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Using online tools for summative (final) assessments

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This guide provides an overview of suggested ideas for your course's assessment for the Winter 2020 term. For guidance for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 term, please see the updated article (included in the Online/Remote Course Design > How to assess learning guide). The Faculty’s primary aim is to support our students in completing this term by providing them with the best possible learning and assessment experience that we can at this point. 

For consistency, the Faculty suggests that courses use one or a combination of the following approaches for the final assessment:

  1. Take-Home Exam (due the same day as your regularly scheduled final exam; can be posted earlier)
  2. Assign a Final Report, Essay, Project, or Lab
  3. Quercus Online Quizzes

When you've selected your tool, don't forget to consider a contingency plan for what happens if something goes a little off track.

For the full Course Assessment Plan in response to COVID-19, please download the below attachment:

I need to make a change to my Syllabus. How do I hold a vote? You can host an anonymous vote in your Quercus course using Microsoft Forms (see "How do I host an anonymous survey?")

1. When preparing your final assessment, consider the different challenges for students to participate

Students are also facing new challenges and adapting very quickly to new circumstances out of their control. Final assessments are stressful at the best of times. To try to maximize ease of access in your course, consider:

  • Students are now distributed: Students could be preparing and submitting final assessments from many different timezones. You can support this by extending submissions timelines to accommodate these differences.
  • Students have different access to technology and Internet: Not everyone has devices like tablets nor consistent, high speed Internet. You can support all students by ensuring that your assessment does not require specialized equipment nor relies on a very small window for submission.

Should I include an academic integrity statement? It is recommended that you include an academic integrity statement at the beginning of your final assessment and/or ask students to sign a statement that they have adhered to academic integrity practices (see a York University example of an Academic Integrity Checklist). For more tips please, see "Academic Integrity and Online Assessment."

1.1. Ideas to get you started to prepare students for final assessment:

  1. Create a "scaffolding" assessment. This is a low stake assessments (it could even be a "dummy" assessment) that's real purpose it to test the process for submission. This reduces stress the day of the true final assessment, as a) students know what to expect and b) teaching teams know what kind of submissions they'll be marking.
  2. Provide an overview of the process, clearly, with examples of different ways to submit the submission. This will be different for each class, but is especially important to review if you are expecting students to scan or take photos of paper-based, handwritten work (see "How can I submit handwritten work?" for a student-facing resource that you can share with your students). You'll want to ensure that students have the capacity to submit a clear representation of their work.
  3. Be clear about what you are expecting. If you want students to submit one file, suggest ways to do that (e.g. paste images into one document and then upload). You could even provide an example submission.
  4. Start communicating well before the final assessment; as always, the important thing is to clearly lay out the steps of the submission process. Communication around this technical process is just as important as the process itself.
  5. Solicit feedback about the process from your students. Were they comfortable? Did it make sense with the type of assessment you have? Did they have any technical difficulty? Based on the test submission, you can revise for the final submission.

2. Review best practices when developing a take-home exam

You will likely have to make changes to your in-class assessment to make it into a take-home exam. Take-home exams provide the opportunity to assess using higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Education Objectives instead of focusing the assessment on recall and knowledge. In general, your exam should:

  • Ask questions that analyze, evaluate, and/or synthesize knowledge and concepts  
  • Leverage online resources students will have access to, e.g. online videos, online academic articles, the U of T library etc., to develop complex questions that require students to consider multiple sources of information in their responses  
  • Avoid questions with answers that can be looked up online
  • Consider making your exam open book 

Who can I ask for help? For support developing take-home exam questions, please contact Cori Hanson ([email protected]) or the Center for Teaching Support & Innovation ( If you have questions or would like additional resources about preparing students to complete a take-home exam, Melissa Fernandes ([email protected]) is available for consultations. 

3. Use an online tool to support exam submission

Quercus Quizzes and Crowdmark are your two most likely question-based solutions for final assessment submission. Quercus Quizzes are perhaps more typical of what you'd expect when you think "online quiz" (pre-defined question types). Crowdmark, however, uses exam questions but allows the digital submission of a scanned document of handwritten work (e.g. problem solutions).

3.1. Ideas to get you started using the Quercus Quiz tool:

  1. You can use the quiz tool to create online quizzes and surveys (see "What quiz types can I create in a course?").
  2. To consider students taking exams from different time zones, you could use the different start times for different sections of students (see "How do I assign a quiz to a course section?"). You can create sections via the UofT Advanced Group Tool to reflect the groups for your assessment.
  3. To help promote academic integrity when delivering an exam through Quercus, you could randomize test questions (from a question bank) to create a unique assessment for each student, limit the date/time students are able to access the assessment (keep time limits brief but realistic; you can also give them extra time as needed), and/or limit the amount of time students have to answer each question (e.g. 2 minutes for each multiple-choice question)
  4. While Quercus does not provide any type of browser lock down (limiting access to certain things on a device), you can select quiz settings to maximize security without hindering student learning.
  5. Use the Moderate Quiz page to view student progress or view quiz logs to view the status of your student quizzes. This feature is also designed to help you investigate problems that a student may have in the quiz.
  6. If you want to hide the grades until a specific time (highly recommended), remember to set a grade posting policy (see "How do I select a grade posting policy for an assignment in the Gradebook?").

Can I use the Quiz tool for an automatically graded assessment? Yes! Watch "Using the Quercus Quizzes tool for automated online tests" to review auto-graded question types and explore options for quiz configuration strategies that support academic integrity. Bonus tip! If you are using a quiz question to ask students to acknowledge an honour code, make sure you use a multiple choice or True/False (or other machine-graded) question type or you'll be asked to provide a mark per student for this question (even though the rest of your quiz will be auto-graded).

3.2. Ideas to get you started using Crowdmark:

Crowdmark is offering access without charge to their grading and analytics platform until May 31, 2020. Typically, this tool is managed departmentally via a work order.

  1. Review our documentation on using Crowdmark within your course (See "How to Configure Crowdmark").
  2. To create an account with Crowdmark, email their support team at [email protected].
  3. To see if an Assigned Assessment would work for your final assessment, you can review Crowdmark's documentation, "Choosing an assessment type."

4. Assign a Final Report, Essay, Project, or Lab

Rather than requiring an online quiz as the final assessment, you can allow digital submission of the artifact or activity to be assessed (see "How do I create an assignment?"). The Assignments tool allows students to upload files (of many different types) that are then accessible to the teaching team for marking.

Can I use Assignments for a take-home exam? Yes! Many are choosing to use Assignments as their tool to receive submissions because a) you can run the results through Ouriginal and b) you can mark the submissions using the Speedgrader (see how to "Administer Take-home exams using the Assignments tool on Quercus" for more information on the differences between quizzes and assignments, as well as how to review the features of the Assignments tool that support a take-home exam). Please note that in order to use Ouriginal, you do need to include it on your syllabus (see CTSI's plagiarism Detection Tool Guide). 

4.1. Ideas to get you started using the Quercus Assignments tool:

  1. Review the types of assessments (e.g. assignments, discussions, quizzes, even ungraded submissions) that can be submitted digitally (see "What assignment types can I create in a course?").
  2. Have students submit their projects (from word documents to infographics to mind maps and beyond) in a digital format via the Assignments tool (see "How do I create an assignment?"), which can accept multiple different types of files.
  3. If you want to hide the grades until a specific time (highly recommended), remember to set a grade posting policy (see "How do I select a grade posting policy for an assignment in the Gradebook?").

5. Use the SpeedGrader to grade submissions

SpeedGrader is built into Quercus and makes it easier to evaluate individual student assignments and group assignments quickly. The tool helps close the circle on digitally submitted assessments. Not only do you want to enable students to submit online, you want to support the ability to provide rich feedback (from yourself or your teaching team) on those assessments.

5.1. Ideas to get you started using the SpeedGrader:

  1. To access the tool, see "How do I get to SpeedGrader from an assignment, quiz, or graded discussion?"
  2. You can mark students anonymously by disabling the ability of the marker to see student names (see "How do I hide student names in SpeedGrader?").
  3. You can leave feedback for your students using text, an attached file, video, or audio (see "How do I leave feedback comments for student submissions in SpeedGrader?") or you can add comments by annotation (see "How do I add annotated comments in student submissions?").

What about a proctored online exam? Quercus quizzes are generally recommended for lower stake, formative feedback versus high stake, summative tests, mid-terms, and exams. If plagiarism is a major concern, you could consider an online proctoring application. Institutionally, U of T has agreements with two proctoring applications: Examity and ProtorU (see, "What to consider before you implement online proctoring"). NOTE: FASE is not supporting the use of online proctoring for the Fall or Winter 2020 terms.

A Special thank you to UTSC's Assessment Options Resource Guide, from which this guide was modified.

Still have questions? Contact the FASE EdTech Office