Assessment in remotely delivered courses need not be limited to online quizzes, papers, or essays.  When creating your course assessment plan, you will need to keep in mind that in-person, time-limited and supervised exams may remain limited or even impossible when teaching remotely, and you will need to look for alternatives to traditional exams.

This section includes guiding questions and tools to help you make decisions and create your remote teaching assessment plan. Please note:  Some of the content below might reflect the need for rapid transition to remote teaching and the exams for the Winter 2020 term. Practices and preferred methods may be updated soon to reflect current information for Spring/Summer term courses.

Common Assessment Questions

When teaching remotely, you will need to identify what is essential for students to know, or to be able to do at the end of this course (your learning outcomes). Start by asking yourself some guiding questions:

  • What are my essential learning outcomes? What are the knowledge, skills, or values my students must have learned by the end of this course?
  • What assessment tool(s) can I use that enables my students to show me what they can do or know in a remotely delivered course?
This tool guide provides a variety of assessment options that may be suitable for measuring student learning in your remotely delivered course.
In general, online tests that are closed-book and have tight time limits are challenging when teaching remotely.  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 

Since traditional assessment options will not be available in spring and summer, you will need to find other ways to assess how much students know or can do - now is the time to think more about other ways students demonstrate this to you. 

You could ask yourself:  Given the assessment methods that work better remotely can I focus on an area in greater depth and ask students to achieve at higher levels in fewer areas? Conclude by making a clear list of what you will need your new final assessment to examine. 

Since online closed book exams will be very challenging and may not be reliable, you will likely want to consider alternatives.  Here are possible options: (download the visual for decision-making)

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

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) or, or call 306-966-2231.

In the event that neither of these options work for you, additional options may be available through your college. These could include Blackboard or the use of exam software already purchased by your college. This fourth option will be rare. You must obtain permission via your Dean before attempting to create an online, closed book exam at this time.

If you must deliver your final assessment as an exam, and you have approval of the Dean of your college to have all students complete at the same time, the Blackboard Test Tool may be an option. Please remember that tight timelines to completing tests or specific questions are likely to be untenable. An open book test is better delivered as a download so students do not 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.

Faculty should assume the exam schedule is in place as a final deadline for course assessments so that spacing of final assessments will be retained to manage workload for students.

Closed-book, timed exams on technologies require special permission from a college in order to become an option, and will be rare.  Those permitted will also occur on the same schedule, unless there are other arrangements within the college.

Untimed questions

Untimed tests allow students to start at a time of day that works best for them, which is helpful when teaching remotely.  Keep in mind, your students may be completing the test with poor or no internet connection.

For example: an exam can be downloaded to a computer for completion while not connected to the internet and uploaded later.  Students may also be facing competing priorities completing on the day of the originally scheduled exam. Untimed tests will help avoid unnecessary anxiety and conflicts in student schedules. 

Helpful tip

To help avoid conflicts for student exam schedules, consider making your exam begin at 12:00 am on the day it was originally scheduled, with submissions required by 11:59 pm on the same day. (24-hours)

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

If you cannot change your exam to make it suitable for an online environment in the ways described or you require help setting up your assessment remotely, please contact the Distance Education Unit (DEU) for help by emailing 

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. Also, USask's IT Support Services are most familiar with the approved tools, like the Blackboard Test Tool, and can support you in using them.

  See our FAQ page addressing some additional remote teaching questions you may have.


Academic Integrity

How can I protect the integrity of my assessments when teaching remotely?

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.


Giving an open book exam? Consider modifying this template to send to your students. 

  Learn more about Best practices to promote academic integrity, and Academic Integrity and Remote Teaching.

Additional Resources: