These assessments are broadly classified as (1) remotely proctored exams (time-constrained) and (2) open-ended assessments.
This exam is a time bounded and proctored, and commonly used in the classrooms. Proctored exams can also be done remotely by using various learning management systems such as Canvas and Sakai. In addition, Proctortrack software can also be used for remote assessment by using webcams to track student activity during exam time to assist the instructor whenever suspicious actions are taken by the students (Rutgers, 2020).
However, proctored remote exams have several drawbacks and the major ones are mentioned below.
Remote proctored exams are often more stressful for students than in-person proctored exams which would affect the student performance adversely.
Remote proctored exam requires well-established infrastructure setup, software, and hardware, both on the instructor and student side. In addition, the application software such as ProctorTrack could create “false positive” flags that mislead the instructor.
In remote proctored exam failure of software, hardware, or internet connection could be experienced. Hence, contingency plan should be designed before the exam is started.
Due to personal or cultural reasons students may not be willing to stay under the camera supervision.
If a student faces technical difficulties on the system during exam time, supporting the student and fixing the problem remotely will not be easy (Rutgers, 2020).
Alternatives to proctored remote exams
Your learning goals are an excellent place to start when alternative assessments are considered. The expectations from students when they complete the course, and the way they have to demonstrate their learnings are the key factors to identify the assessment types.
As the objectives of assessment is to evaluate the performance of students against the learning outcomes and promoting learning activities, certain assessment methods would be appropriate and less problematic to achieve the intended objectives in remote assessing. Hence, the following assessments can be applied based on the nature of the course and questions.
Series of quizzes
Quizzes offer a low-stakes opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding on the materials provided. It also gives ongoing information about students’ understanding and serves as a feedback for improvement. Quizzes are also easier to randomize questions by using various application software such as Canvas and Sakai to make cheating more difficult.
Open-book, take-home assessments
These assessments are conventional and used under the traditional teaching-learning process also. However, when there is no possibility of proctored exam, take-home exam can serve as the main assessment method to cover the learning outcomes. To make sure that the assessment is done by the student, online oral presentation, and question can be included. The challenge of take-home-exam is preparing more conceptual questions that cannot be found directly and easily in any type of sources, such as the internet and textbooks.
Professional presentations or demonstrations
These assessments can be done in audiovisual and are good demonstration of the students’ understanding especially when presentation is conducted online. The presentation can be done using any web based online conferencing system, such as ZOOM, MS Team, and BigBlueButton.
Annotated bibliography is a summarization of essential ideas contained in a document, thesis, research article, etc. and discusses how they relate to your own ideas or thesis. An evaluative annotation adds your judgments about the quality of the author’s ideas. Annotated bibliography project gives students a choice in selecting works while assessing their higher-order abilities to evaluate sources, compare multiple perspectives, and provide rationales for their choices (“Organizing your social sciences research paper, 2020; Rutgers, 2020).
A fact sheet provides information to readers in a clear and concise format. A fact sheet can be presented on a piece of paper or digitally, and it informs people about a business, organization, product, service, campaign, event, or another topic. Generally, a fact sheet should center around one issue and should not be more than one page with a clear, easy-to-read layout. Hence, students can create a fact sheet in a single page on various topics, works, or companies. Students may select their topic, or it can be assigned by the instructor.
E-portfolio is considered a learning and assessment tool. Students compile their best or representative work from the semester, writing a critical introduction to the portfolio and a brief introduction to each piece. Students’ achievement can be evaluated collectively for a module improvement. It can also be useful to organize, sample, and assess what students gained out of it. E-portfolios enable faculty not only to observe what students know and can do, but also to indicate how students learn through their reflections (Rutgers, 2020).
Precautions in the preparation of open-book assessments in quantitative courses
Open-book and take-home assessments are vulnerable to academic dishonesty. Academic dishonesty is not only ultimately disadvantaging the cheater, but other students may feel their hard work is not rewarded. Even a perception of cheating, which is more likely to occur in take-home exams would harm student morale. Consequently, some studies show that frequent in-class assessments are more effective for learning retention than take-home exams (Haynie III, 2003). In take-home assessment, students have access to the internet and can browse the sentences of the assessment or keywords and find solutions if the assessment is copied from books or other sources. Hence, special care is required when open-book assessment is prepared. Precautions that should be taken during assessment preparation are as follows:
Ask more conceptual questions in which students cannot browse and found from various sources. For instance, ask questions like explain why the current system efficiency is lower than the efficiency in the industries and explain the problem in the current approach and suggest the proper approach to address the given problem.
Eliminate multiple-choice and fill-in questions. Rather ask students to show the procedure, steps, and principles and to justify why they select the method they have used for their work.
If using problems from a textbook, change not only the numbers but also the names (e.g., John to Alice) and the scenario (e.g., pulling a boat into letting a kite string out). Use letters and variables in place of specific numbers. The reason for this is that popular textbooks will probably have many of their problems already solved online somewhere else.
When randomizing the exam, do not just randomize numbers. Also randomize discrete parts of the problem. For instance, one version might have a problem like “maximize the volume of the box given its surface area” whereas another version might have “minimize the surface area of a box given its volume”. The numbers can even be the same for the two versions.
Avoid questions that consist of only simple computations. For example, instead of “calculate the output power”, present students with some application in which they also have to explain how to improve the output power. “Explain how the output power changes if …” “or Discuss the effect of surrounding temperature on the efficiency of …” are good alternatives.
Be clear about the rules for the take-home exam (including collaboration policies and what sources may be used) and explain why you have set the rules you have.
Remind students about the college academic integrity policies. Also remind students that being faithful and maintaining integrity are the key values for long-lasting success.
Whenever necessary, ask students to sign the college academic integrity intent prior to the take-home-exam. There are some evidences that suggest signing a pledge before taking an exam is an effective deterrent (McCabe et al., 2012).
Set time limits for the take-home exam to deter contract cheating and help-seeking.
When there are possibilities track students when they take the exam to make unauthorized collaboration easier to detect.
Since the risk of cheating is increased when students feel “stuck,” offer students an opportunity to ask clarification when it is required. For instance, giving a chance to ask questions within the exam time or provide hints when students are confused on what they are asked (McCabe et al., 2012; Rutgers, 2020).
Quality criteria of assessment
In choosing the type of assessments there should be certain quality criteria that ensure the assessment objectives are met. In this regard, the following criteria would be considered in the choice of the assessment.
As assessment main objective is to evaluate the students’ learning on the specific learning outcome, the assessment method should be appropriate to evaluate the achievement of the learning objectives (Hsiao & Watering, 2020).
The most difficult issue in remote assessment is ensuring academic integrity. The assessment design should consider preventive measures to make assessment free from cheating and fraud. The preventive mechanisms during the assessment time and detecting mechanisms after submission should be employed (Hsiao & Watering, 2020).
During the assessment time, since there is no face-to-face communication and students may not have a chance to ask clarification, the assessment should be clear to students. Particularly when students are not familiar with the new assessment method, it is essential to explain the procedures and expectations clearly and provide related examples. This also applies if questions are asked at a different level than would normally be expected. Make sample questions, and if possible discuss these questions online with the students before issuing the assessment (Hsiao & Watering, 2020).
Avoid susceptibility for technical problem
Commonly, in remote assessments, the instructor will not be in a position to solve the student’s problem. The problem could arise as a result of hardware or software malfunctions, or due to lack of knowhow on the supporting materials by the student. It is important to consider how to deal with these kinds of problems in advance (Hsiao & Watering, 2020)?