In person, time-limited and supervised final exams will not be possible as we shift to remote teaching, and you will need to look for alternatives to traditional final exams.  Your first reaction may be “how will I do that?”. We have outlined questions below to help you make decisions and take steps towards a final assessment plan. 

Download the visual for decision-making.

Here are the options to think through:

  • Option 1: No Final Assessment. 
  • Option 2: Assignment in lieu of a ‘final’. 
  • Option 3: Open book final exam with extended time to complete. 

In the event none of these options can work for you, additional options may be available at your college. They could include Blackboard or the use of exam software already purchased by your college. This fourth option will be rare. Please obtain permission via your Dean before attempting to create an online, closed book exam.

Thinking through your assessment needs

You already know what is most important in the course you teach.  You may have learning outcomes or objectives statements to refer to or you may know from your experience and your topics what is most important.  In this moment, you will need to identify what is essential for students to know or be able to do at the end of this course--not everything you may have wanted them to know before COVID-19.  

While normally USask considers your syllabus a contract, University Council has given authorization to instructors to alter syllabi for your classes for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been done to allow for alternate modes of course delivery and examinations. In cases where your class is part of an accredited program, please make changes in consultation with your Associate Dean Academic or Dean to ensure that changes are in line with accreditation requirements. You can consider changing the course delivery, the structure of the examination (or alternative assessment) and weighting of various tests and assignments.
Start by asking yourself some guiding questions:
  • If you have some assessments already completed by this point in the term, what did they assess?   
  • How does this match what is most essential now?  
What else do you need to get students to show you they can do or know about, to be sure a final grade is a good representation of their learning?  

Maybe you usually give a cumulative final?  Now, focus on getting the remaining essentials assessed instead of testing everything.  You probably have ways other than test questions for seeing how much students know or can do - now is the time to think more about other ways students demonstrate this to you.

Maybe you have an opportunity now, given the assessment methods that work better remotely, to focus on an area in great depth, asking students to achieve at higher levels in fewer areas.

End your thinking by making a clear list of what you will need your new final assessment to examine.

In the age of multiple devices, creating a digital environment that mimics a face-to-face testing situation is difficult. There are tools that will lock down a student computer, but they don’t prevent a student from having a cell phone beside them, and they require faculty members to build exams in the digital tool.  There are also services where you can use the camera on a laptop to watch students in their homes, but these have legal and privacy implications, and may either require the professor to watch all the videos of students taking the test or ask the college to pay a service to have someone watching students remotely. For this reason, we recommend four other options:

  • Option 1: No Final Assessment. If learning outcomes have been adequately demonstrated. (this would require a reweighting of existing assignments to determine a final grade)
  • Option 2: Assignment in lieu of a ‘final’. An assignment (e.g. portfolio) that demonstrates the same learning outcomes in lieu of a final exam.
  • Option 3: Open book final exam. A final is provided to be undertaken in an untimed and open book format.

In the event none of these options can work for you, additional options may be available at your college. They could include a timed open-book test in Blackboard or the use of exam software already purchased by your college. This fourth option will be rare.  Please obtain permission via your Dean before attempting to create an online, closed book exam.

If you want students to submit a file as your final assessment (e.g., .docx, .pdf. .pptx), using the Assignment tool on Blackboard is the most efficient option. It saves you time by compiling all of the submitted files in one place and provides a timestamp and student ID for every submission. You can decide to grade the files within Blackboard or download them all to be graded elsewhere.

Exams should be replaced by one of three options if possible:

  • Option 1: No Final Assessment. 
  • Option 2: Assignment in lieu of a ‘final’. 
  • Option 3: Open book final exam. A final is provided to be undertaken in an untimed and open book format.

Faculty should assume the exam schedule is in place as a final deadline for options 2 and 3 (replacement assignments and take home tests), so that spacing of final assessments will be retained to manage workload for students. Close-book, timed exams on technologies require special permission from a college in order to become a 4th option, and will be rare.  They will also occur on the same schedule unless there are other arrangements within the college.

In general, online tests that are closed-book and have tight time limits will not be possible for final exams during the winter term 2020.  We recommend that these timed options are used in an extremely sparing manner given that there are implications for student completion, including:

  • reliable access to a computer at the necessary time.
  • limited bandwidth that could cause distribution and submission issues.
  • technology failure, and resultant likelihood of heightened student anxiety.
  • AES accommodations that will still be in place.
  • the fact we cannot require doctor’s notes for students missing exams in this time period.
  • school closures may require USask students to care for children. 

Contact your Dean before attempting to use an online, closed-book option.

Using ‘untimed’ exams instead of closed book exams

Untimed exams are exams that students can start at a time of day that works for them. Students may be:

  • completing the exam offline. For example an exam can be downloaded to one's computer for completion while not connected to the internet.
  • completing an exam by remote means on the day of the originally scheduled exam. This will help avoid conflicts in student schedules.

Duration of exam availability

Students should have a minimum of 24 hours to complete an exam. It is important to note that enforcing any kind of time-period (i.e., by penalizing students for not submitting within the time-period given) will be near impossible. Instructors may opt for a time-period less than 24 hours.

Timing of the exam 

To help avoid conflicts in student exam schedules, consider making the exam begin at 12:00 am on the day it was originally scheduled, with submissions required by 11:59 pm on the same day.

Remember, whatever timeline instructors choose, needs to be clearly communicated to students.

We are aware that the existing exam schedule was set to allow a student to have up to two exams in one day. Extending the duration of exam availability will mean that conflicts for some students are created. To help you manage your response to this we have set up a means for you to verify that a student who requests a change to the timing of your exam does indeed have a conflict.

To verify if a conflict does exist for a student, please send an email with your name, class and section number, and the students’ name and NSID to: deu.exams@usask.ca. We will check the exam schedule and let you know is the student has another exam scheduled on the same day. You can use this information to accommodate the student’s request for a change as per your college/department processes. PLEASE NOTE: we are only able to respond to requests from official USask email addresses.

If you cannot change your exam to make it suitable for an online environment in the ways described, and have discussed it with your Dean, please contact the Distance Education Unit (DEU) for help by emailing deu.support@usask.ca.

Canada’s privacy laws and other relevant legal requirements have not been suspended at this time, and a tool you find online may not have been assessed by USask’s legal team. Please use tools that are in the suite of testing tools already approved (like Blackboard or TopHat) or are a part of an approved pilot for your college. USask support people are most familiar with the Blackboard test tool and can support you in using it.

Possible alternatives to your final exam

You already know what is most important in the course you teach.  You may have learning outcomes or objectives statements to refer to or you may know from your experience and your topics what is most important.  In this moment, you will need to identify what is essential for students to know or be able to do at the end of this course--not everything you may have wanted them to know before COVID-19.

While normally USask considers your syllabus a contract,  University Council has given authorization to instructors to alter syllabi for your classes for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been done to allow for alternate modes of course delivery and examinations. In cases where your class is part of an accredited program, please make changes in consultation with your Associate Dean Academic or Dean to ensure that changes are in line with accreditation requirements. You can consider changing the course delivery, the structure of the examination (or alternative assessment) and weighting of various tests and assignments.

If you can, consider a move to an assessment that allows your students to showcase their learning.  A project, performance task, or portfolio of classwork 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.

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. 

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?

You can get help transforming your exam into an open book format by contacting the Distance Education Unit (DEU) deu.support@usask.ca or gmctl-support@usask.ca, or by calling 306-966-2231.

If you must deliver your final assessment as an exam, and you have approval via the Dean of your college to have all students complete at the same time, Blackboard Test Tool may be an option. Please remember that that tight time lines from completing tests or specific questions are likely to be untenable. An open book test is better delivered as a download so students do no need reliable access to the internet at specific times. 

Blackboard’s Test Tool 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 the Learning Management System. The Grade Center in your Blackboard shell is already set up with your current class list which makes marking and organizing grades simple. 

  See our FAQ page regarding some of the additional remote teaching questions you may have.

 

Academic Integrity

Protecting academic integrity at a distance

Right now, many faculty are expressing concerns about how to retain academic integrity as students are learning remotely. Establishing a good tone right away will reassure students of a level playing field and fairness, and prompt your students to think about appropriate actions.

Recommended Advice Reason Why
Review and expand your description of the rules for your assessments with your students. Explicit revisiting will promote academic integrity because students will think more about their actions.
Do not send a message focused exclusively on penalties for academic misconduct. This does not deter academic misconduct, instead it contributes to feelings of mistrust.
Refer to remote teaching resources and advice from GMCTL including a personalized statement of a commitment to academic integrity. Personalizing the commitment by instructors and students makes a difference.