If you have traditionally distributed and collected assignments as part of your assessment of student understanding, you can easily continue to do so in a digital way using Canvas. If you have not already, you will quickly find that it is a very fast, effective, efficient, and reliable means of assessing student performance.

First, there is no printing, no getting handouts to students who miss a class, no chance of lost assignments, and no FERPA concerns with handing back assignments. The Assignment function within Canvas works effectively to both distribute assignments and to collect and archive the uploaded completed assignments from students. The SpeedGrader makes grading student uploads surprisingly easy, with the grades going directly into your gradebook. This works for any form of written assignments (papers, phone-scanned homework, etc.), but can also work with video or audio assignments, which can be very useful for language or performance art classes. Whatever you have used for assignments in your previous classes you can still do with Canvas, and maybe even more.

The online challenge, however, is with exams. Many faculty are used to giving exams to their students in a live and proctored environment where most forms of cheating become extremely difficult. That is no longer possible in an online setting. Even if all of your students are able to attend your classes in person for a stretch of time, you must be prepared for having some of your students be quarantined or isolated on campus should they test positive for the virus (or you may find yourself in the same situation), so you need to prepare your exams online. In addition, all Final Exams for the fall semester will be online (Jan 5 – 10).  However, proctoring a closed-note, closed-book exam in an online setting with a full assurance that students are not breaking their oath of academic integrity is simply not yet possible. There are software programs that make it more difficult, but these also come with several additional problems.

So, if you have traditionally used exams in your course, please consider the following options, if available:

  • Can your exam be transformed into a project, paper, or alternative take-home format?
    • If “yes,” use the Canvas Assignment tool to create a submission for your exam and provide your students with the needed directions. For help transforming your exam to a take-home format, review the Open-Note Exams section below.
  • Can your exam be taken as an open-book or open-note format?
    • If “yes,” use the Canvas Quiz tool to build your exam. Exams that ask more applied questions may be good candidates for an online open-book option. 
  • Can the content of a large high-stakes midterm or final exam be distributed over a series of low-stakes quizzes?
    • If “yes,” again, use the Canvas Quiz tool to build a set of distributed quizzes. Research shows that students feel less pressure to cheat on low-stakes quizzes than a high-stakes exam and are less likely to do so. 

If you answered “no” to all three questions, you may wish to review the following articles in planning your new online exam:

Open-Note Exams

As noted above, you may choose to transform a traditional, closed-book exam into an open-note exam suited for the online learning environment. For guidance, please consult the Center for Teaching and Learning’s resource on Designing Open-Note Exams.

Exam Proctoring Software

If you believe using an online exam with proctoring software is the best option for you, Washington University has purchased Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor, a “fully-automated proctoring” system that uses a student’s webcam and video analytics to prevent cheating during non-proctored exams. If using the Respondus LockDown Browser only, you have to option of monitoring your students live using Zoom. You would first have students all enter a Zoom meeting with you. Then, when they went into LockDown Browser mode, they would not be able to see anything within Zoom, as it and all their other windows would go dark, but you would still be able to see and hear them. Some good suggestions on ways of using Respondus are available on this Georgetown University site.

To use Respondus LockDown Browser and/or Monitor, you must first build your exam in Canvas using the Quiz tool. See the instructions below:

Navigating the administration of online exams can be tricky. To get started, you may wish to attend one of the regularly scheduled webinars from Respondus. In addition, please reach out to 24/7 Canvas Support for help on quiz or exam setup (via the Help button in Canvas).

A Note on Respondus Monitor

While Respondus LockDown Browser should be fairly straightforward for most students with access to modern laptops, Respondus Monitorhas additional drawbacks and caveats. If you are considering using Respondus Monitor, please review the following:

  1. Students are required to have laptops with cameras, but they may not have access to private spaces with reliable internet access.
    • Provisions will need to be made for these students, such as an alternate assignment (e.g., paper or project submitted electronically).
  2. Respondus Monitor’s artificial intelligence does not reliably catch all academic integrity infractions, even some obvious ones.
  3. Respondus Monitor may also yield false positives.
  4. For additional guidance, please discuss Respondus Monitor with relevant program leadership and/or the Center for Teaching and Learning prior to use.