General question to consider

While it may be typical, is it necessary for the assessment to be time-constrained?

What platforms and internet connectivity does the assessment require, and do all your students have sufficient access to platforms and internet to accomplish the Final?

Will their time zone be a factor in synchronous assessment?

Will students with slow internet connectivity or older computers have equitable time to upload large files?

Learning goal questions to consider

What do you hope students will be able to do by the end of your course, and in what ways can they demonstrate what they know?

1. Do you want to assess your students specific content knowledge? Or their ability to apply that knowledge to new situations?

2. Do you want to assess a student’s finished ‘product’? Or the process they went through to produce it? Or both?

3. Besides content, do you want to assess writing ability, speaking skills, creativity, or ability of the student to work with a group?

Traditional Timed Exams

Canvas provides both digital assignment submission and quizzing tools. For more information about assessment options, please consult Tools for Online Teaching and Top Tips for Teaching Remotely.

If you choose to conduct timed exams, bear in mind that many variables can come into play that are outside of the student’s control, including time zones, internet connectivity, device processing and reliability, and build in some flexibility; please consult Online Assessment Considerations and Best Practices for explicit recommendations for timed tests.

If you are planning to have a synchronous online exam, we highly encourage you to consult with a member of the team to discuss options and view examples. The team would suggest consulting at least 48 hours prior to the planned exam. Contact the Digital Learning Team for help with using Canvas and Zoom for online assessments.

Alternatives to Exams

1. Non-timed, open-book exam: To assess conceptual or applied questions, particularly those which require an essay component or involved process-application, a non-time, open-book exam is effective and requires fewer online or synchronous resources.

2. Series of quizzes: Frequent quizzing has been shown to reinforce student understanding. Substituting a single final exam with a series of quizzes throughout the remainder of the semester offers a lower stake and more manageable (in remote-learning) opportunity for students to demonstrate mastery.

3. Final paper: To test the ability of a student to apply multiple concepts to create an original argument, then a final paper might be a good idea. Ensure you are supplying a clear question and direction for the paper, and consider providing a grading rubric prior to or with the assignment.

4. Reflective Paper: In an experiential class or to assess creativity, creative problem solving, or student self-perceptions of learning, try then a reflective paper/critique of the experience or of the course/material. The key is making sure the student ties course theory and themes in the sharing of their experience.

5. Presentation: Students can deliver a live presentation on a specific question or faculty request synchronously through Zoom. They can also deliver it asynchronously through slides (with or without voice-over) or recorded video posted to Canvas.

6. Annotated Bibliography: These allow assessment of students’ higher-order abilities to evaluate sources, compare multiple perspectives, and provide rationales for their choices.

7. Fact sheet: To show mastery to concepts or a topic, students create a one- or multiple-page fact sheet outlining knowledge learned by selecting relevant facts and explain them clearly and concisely.

8. E-Portfolio: If assess work across the arc of the semester, students can select and compile their best or most representative work. A self-assessment or critical introduction to the portfolio and/or a brief introduction to each piece help students demonstrate metacognitive awareness, evaluative, and analytical capacity.

9. Student-developed quiz questions: Writing their own quiz questions both builds and demonstrates students’ understanding of the material; this assignment can be structured as a collaborative group activity (keep groups smaller).

10. Case Studies: Used for individual or group assessment, students can use discussion boards or assignment links to analyze, suggest solutions, and more; these can be individual or group-based assessments, and work very well for an asynchronous environment.

Additional Ideas

  • Project or business proposal
  • Diary entry for real or fictional character
  • Letter to friend explaining a book, issue, or concept
  • Poem, play, dialogue
  • Video of a self-performance
  • Write a fictional newspaper article/editorial
  • Analysis/review of book, event, performance, or work of art
  • Asynchronous debate

Information about Coronavirus (COVID-19)


We know that this is a shift in practice.

For technological questions, please reach out to the Digital Learning Team at x4420 or

For pedagogical, assessment, and student learning questions, please reach out to the Center for Teaching and Learning x3351, or

Note: This document was adapted from a document created by Jenae Cohn and Brian Seltzer, Stanford University, California. Their work was outstanding and served as the basis for Hobart and William Smith Colleges guide for Academic Continuity During Disruption.