- Finals Week
- So You’ve Decided to Redesign Your Final Assessment
- Reducing Stress and Simplifying
- Advice for Final Exams
- Advice for Final Presentations and Projects
From the Provost’s Office and Deans:
Having moved to remote learning for the rest of the semester, we will follow the regular class schedule during the last week of the semester (4/27/20) so as not to disrupt faculty and students’ newly established routines. To that end, the Registrar will not be creating a “finals schedule.” However, if there is a pedagogical need for an additional synchronous time or alternate format that week, individual faculty members have the discretion to schedule something with consideration of their students’ availability. If faculty have any questions, they should discuss with their Dean. (Daily Briefing, April 6)
Faculty should feel empowered to modify their final assessment strategy to appropriately align with their remote teaching and learning strategies. Here are some helpful questions to ask about the scope and focus of the assessment:
- Should it be cumulative?
- By what means could a student express knowledge and skill development?
- How will it help your students make connections between the course material and the learning outcomes?
- What skills do I want to measure: knowledge, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, or creation?
- In what ways do the delivery and context matter? Are you measuring skills like writing, presenting, and/or creativity?
- What is most productive and useful for the student–a deep dive into the content of their choosing? Revisiting course materials? Peer review?
- How can you ensure the final as delivered through remote instruction requires no more time and effort than the final you originally planned?
This is a time to focus on essentials. What is essential for you to assess? What is essential about the final experience in your course. How can you simplify while preserving these essentials? Here is a helpful exercise to help you identify what is essential and most valuable:
The ideal student exercise
When you imagine the ideal student who has just completed your course, what knowledge, skills, and attitudes do they have? How do you know that they possess these attributes? Make a list of the attributes and how you might know that a student has grown in these areas. Based on the learning experiences you provided which of these growth areas can you fairly measure this semester? Finally, what is the most direct way you can evaluate the student on this growth and/or have them evaluate their growth? Cut away anything unnecessary. For example, if you have already assessed their writing skills, could students provide bullet points or outlines or concept maps to express their knowledge?
Administering an exam in a tight window of time may be difficult for many classes. Not all students may be able to attend, and your class periods may not be long enough to administrate the final exam you already have developed. For some classes, canceling final exams and using some other form of wrap-up and assessment is the appropriate option.
Take Home vs. Non-Take Home Exams
If you are going to deliver a final exam, we recommend that you consider switching your final exam to a “take home exam” format. A take home exam format allows students to take the test at the time that best works for them within a wider window of time. Because it is harder to secure the exam, it is simpler to treat the exam as open-book and open-note. Redesigning the exam with this in mind will make administering it much easier. You should also consider the time it will take students to complete the exam and the grading load for you, especially if you switch to an essay-based exam.
Timed vs Not Timed Exams
If you are planning to deliver a timed exam, please consider the following challenges:
- All students need to be able to attend during the scheduled window of time
- Since the window of time is your normal class time, you may need to shorten the exam to fit this window from 3 hours to 1 hour 15 min (unless you split it into 2 parts). In order to accomodate students with extra time, you may need to make the window even shorter.
- Time zone confusion and technical challenges can interfere with students ability to complete the test.
If you need to deliver a timed exam, Canvas’s Quizzes tool allows you to construct a test of any length and set a time limit, release day and time, and closure date and time. You can also accommodate students entitled to extended time. You can create questions in many formats. Canvas does not support test-taking security tools like Lockdown; we do not recommend these tools because they are not technologically equitable and they may unintentionally project an air of mistrust.
Final presentations and projects could provide unique challenges and opportunities. Faculty may need to do more than adjust the scope and format of the assignment. They may need to manage students’ expectations and acknowledge their feelings. Students in project-based courses may be experiencing a sense of loss. Students may have envisioned and invested significant time and energy into large-scale projects that they cannot complete due to lack of access to specialized equipment or materials. Also, students may be missing the community of their work teams and peer audience. We recommend finding ways to acknowledge students’ feelings and finding creative ways to honor and showcase students’ work (regardless of its stage of completion).
For all final projects and presentations we recommend that you create a rubric explicitly stating the knowledge and skills you will evaluate. For students who may need support with executive function challenges, we recommend setting up one or two checkpoints between now and the due date. Also, remind students that the SMARTSpace and Library staff members look forward to assisting them between now and the end of the semesters.
Students can present their work either through a Canvas discussion or in a live webinar. Both formats allow their work to be viewed by their peers. Posting presentations to an online discussion can simplify the experience and should strongly be considered.
To have students post final presentations to Canvas, create an assigned online discussion. Students have the ability to embed media in their posts. ChampHub has instructions for students to embed files, images and video. Students can use tools like screencasting with a tool like Loom (free for education) or recording a narration into powerpoint. Creating a video presentation is a lot of work, often a 5 minute presentation can take a student several hours to prepare images, record audio, edit and post. Build this time into your assignment design.
For synchronous presentations we recommend providing students with a choice to opt in. Unless you are measuring students’ presentation skills, allow students to decide if they want to present to the class. Anecdotal evidence has shown that many students enjoy presenting their work to their peers and receiving their feedback. In addition, they say they learn new ways of thinking and doing by listening to their peers.On the other hand, there are good reasons why students may want to submit their work asynchronously. We believe students will do their best work if they have agency how they express their development.
Many courses that culminate in final projects are structured so students work on preliminary phases of those projects throughout the term. You might now be in a situation where students have done the planning and preparation, but are struggling to complete the final product because of lack of access to the Library, equipment, event space, or some other critical component. In such cases, you may need to be proactive and creative to redesign final projects to fit the needs of your situation. Consider refocusing on what is most important and simplify as appropriate:
- Can the project’s parameters be shortened or simplified in recognition of lost resources, time, and focused workspace for many students?
- Is there an alternative way to help students make connections between the parts of the project they’ve already completed (if applicable) and course outcomes?
- Can substitutions be made for logistically challenging components like group work, place-based work, or Library research?
Adapting these projects is highly situational. Technical and logistical challenges can easily interfere with final projects. We recommend consulting with colleagues about strategies specific to your subject area or program.