- Discuss and capture changes to assessment arrangements: Any changes made to validated assessments such as changing deadlines, method of assessment or mode of assessment need to have been captured on the ‘Module Assessment Tracker’ at School-level (overseen by the Associate Dean (L&T) and co-ordinated centrally by AREG).
This is the approved system to track all changes for quality purposes, so please make sure you have the all clear from your line managers before informing students of any changes.
An important step in making alternative online assessment arrangements is seeking out and discussing the views of other members of course teams (including Partners, as appropriate) about planned changes.
Liaising with fellow course team members and Partners also ensures others have a familiarity with your assessment strategy and methods, and vice versa – a key contingency measure should colleagues fall ill, or in the case of Partners, have to implement this at their own college/site. Please bear in mind that off-site provision may have different media to communicate with students that may have limitations (or heightened functions) compared to TU VLE.
- Think inclusively: Assessment should be fair, inclusive and accessible, whatever form it takes. Be mindful of the impact making changes to assessment arrangements at short notice may have on all students.
Think about whether there is need to offer a choice of assessment formats, to allow students to use their creativity and work with what technology/devices they have access to.
If it is felt students should be offered a degree of choice because of limitations of access to laptop, phone or some other valid reason, provide a couple of alternatives, for example: a reflective written piece or talking head video reflecting on a topic (the student may find that a phone is easier to record on than a laptop or tablet).
Whatever the change being implemented, it is important that steps are put in place to support students as they transition between original and alternative online assessment arrangements.
Think carefully about the possible barriers presented by new/alternative assessments – for instance, for students with physical challenges /mental health issues/ special learning difficulties and other needs, and try to think through mitigation for those who cannot meet them for reasons out of their control. Where students would normally be given longer time to complete exams due to additional needs, this should still apply to alternative assessment arrangements be deployed.
All students should have the opportunity to discuss in advance any alternative online assessment arrangements being deployed, with appropriate support and signposting put in place for those students with special learning requirements.
- Be clear on the format and requirements of alternative online assessments/assignments: Steps need to be taken to lessen overassessment and undue stress for students when devising alternative ‘online’ arrangements.
Remember, we are not assessing a student’s competence in a single assessment method, but rather the extent of their learning by evaluating their academic performance defined by module and course learning outcomes.
Steps need to be taken to build in alignment and continuity between new assessment type(s) and already completed summative assessments, as well as the formative teaching strategies used to support the students’ learning to date.
- Don’t forsake formative opportunities, these may be needed more than ever: Where introducing changes to method of assessment or mode of assessment, and where it is practically possible and appropriate to do so, consider pushing back original deadlines to ‘build in’ a buffer period for students to process and understand shifting expectations.
It might be a good idea to also think about introducing easily actionable ‘formative’ opportunities for students to trial new practices and build confidence in using tools and technologies.
Feedback remains an important outcome of student assessment. Indeed, effective feedback dialogue is more important than ever when students’ study patterns are subject to change and disruption.
‘Building in’ opportunities for regular feedback dialogue with students can help to clarify learning goals, provide students with an opportunity to check their understanding of what it means to ‘do’ assessment online, and increase their confidence at what is likely to a period of high stress and anxiety.
- Don’t automatically assume students have access to technology: Ensure that your students have access to the appropriate technology for the alternative assessment format.
It is a good idea to design alternative online assessment arrangements with low bandwidth and data limits in mind. It may not be appropriate, for instance, to ask students to create and submit artefacts that require large file sizes that will take a long time to upload (see Guidance for making alternative online assessment arrangements on LTE Online for more information).
Where a student does not have access to appropriate technology they would have the option to defer. It is intended that deferred assessments will take place at the standard time for reassessments (normally with mid-August Examinations and hand-in dates). However, this could change.
- Keep change simple, familiar and manageable: Now is not the time to be introducing complex, challenging or risky assessment alternatives. Alternative assessments should not demand complex requirements from students in order to complete the task.
In some cases students may be utilising lower-specification devices (slow, low power/resolution). It is important to ensure that planned alternative online assessment arrangements will ‘work’ across a spectrum of device specifications. Where possible, all assessments should be delivered, and students’ work submitted, electronically.
Most schools will already have plenty of online submissions and online feedback, so many students are used to using these systems. Do not feel that you need to try new software or apps when devising alternative assessment arrangements, keep to what you and your students are used to doing in terms of patterns of work.
Where there are concerns regarding academic integrity and/or student collusion, steps can be taken to redesign assessment tasks to prevent such behaviour by re-shaping the assessment task asking students to identify their own scenario, thereby creating a piece of work that is unique to them. Having students then submit their completed work via Turn-it-In provides the opportunity for plagiarism checks.
- Written Examinations: Where appropriate to do so, unseen written exams should be replaced by an alternative ‘seen’ or ‘take-away’ task that students can complete individually under time-limited conditions, at home, and submit electronically as a single file to Blackboard.
A ‘seen’ or ‘take-away’ assessment is essentially a mix between a coursework assignment and an open-book exam. Such tasks can be completed by the student at home with access to their lecture notes, internet and any other useful resources. The time between the release of the question(s) and the deadline for completion will need to be carefully considered – it is recommended that students be set a minimum deadline 48-hours after the release of question papers, but this will be determined by the nature of questions/task set and more time may be required.
It is worth bearing in mind that approved examination questions will not provide identical outcomes when students are not sitting them under invigilated conditions. In instances where pre-approved questions are to be retained, it will be important that consideration be given to the balance of assessment criteria as adjustments may be needed in light of the changes being made.
Given that it would be entirely inappropriate to apply the kinds of rules and conditions to invigilated examinations when pivoting to alternative online arrangements, it will be important that proportionate adjustments to assessment instructions are made to ensure students are not disadvantaged. A simple and clear briefing explaining the purpose of each assessment in the current context may be helpful and reassuring. Be sure to also set out assessment criteria (clearly identifying any changes) and word limits.
Opting for MCQs as ready alternative is not recommended: MCQs can be difficult to design well and operationalise effectively in online settings. In the current context, MCQs are encouraged as a means of testing content knowledge in formative assessments but should be avoided as high-stakes summative assessments (see Guidance for making alternative online assessment arrangements on LTE Online for more information).
- Marking student work: When marking, remember you are not marking the quality of the format (unless this is an integral Learning Outcome). Concentrate on the content of the assessment piece and how well it addresses the marking criteria.
Applying strict expectations around quality of production (i.e. video-based assessment artefacts) is unreasonable in instances of significant disruption and/or when alternative methods of assessment or modes of assessment have been introduced.
- Clarifying marking criteria: Ensure your marking criteria can accommodate the different format(s) of your alternative assessment.
Be clear with your students if you have made these changes and explain to them which elements will not apply if they do a particular format. It remains the case that the criteria for all assessments need to be clearly outlined and explained to students.
- Make students aware of the technical and practical requirements of alternative arrangements: Where submissions will include specific requirements such as start times or file sizes, be succinct and precise in your guidance to students.
Make sure there are channels of communications put in place to enable students to ask questions/clarify expectations etc. (i.e. Microsoft Teams for Module cohorts).
Where students face challenges engaging effectively online, there are strategies that can be introduced, such as reducing the size of tasks set, increasing the time in which tasks can be completed, and removing limiting conditions that are not necessary for making accurate judgements on student work.
- Ensure secure working practices: Ensure that students know the importance of securely keeping any work that they create in case of the need of future moderation and what steps they should take. This is particularly important for artefacts, but good practice for everything else too.
- Think about student progression: For Level 3 and Level 4 concentrate on ensuring students are getting to threshold criteria and meeting Learning Outcomes in order to progress. At these levels the module outcome is unlikely to contribute to the final degree classification. Alternative assessment arrangements introduced at Level 5, 6 and 7 should be graded in the same way.
- Implications for re-assessment: It is important to note where changes are made to assessment arrangements this may also require subsequent changes to re-assessment tasks which will need to be recorded (and approved via AREG) on the Module Assessment Tracker at school level (Your Associate Dean (L&T) is overseeing the process for the School).
- Clearly communicate all changes to students: Students need to be given clear and comprehensive information about any changes to assessment arrangements, with accompanying instructions on all aspects of the alternative assessment task – including such information as required file formats and sizes and details of revisions to marking criteria.
Students should only be made aware of a change to alternative assessment once it has been formally approved. Notification should be through Blackboard (and Microsoft Teams if being deployed).
Any changes to assessment and feedback at course level should be made with reference to the University’s Assessment and Feedback Policy and Considerations and Resources for Digital Platforms and Tools Supporting Alternative Assessments.