Support from FASE's Education Technology Office

Create a contingency plan for your online assessment

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This guide details some elements you might communicate to students in advance of an assessment, should they run into technical issues during the assessment. This could range from alternate mechanisms to submit the assessment (e.g. email) to how to communicate the issue to you (do they need to provide some proof of the issue? What would that look like?).

When delivering online assessment, it’s important to take advantage of before the assessment practices that can make the assessment go as smoothly as possible. It’s equally important to have a backup plan in case things don’t work out as anticipated during the assessment.

1. Before the assessment

Instructors can:

  1. Provide clear written and verbal instructions for the students on
    • how to access the exam (including required technology),
    • the exam format (i.e. multiple-choice, essay, short-answer, etc.),
    • the date, time, and duration of the exam,
    • what will happen if there are major technical issues, such as internet connectivity problems or power outages.
  2. Offer a practice, ungraded exam using the same tool (e.g., Assignments, Quizzes, Crowdmark), question types, and settings as the real assessment. This lets students know what to expect and helps both you and your students identify any potential issues early.
  3. Create a space for students to ask questions about the upcoming assessment by
    • offering online office hours in Zoom or MS Teams,
    • creating a Q & A discussion in Quercus so that all students can see the questions posed by others.
  4. Communicate alternatives for anyone who might not have adequate internet access and may require accommodation.
  5. Inform students about how they can contact you during the assessment if they have questions about the assessment itself or if they are dealing with online issues
    • let them know what channels they can use to contact you: will you be available by email? will you be in a Zoom or MS Teams session? will you have a discussion forum available in Quercus or Piazza?
    • Indicate the date and times you will be monitoring those channels during the exam period (keeping in mind that students may be in different time zones).
  6. Download and save a current list of student emails
    • in case of U of T system outages during your assessment, you might lose the ability to log into Quercus and access this list. As a precaution, download a list of student emails and save it locally so that you can send messages to students from another email client, if necessary.
    • for information on downloading student emails using New Analytics or the UT Advanced Group Tool , see our guide: How do I get student email addresses from Quercus?  

Students can:

  1. Ensure you understand instructions provided by the instructor.
  2. Request required accommodations (with enough lead time) with the Accommodated Testing Services Office.
  3. Attend office hours or post questions to a discussion to get clarification on anything you are unsure of.
  4. Complete any practice assessments offered by the instructor.

2. During the assessment

Professors can:

  1. Have a document version of the assessment ready to email out for students to complete and email back, in case of power outages or internet connectivity problems.
  2. Provide a backchannel communicationprocess for during the assessment so that students can post questions that might arise during the assessment.
    • Set up a Zoom or MS Teams session (this could include an option to use break out rooms for private consultation)
    • Use a Discussion through Quercus
    • Use a real time Piazza discussion thread or use Piazza's new Live Q & A feature
  3. Provide students a specific email address/phone number to contact
    • Consider including a cell phone number for texting (in case of Internet outages)
    • Explain when this communication method should be used (and when not)
    • Specify who will be responding and when (what kind of response rate can students expect?)
    • Bear in mind that this type of communication can be overwhelming; so use sparingly and purposefully

Students can:

  1. Check your computer ahead of the assessment to make sure you know how to access the assessment to and to ensure it's working.
  2. If possible, use an ethernet connection instead of Wi-Fi. Otherwise, ensure your Wi-Fi connection is available.
  3. Use the recommended browser to access the assessment and avoid closing the browser window while you are completing the assessment.
  4. If taking a Quiz, answer any short-answer/essay-style questions in a word document and then copy/paste the answers into the quiz. If you lose internet connectivity, you then still have a copy of your work.
  5. Take screen shots of any issues you are experiencing and notify your professor right away.
  6. Save a copy of any work files locally and not only on the assessment platform (if possible).

3. After the assessment

Professors can:

  1. Follow up with any students who reported issues.
  2. Review student activity using the Quercus Quiz moderation log. This can help to validate reported issues, but, it has limited information. It does not track IP addresses, for example, nor will it provide definitive information about visits to external websites.

Students can:

  1. Submit any documentation of the technical issue, as directed.
  2. Submit any explanation, as directed.
  3. Submit the assessment in an alternate way, as directed.
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