Assessment options when teaching online

Alternative assessment options for COVID-19 planning

The Digital Education Office have developed essential guidance for non-invigilated online assessments which should be read by all staff considering online assessment in this academic year. The guidance includes key information on how to set up and run online assessments, how to support students and protocols which may ensure assessments are completed successfully. For more information, please contact digital-education@bristol.ac.uk.

For each online assessment you run, please see the relevant essential guidance:

See Planning Your Assessment and Running assessments online for more information

Assessment Clinics

The DEO is now offering Assessment Clinics to support staff who are preparing for or running assessments online.

How to request a booking:

Email digital-education@bristol.ac.uk with the Subject Assessment Clinic Booking. Please specify:

  • whether your query relates to a Blackboard assignment, a Blackboard test, a Questionmark (QMP) test, a Turnitin assignment, or something else.
  • 2 options for days and times that work for you. Slots will be 30 mins long.

We will be in touch to confirm the clinic.

Assignments (eg “open book” exam, short answer, reflective journal)

Both Blackboard and Turnitin assignments allow students to upload a file and support a range of file types. Either can be used for coursework submission, as well as to submit the finished document for an open book exam. It is recommended that, if used for an exam, students are granted an extra hour on top of the normal time, and the submission point is left available in case of technical difficulties.

  • Blackboard assignments support Word documents, PowerPoints, PDFs, audio, video and image files.
  • Turnitin assignments automatically compare the text in the uploaded file with documents in the Turnitin database to produce a “similarity report”. They support Word documents, PowerPoints, PDFs, Excel and Google documents. There is a file size limit of 100 MB. 

Tests (eg multiple choice questions, short answers)

  • Blackboard tests are made up of a series of questions. A range of questions types is available, including multiple choice, multiple answer, matching, fill in the blank, and short answer questions. Questions with a pre-defined answer can be automatically marked by the system. Consideration will have to be given for an open book assessment environment, and extra time should be allowed.
  • Questionmark tests should only be selected by current users of Questionmark.

Alternative assessment ideas

Please find guidance here about how to move to face-to-face and hard copy assessment online. With thanks to Sally Brown and Kay Sambell. This should be read in conjunction with the advice on prioritising and slimming the volume of assessments.

Key Principles

Set coursework-type assessment i.e. assessment that can be completed over a period of time and then submitted, wherever possible.

Set questions/tasks which require students to do things with the information available to them, rather than merely summarising it and giving it back, eg analyse, critique or evaluate knowledge, create.

Check that your assessment/assessment criteria relate clearly to the intended learning outcomes (and update if not). Think about constructive alignment. Make sure these intended outcomes and their links to assessment are clear to students. Also account for students working in a new and unfamiliar environment.

Ensure students have clear guidance and plenty of support, including opportunities to practice a new form of assessment with formative feedback before it is used for summative assessment.

Take reasonable adjustments for all students with temporary or long-term health conditions, disabilities and additional needs into account, as with all forms of assessment. Consider asking students to identify if they have concerns or special requirements.

Below are ideas covering alternative assessment ideas for:

  1. Time-constrained unseen exams
  2. In-class presentations
  3. Portfolios
  4. Viva voce exams
  5. Posters
  6. Lab work
  7. OSCEs
  8. Theatre, dance and performance

You will also find more alternative assessment ideas.

1. Time-constrained unseen exams

For example, unseen exams in invigilated exam rooms or in-class tests.

Online alternatives

Open-book exams, in which you set the questions or tasks virtually and ask the students to submit their responses electronically within a set period of time. These can be in the form of:

Things to consider

  • Avoid questions that ask students to recall knowledge, and focus on asking students to apply, analyse, critique or evaluate knowledge.
  • MCQs can be difficult to write well (see these Examples of how to improve MCQ questions (Word, 34KB)).
  • Run spot-checks or mini vivas with a sample of the student population to discuss their answers.
  • Use plagiarism software (eg Turnitin) or other options to design out plagiarism.
  • Ensure students have clear guidance and including opportunities to practice new types of assessment before they are used for summative assessment.
  • Please see our guidance on Online tests and exams and Online open-book timed exams.

2. In-class presentations

For example, in-class presentations where students are assessed on content and presentation skills.

Online alternatives

  • Students (individually or in groups) submit a narrated presentation in electronic form. PowerPoint is familiar to most students, and offers option to add a slide-by-slide voice-narration recording facility.

Things to consider

3. Portfolios

Including logbooks and assessment notebooks.

Online alternatives

  • Use online or e-portfolios, eg the Microsoft-Word-based and Blackboard portfolio tools available from the PDP tab in Blackboard.

Things to consider

  • Allow students to photograph or scan existing hard copy evidence and to upload into an e-portfolio.
  • You may need to ensure your student gives you access to materials within their e-portfolio.

4. Viva voce exams

For example, for PhD examinations in person, or other forms of oral assessment (eg in language learning).

Online alternatives

  • Web meetings via Skype, Skype for Business or Blackboard Collaborate.

Things to consider

  • Ensure you use the right tool with the right set up (eg do you need students to present information, will you need to invite external colleagues).
  • Check your student has the hardware, software and bandwidth to participate.
  • Give students the opportunity to practice prior to their viva voce.

5. Posters

Online alternatives

  • Students photograph and upload hand-drawn posters or provide a digital poster or infographic.

Things to consider

  • Give students the opportunity to augment posters with textual or audio narration or multimedia elements.
  • Students may need guidance on how to use software and how to submit work.
  • Digital artifacts could enable new approaches (eg the creation of a virtual gallery, commenting by peers, or the curation of materials as exemplars).

6. Lab work

Online alternatives

  • It may be possible to replicate some aspects of lab work through simulations in which students are presented with data sets and are required to interpret them.
  • Simulations can also be used remotely so students can ‘see’ data produced elsewhere and be asked to comment/interpret.

Things to consider

  • This may mean focusing on interpretation of data rather than working in the lab to achieve the results. Elements of assessments which require access to specialist equipment may need to be postponed or rescheduled.
  • Provide students with different data sets for personal interpretation.
  • Check if there are simulations already created which you could use, eg within Bristol Dynamic Lab Manuals, or Merlot lab resources.

7. OSCEs

Objective Structured Clinical Examinations or other tests which require students to demonstrate skills.

Online alternatives

  • Students submit videos of themselves performing practical tasks.
  • Students audio record timed, think aloud scenarios where they talk through how they would approach each task/problem step-by-step.

Things to consider

  • This may be problematic in professional disciplines where the achievement of specific capabilities is required at 100%.
  • Students may lack the skills or equipment to create recordings.

8. Theatre, dance and performance

Online alternatives

  • Students work off-site to prepare and submit videos of their work.

Things to consider

  • Students could provide a short reflection on how their submission relates to an authentic live performance.
  • Students could record dramatic readings or monologues and then reflect on the process.

More alternative assessment ideas

These are external guides. Not all of the ideas presented may be appropriate alternative assessment for wholly online delivery, but they're a great place to get ideas.