Exams can be heavily impacted by a remote approach to instruction, particularly in regards to considerations around proctoring. As you begin planning your exams, the following best practices and answers to frequently asked questions may be helpful. You can also reach out on the help forum or schedule a consultation to discuss how you might approach your assessment.
Our students may be unable to attend a synchronous exam session during this time. Given the stressful nature of this situation, we are strongly encouraging faculty to not offer timed exams during the normal three-hour exam window. At the same time, we want to ensure that assessment continues to be rigorous and meaningful in our courses. You might start by asking yourself these questions.
- Think about your learning goals and objectives for your course. How can students demonstrate what they learned through your course?
- Are there questions you can ask students that are conceptual, applied, or otherwise require higher-order thinking that would allow your assessment to be open-book?
- Can students demonstrate understanding in a less traditional format such as a presentation, portfolio, or project? This Rutgers page on Remote Exams and Assessments provides “10 Alternatives to Exams.”
- Can you reduce the number of lower-level multiple-choice questions in favor of having students show their thinking and problem-solving skills, even if this reduces the number of questions? Could questions be written so students need to show a practical application of what they’ve learned?
Regardless of the method you choose, here are some helpful considerations as you engage in this process.
- Make your instructions and expectations clear to students. Can they use notes or other outside materials? Can they collaborate? Is the exam timed? Communication is particularly important in a remote environment.
- For many alternative forms of assessment, rubrics are essential. They allow your students to see what you’re looking for, and make grading consistent and fair.
- If possible, allow students an opportunity to engage in a similar form of assessment prior to the final exam, so this isn’t the first time they’re being asked to engage in a new activity. Even if it’s ungraded, giving them the opportunity to practice and get feedback (from you, your TAs, or their peers) can help them be successful.
- Students have new schedules and conflicting priorities now. If possible, open the assessment for multiple days, allowing them the option for when to complete the assessment.
Learn about strategies for promoting academic integrity through the design of Sakai assessments via this document, Discouraging Academic Dishonesty: Sakai Exam Design Options (docx), developed by the Center for Faculty Excellence.
In general, we strongly encourage you to consider other options for your exams, particularly as you consider high-stakes assessments such as Midterm and Final Exams. There are some subject areas, however, where assessing student achievement is difficult without an exam format that needs to be proctored (see the Exam Proctoring page).
Strategies and Tools for Common Assessments
|What Type of Assessment Are You Using?
|Multiple Choice (with randomization and/or isomorphic questions)
|Sakai Tests and Quizzes
|Short Answer, Essay, Prose, or Research Papers
|Sakai Introduction, Sakai Assignments, or Gradescope*
|Handwritten (e.g. equations)
|Zoom or VoiceThread
|Zoom or VoiceThread
|Portfolios or Journals
|Sakai Dropbox, Sakai Assignments, WordPress, Adobe Spark, or Microsoft Sway
*UNC-CH maintains a full license to Gradescope. For technical support, please direct your questions to email@example.com. For general information and tutorials, visit the Gradescope website and login with your UNC-Chapel Hill onyen credentials.
Final Exam FAQs
The final exam schedule can be found on the Registrar Academic Calendar page. The three hours scheduled for a final exam are included as part of our instructional time, and thus there are certain policies we must adhere to for accreditation. Nonetheless, we can adjust our thinking about final exams during this pandemic. There are two major recommendations.
- Think flexibly about the design of the final assessment. How can students demonstrate what they have learned to you? What do you hope students will know and be able to do at the end of the semester? You can think about a “take-home” exam or a culminating assignment that is quite different from what you would normally do face to face. Be clear with students the “rules” around your final exam so there are no misunderstandings about the honor code.
- Think flexibly about the delivery of the final assessment. How can we give students some options about when they can take the exam within a specific time window? Many of our students are facing issues around internet strength, sharing computers with family members, have childcare responsibilities, and so on. Can you open the assessment within a 24-hour period or longer before your scheduled day/time of the exam?
Below are some FAQs we’ve heard. Please check back for updates, we’ll add more questions and answers as we hear them.
Test security is a significant concern for remote learning situations. Can final exams be proctored in some way?
We strongly discourage proctoring if at all possible. Proctoring requires students to be available online at the same time and have certain technology available, such as a computer with a camera, microphone, and high-speed internet connection. Access to these technologies may not be universally available now. If there is no other way for you to assess student understanding in your subject area, other than a proctored exam, please refer to the Exam Proctoring with Zoom page.
Why aren’t we using some of the proctoring tools for our exams?
UNC does not currently have a license with a proctoring company and is exploring options for future semesters. You can refer to the Exam Proctoring with Zoom page for current information about proctoring exams.
Does my exam have to be completed by students during the three–hour window my class is scheduled for?
No. We see a longer window of time to access the exam as more accommodating to a diverse group of students.
Here are some example variations for an exam scheduled for 8AM to 11 AM on Friday, May 1.
- The instructor releases the exam at 11 AM on Thursday, April 30th with no time limit. Students must complete and upload it by 11 AM on Friday, May 1st.
- The instructor releases the exam at 11 AM on Wednesday, April 29th with a 3-hour time limit. Students must complete and upload it by 11 AM on Friday, May 1st.
- The instructor releases the exam at 11 AM on Wednesday, April 29th with a 1-hour time limit*. Students must complete and upload it by 11 AM on Friday, May 1st. *The instructor accounts for the 2 hours lost by holding 2 one-hour review sessions with students during the last week of class.
Can I give a timed exam?
There are many reasons to be cautious about giving timed exams. Timed exams create stress under normal conditions and these are not normal conditions for anyone. For many of our students, the test will load slowly, and as Joshua Kim says here, “Can you imagine your exam time ticking down as you wait for the questions to load?” Timed exams can disproportionately stress students with ARS accommodations because typical testing accommodations such as extended testing time and low distraction/private setting will be additionally challenging in a domestic environment.
Timed exams probably do little to cut down on cheating for students who are going to cheat and are likely a poor measure of content mastery.
If you do give a timed exam, be overly generous with the time and think through what you will do as a student reports their internet access stopped working during the exam or who has a question. Will the clock start over? Will they lose their time? Will you be available to fix it immediately? Will you be available and how will you share corrections and clarifications with the class?
What will happen to the exam excuse option for students (3 in 24-hours or 2 at the same time)?
Students will be requesting excuses electronically (formerly “pink slips”). Students who have been approved for an exam excuse will be notified that it is still their responsibility to reach out to you to arrange alternative plans for their exam. (If you are opening a large window of time for your students to take the exam, they may not need an alternative exam. Please clarify this with each student.)
For students majoring in the College of Arts and Sciences, an email will be sent to primary instructors at 7 p.m. daily, summarizing all approved exam excuses across each of their sections in an easy-to-read table. (The email will be sent only if a new exam excuse has been approved that day or an exam excuse has been rescinded.) The table will include new requests in highlight with previously approved exam excuses below. Therefore, only the most recent email from the exam excuse system needs to be saved.
This process is only for students of the College; instructors will still receive emailed .pdf versions of the exam excuse directly from the deans (or their designees) of the professional schools for any student for which their primary major is in one of the schools.
Under regular situations, students receive an AB grade if they fail to take the final exam. Is that not the case this semester? Should it be a CV grade?
Does every student have to take a final exam? (Some students might have a high enough grade to pass the class and may not be interested in taking the exam.)
Yes. The final assessment of the course is considered a valuable aspect of the course. If a student does not take it, they will receive an AB for the course.
Is it okay to give a non-traditional exam like a take-home exam that is open-book? Can it be collaborative?
Yes, this website has resources and ideas to help you create non-traditional final exams and reduce student anxiety about a new format.
Normally there are some exemptions from giving an exam, such as if I do a group project and presentation. Is this still allowed?
Yes, the chair of a unit usually provides permission. This is still the case.
Because my exam format needs to change, I expect that my grading for the course may take more time, especially in my very large class. Will I have more time than the usual 72 hours to grade final exams and get grades posted?
In general, we will ask that you try to meet the 72-hour deadline. Recognizing that this situation is out of the ordinary, there will be flexibility with this deadline. Currently, we are working towards an appropriate extension and a process of identifying those classes that may need longer to grade.
Can I give my course exam on a reading day?
Your exam cannot be due on a reading day, as these are days scheduled to give students time to study. (Your exam is due during your assigned exam time as seen on the registrar’s calendar). However, to give your students more flexibility to manage their own schedules you can have it available and open on a reading day.
If your question hasn’t been covered here, please post it to the forum.
Alternatives to Traditional Exams and Papers, Indiana University Bloomington
Handling Exams When Your Course Moves Unexpectedly Online, Indiana University Bloomington
Transforming COVID into a Learning Opportunity for Your Students, Simon Fraser University