1. K-State home
  2. »Ensuring academic continuity during a prolonged building or campus closure
  3. »Best Practices for Offering Exams Online

Keep Teaching

Best Practices for Offering Exams Online

The availability of proctoring services for online exams may be limited. The following tips are good practice for online exams and can help minimize the need for proctoring.

  • Exams, in general, can be anxiety-inducing. The change to an online modality will likely have students uneasy. Communicate detailed instructions for the exam upfront (including how many questions, types of questions, etc.) so students feel prepared going in.

  • Make your expectations clear to your students about allowable resources. Make clear to your students what resources they may or may not use while working on the exam (e.g., class notes, textbooks) and whether or not they may collaborate with each other. A lot of “academic dishonesty” can be prevented with clear instructions.

  • Consider allowing exams to be open-book/source and/or allowing collaboration with other students. Assume students will use resources while taking an exam, and even encourage them to do so. Consider asking questions that probe deeper levels of knowledge and understanding, enabling students to apply, assess, and evaluate concepts and facts in meaningful ways. Consider encouraging students to share and cite where they get information from and what resources they use. Consider encouraging them to work in small teams and asking them to include who they work with and in what ways.

  • Use question groups in Canvas so the questions can be randomized. As mentioned above, if students try to collaborate on an exam they are not able to as easily if the questions are populated in random orders.

  • Offer flexibility with the timing of your online exam. Students who are learning remotely may need flexibility for when they can take your exam, so consider offering a wider time frame for exam completion. This applies both to the window in which the exam is available as well as how long students have to take the exam.
    • Please remember to add extended time for students with this testing accommodation if you have received a letter of accommodation.
  • Limit feedback displayed to students. Instructors can limit what types of feedback are displayed upon completion of a test in Canvas. Providing test scores is important feedback that indicates how well students have performed and should be made available. However, instructors might reconsider whether to include “Let Students See the Correct Answers” as an option to be displayed or not to students. Consider showing answers only after all students have completed the exam. Do remember to allow students to see correct answers at some time so that they may learn from that feedback.

  • Consider the possibilities, but also the limitations, of using online testing services. Proctoring services may be costly or unavailable. Browser lockdown programs may not allow for accessibility.

  • Consider alternative forms of assessment to exams. The purpose of assessment is to allow students to demonstrate their learning. There may be methods (e.g., written assignments, activities, recorded oral presentations) that allow students to demonstrate their progress toward course learning objectives that circumvent many of the issues that will manifest with online exams.

If you will use online exams, consider these tips for creating exam items and formats:

  • If the exam has multiple choice answers, try to avoid “all of the above” answers. Canvas can scramble answer choices. Students don’t see the same answers/same order of answers so if they try to collaborate (using text, etc.) it cannot be done as quickly. Consider using items with only one correct answer.

  • When possible, include one or more subjective questions (e.g., short answer, essay). These questions typically draw on higher-order thinking skills and require students to showcase a greater depth of their knowledge.

  • Consider focusing on solving problems while showing work and explanations. In many cases, students may get the same answer, but showing their work reveals meaningful differences in understanding. Sometimes there may only be a few ways to show work, so you may ask for brief prose explanations, or have students record a video of them talking through the process to solve a question.

  • Consider question formats leading to essays, videos, pictures, and other personal responses. Consider having students express their learning through essays, videos, pictures, or other personalized forms of writing/speaking/communicating. Consider having students post their responses for each other and assess each other’s work through peer grading. Rubrics can help guide students as they develop such work, give each other feedback, and provide a consistent method of assessment.

  • Consider using student-generated questions with explanations. Ask students to create their own questions with an explanation of how it would assess a certain topic or skill in a meaningful way.

Need more assistance with thinking through transitioning your exam online?Schedule a consultation with a K-State instructional designer or IT support person.

Note: Some of these tips were provided by Purdue University’s resources for teaching remotely