What options are available for the end of term exam in my remote course?

Exams that have in-person monitoring and occur on campus at scheduled times during the exam window cannot not take place at this time. It will therefore be necessary to adapt traditional exams to new formats. You'll need to consider efficiency, academic integrity, accessibility/bandwidth limitations, and evidence-informed assessment practice, including the technological tools needed to facilitate it. 

Much of what is outlined here will be new and different than what faculty, instructors and students are used to in end of term assessments. There are supports available to you, as you explore your end of term assessment options and make decisions based on your course and context. Additionally, being open with students about the decisions you have made and why you have made them at the start of the fall term will help your students make adjustments to these new approaches. Including explicit information about academic integrity and your expectations of students as well as what they can expect from you in this regard can help foster a climate of academic integrity in your course. View more detailed information on promoting academic integrity

The table below outlines seven options to consider for end of term summative assessment, highlighting the impact the varying options have in relation to student connectivity (access/bandwidth), administrative and IT support requirements, and extra costs. Each option is outlined in greater detail in the sections that follow.

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Open book assessment options

There are four options to replace or adapt your on-campus exam with an open book assessment. Open book assessments are those designed for students to complete with access to additional resources (websites, lecture notes, textbooks, articles, etc.).

When designing an open book assessments ensure that you:

Consider an assignment due within term time (i.e. not within the final exam period) that allows students to showcase their learning in lieu of a final exam.  A project, performance task, or a portfolio of course work can easily substitute the final exam. Depending on the types of goals you have, different forms of final assessments are more appropriate.

  • “I want to see a range of smaller assignments or samples of work that show that students can apply or analyze or evaluate or even create something new using the course concepts and skills” - read more on developing portfolios.


See also these resources on alternatives to final exams: 

This option provides students with an extended window for completion (typically 2 days to a week) in an open book take home exam format. Open-book exams require critical thinking in the context of the course material and questions that cannot be easily answered with a Google search. Accessing resources is expected in the exam, and allows you to require students to give much more specific responses or reference where they found their information.

In an open-book exam format, students tell you how they got their answers and are essentially being asked to show their work, which requires more complex, academic thinking. 

Having the exam as take home adds to the benefits of an open book exam by providing more flexibility for the student in regard to completion and presents little to no connectivity issues for students. This format does, however, open up the potential for collaboration in completion of the exam. To mitigate unwanted collaboration, think about one or more of the following options:

  • consider questions that require personal reflections and/or connection to local contexts or experiences or include components that require students to explain how they achieved their answer alongside some or all questions.

Providing students with a shorter duration to complete an open book exam may limit their capacity to check with peers and source content and/or review material to support their responses. If you view this as important in maintaining the integrity of your exam, this approach can facilitate that whilst still minimizing student connectivity concerns and administrative support needed.

Design with resource use in mind

A shorter duration exam should still adhere to the tenets of good open-book design:

  • questions should require critical thinking in the context of the course material, including questions that cannot be easily answered with a Google search
  • assume access to resources and require students to give much more specific responses or reference where they found their information
  • use questions that require students to tell you how they got their answers (essentially show their work), thus requiring more complex, academic thinking. 

Transform your questions

Many questions, like essay questions and short answer questions, already require application of thinking, and can be moved directly to an open book exam from a closed book exam with minor revisions.  Other questions, like multiple choice questions that test recall, will need to be transformed to become effective open-book exam questions. Need help with format?

Choose a delivery method

 With this option, you can set the exam to:

  • be downloaded, completed offline in 3 hours (or less) and then uploaded back to the LMS (Canvas or Blackboard) to reduce bandwidth issues.

  • be completed via the LMS (Canvas or Blackboard) quiz/exam tool. This approach requires students to have uninterrupted internet access for the duration of the exam.

  • be completed verbally. Oral exams, or verbal assessment. Find more information on setting up oral exams.


Closed book assessment options

Closed book approaches to assessment in a remote context are more familiar to our face to face end of term exam practice. Closed book assessments are those designed for students to complete without access to additional resources. While it is possible to use closed book options, they increase student connectivity and administrative support resources considerably. Additionally, invigilation software will not be widely available given cost, effectiveness, and privacy issues. Please contact your College ICT Coordinator or school regarding availability of invigilation options.

When designing closed book assessments ensure that you:

In general, online tests that are closed-book and have tight time limits are challenging when teaching remotely given student connectivity concerns and the additional administrative support needed with this approach. With that stated, the potential for notice and planning ahead means they could be used for end of term assessment.  

Blackboard’s Test Tool and the quizzes tool in Canvas can be utilized to transform a traditional paper exam into an online one. With a variety of question types from short-answer, essay, multiple choice, matching, hotspot and more, many of your traditional question types can be recreated in either of our Learning Management Systems. Use of browser lock down software during the exam will limit a student’s ability to consult content or materials on the device used for the exam. It will not, however, stop a student from using additional devices or other resources available outside the locked down software. You should make clear to students your expectation that no resources would be accessed in completion of the exam.  When you build your test within one of the quizzing Learning Management Systems (see how to do this in Blackboard or Canvas), it will look after distributing the test to students at the time you set and track when they access the test.


Additional points to consider when designing if you choose this option:

  • Randomizing questions will allow for students to receive different versions of the exam (see how to do this in Blackboard and Canvas). Both LMS systems support this, and it makes it more difficult for students to communicate about specific questions.

  • Reducing memorization-oriented questions is recommended to allow for a greater focus on application, synthesis, and integration. In essence, these types of questions require more complex, academic thinking

  • Where possible, have students complete short (under 20 minutes), frequent assessments throughout the course, limiting the need for a longer duration final exam. This will facilitate learning throughout the term and mitigate the impact of connectivity concerns for any given exam.


This option is available only in select colleges. Please contact your College ICT Coordinator about availability of computer lock down and proctoring.

Please see the advice regarding exam design for Option 5.

A summary of design considerations for these seven options is outlined in the table below.
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  Do you have questions?

See our FAQ page addressing some Common Assessment Questions and other remote teaching concerns that you may have.

Connect with help through our Support information page. Many units are available to guide and support you as you explore options to plan your remote course(s) and student assessments.