Skip to main content

Finals Exams and Complex Assessments 

Part 1: Planning the Exam

November 18, 2020

There is no one way to conduct a final exam in a remote or online environment. Each course will have a unique final exam, focused on course content/learning outcomes, utilizing proven strategies and techniques.

At the highest level, there are two types of exams in an online environment:

  • Online Exams: Students connect online within a specific window of time, and submit responses to prepared prompts online.
  • Take Home Exams: Instructions and prompts are provided in advance. Students work independently and submit by a specific deadline. 

How to Use this Series

This Deeper Dive article series is broken up into 3 parts to help  guide you in the development of your final exam:

  1. Planning the Exam
  2. Building the Exam
  3. Ensuring Integrity in the Exam

If you would like to work with an instructional designer or educational specialist to strategize for your specific course, you are welcome to join us for open office hours or request an individual consultation.

Considerations for Online Exams

[link to this section: considerations]

There are four key questions as you prepare an online final exam:

1. Time Limit

Is there a maximum amount of time that students will be able to take on the exam?

Time limits tend to restrict student activity during the final exam. Shorter time limits, for example, could mean students cannot conduct exhaustive web searches for the correct answer.
These types of limits can, however, increase student anxiety during a final exam. 

Designer's Tip
It can be challenging to select an appropriate time limit. If possible, have an undergraduate IA take the exam, to see how long it takes them to complete the exam. Then, multiply this time by approximately 1.5 or 2 to set the time limit for students. 

2. Exam Window

What is the first and last day and time that students can access and submit the final exam?

Based on Academic Senate policy, exams cannot be due before the established final exam window. Use this scheduled time as an anchor for setting the exam window. 

Tighter windows (e.g. 24-48 hour windows) can prevent students from sharing exam content with other students. 

If the exam is proctored, you must implement at least a 48 hour window.

3. Question Complexity

Should each student get their own combination of questions in the exam, or is it OK if all students have the same questions?

Craft exam questions in ways that require metacognition, analysis, or implementation of concepts.

Know your technical options in Canvas:

  • Randomize the order of quiz questions
  • Present each student with a subset of a larger question bank (e.g. 10 of 25 questions)
  • Randomly assign one of multiple versions of a question to students
  • Explore the more advanced types of questions in Canvas (e.g. Formula, matching, fill in multiple blanks)

Know your technical options in Gradescope:

  • Submit an original drawing
  • Annotate an existing drawing
  • Label a process, drawing, or image
  • Submit written work (e.g. steps to answer a question)

4. Student Equity

Will all students have the technology and environmental conditions that are needed to complete the exam with the time limit in the exam window?

Practically speaking, we no longer have the ability to control the environment from which students take an online exam (e.g. internet access, geographic location, individuals coming and going, distractions). Please be aware that this might increase student anxiety and it might affect the students’ ability to successfully complete an uninterrupted online exam in a limited time frame or condensed exam window.

Be prepared to offer an alternate option, if requested or needed.

You have the option to restrict access to exam scores and feedback until you manually release the information. This allows you to work through the submissions and normalize scores and feedback without students being aware of the adjustments. If you have not already done so at the course level, be sure that the release of scores and feedback for your Final Exam is appropriately configured.

Setting Final Exam Expectations

[link to this section: exam expectations]

When in a face to face class, you have the opportunity to clarify instructions and clearly lay out “the rules.” In a remote environment, all instructions and expectations must be laid out before any student accesses and completes the final exam.

As you craft the exam instructions, consider incorporating the following pieces of information:

Potential Student Questions

Sample Response Options

What resources can I use?

Internet; textbook materials; Canvas course content; other students 

How do I handle technical issues?

Contact Student Affairs if you need access to technology. Be sure to test your computer and equipment before the exam. 

Contact the Service Desk for general technology issues.

For issues with proctoring services (e.g. ProctorU, Respondus), contact their support directly.

What will the exam look like?

Number of questions, types of questions, one question at a time will be visible (and no going back).

Designer’s Tip: Provide the students with a “sample” exam if possible, where they can experience all the settings in a no-stakes environment!

When will I see my score?

Immediately after submission; 24 hours after the window closes

If I think the score is incorrect, what do I do?

Submit a request for regrading via email (e.g. within 24 hours, you can request a regrade, but the instructor will look at and regrade the entire exam, which may result in additional point reduction)

What do I do if I witness cheating?

Within 24 hours: Contact me via email, submit a form (insert a link to a web form)

Accommodations for Individual Students

[link to this section: accommodations]

If a student has requested a formal accommodation, you will receive a notice from the Office for Students with Disabilities . This official notice will clearly articulate what type of accommodations are needed. 

Depending on how your final exam is configured, you will likely need to implement one or more of the following: 

Continue Reading | Part 2: Building the Exam →