Grading and Assessing Students in Virtual Environments

As courses move from a traditional classroom setting to remote instruction, instructors must consider alternatives to the traditional seated exam.  There are many options available, but please remember that changes to assignments, testing formats, and grading policies should be noted in an updated syllabus and shared with students.

Remote Exams and Electronic Testing

Move a traditional seated exam to a remote exam or an electronic exam in a variety of ways:

  • Use UB Learns to create and deploy exams.  UB Learns exams are called Assessments and provide functionality for enhancing academic integrity through features like randomized questions and exam time limits.  Use of Respondus Lock-Down Browser and/or Respondus Monitor helps ensure exam integrity and security. Scores will automatically populate the UB Learns Grade Center.
  • Use UB Learns to distribute and collect exams via the Assignments tool.  Optionally, use date limits and time limits.  Again, consider whether the exam should be open book, open notes, or both, and use this for low stakes quizzes or formative assessments.
  • Use UB email to distribute and collect exams. Consider whether the exam should be open book, open notes, or both.  This should be used for low stakes quizzes or formative assessments.
  • Use Top Hat Test to create and administer an exam. Scores can be pushed to the UB Learns Grade Center with the push of a button. In response to the move to online classes, Top Hat is also offering free remote proctoring. 

Final Papers, Projects, Presentations, Theses and Dissertations

  • Collect papers, projects, theses or dissertations via the UB Learns Assignments tool, UBBox, as a UBPortfolio assignment/ePortfolio or by email attachment.
  • Courses in the UB Curriculum with existing course sites in UBPortfolio can be designed to allow students to upload assignments directly or to place assignments in a course ePortfolio.
  • Move in-person presentations and oral defenses to digital formats.  Students can record presentations using Panopto and submit as they would any other assignment or "live" presentations can be done virtually with Webex meetings or Zoom.   

Alternative Assessment Options

  • Decrease the weight of high stakes exams in the overall course grade and consider basing a greater part of the grade on homework assignments, projects or papers.
  • Consider replacing objective tests with authentic assessments such as personal reflections, infographics, summary videos, research proposals, essays, data analysis or other work products that are scored with a rubric and allow students to demonstrate achievement of course learning outcomes.
  • Consider having students create an ePortfolio in which they upload assignments that demonstrate their learning and also include reflections that describe their achievement of course learning outcomes.

Accessibility in the Remote Classroom

While students are not required to disclose their disability to the institution, students should be provided contact information for your campus Accessibility Services Office and offered the opportunity to update their accommodation plan as needed. To that end, students may have difficulty obtaining documentation from secondary institutions and/or medical providers at this time. As such, instructors are encouraged create mechanisms to permit students to receive accommodations when documentation of the disability is not readily available. 

As you explore different types of distance/remote technologies, please consider the following:

Teleconferencing/Lecture Capture Technologies

Not all teleconferencing software is accessible to individuals with disabilities. To make sure students can fully engage in the remote instruction methods:

  • Identify the accessibility barriers for the product of your choosing and limit interactions of inaccessible features;

  • Provide accessibility features and resources to enable using the product independently;

  • Establish responsibility for quickly addressing equal access needs, such as closed or live captioning. Consider using Microsoft Office PowerPoint with the Presentation Translator Plug-in from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=55024, or Google Slides with live captions from https://support.google.com/docs/answer/9109474?hl=en; and

  • As screen sharing occurs, audio description from https://dcmp.org/learn/227 is needed to provide the important visual content to people who are blind or visually impaired.

Additional third party or open-source digital learning technologies used to facilitate instruction, such as polling software, must also be evaluated for accessibility. If the required technology is inaccessible to users with disabilities, work closely with the Accessibility Services Office to create equally effective access for the known barriers.

Digital Content

As various types of content are uploaded to Blackboard, establish a plan to prioritize making course materials and related technologies accessible to all learners. It is recommended to use the following hierarchy:

  • Content for registered students with disabilities;

  • Large enrollment courses; and

  • Required courses.

There are numerous free or campus-sponsored tools to enhance the inclusiveness of the course. Here are some basic universal design tips:

Remote Exams/Quizzes

  • For courses moved to remote instruction, the process for scheduling and delivering exams and quizzes may change. As campuses plan to deliver exams remotely, ensure that assistive technologies (e.g., screen reader, text-to-speech) are not blocked from taking exams off-site. While proctoring/testing systems allow for exam security, they may pose barriers to students with disabilities.

  • To extend time on exams and quizzes, most, if not all, LMS have built-in features to accomplish this. However, you may need to extend the time manually for the individual student for each exam and quiz.

Additional Resources

Academic Integrity in Virtual Environments