When moving to remote teaching, consider ways to keep students engaged and active by integrating low-stakes assessments of learning. Guided by your course learning objectives, using shorter, more regular assessments may provide students a better foundation of knowledge and practice with the material—especially in this time when high-stakes exams are less optimal. Alternative assessments such as collaborative projects, writing assignments, video presentations, and reflection-as-learning allow students to re-purpose their learning in a variety of ways, which helps the knowledge “stick.”
Consider frequent lower-stakes assessments and projects when possible.
Low-Stakes Quizzes, Short Assessments, and Responses
- Regular low-stakes quizzes can be implemented through Canvas to test students’ knowledge and offer opportunities to practice concepts. Quizzes can hold students accountable to the course objectives, while encouraging participation and staying up to date with the course.
- Short problem sets, completed individually or in small groups, similarly offer students the opportunity to practice their learning. Consider problems that first ask students to apply their knowledge in a familiar context, and then build on their learning by challenging them with an unfamiliar scenario. Allowing students to work in small teams (as they might in a live class) also helps students maintain a sense of community while working remotely.
- Questions that ask students to explain their rationale allow students to make their thinking visible in a different way than a problem set does. For example, consider giving students a scenario and three possible answers, then ask them to choose and explain their selection using reading and lecture notes.
- Very brief writing activities can be used to test knowledge, check for understanding, take attendance, and check for participation. This list of classroom assessment techniques (CATs) can be adapted easily for remote teaching via Canvas discussion features. This CTL page also explains ways to use CATs as assessment strategies.
- Other non-test activities can ask students to represent their learning in ways other than via test questions. Consider creative deliverables such as infographics, data analysis reports, self-reflection, and reports to unique audiences such as high school students or non-majors. Concept maps, for example, also provide students an opportunity show how they understand the relationship between concepts they are learning.
Visit this resource from the University of California Berkeley for additional ideas.
Collaborative assignments, projects, and even tests are an excellent way for students to learn remotely while maintaining a sense of community despite being geographically separated. If your students are already doing collaborative projects in your courses and that work can be done remotely, encourage them to use the features of Canvas and OneDrive to continue their work. Students can, for example, use these tools to collaborate on problem sets, analyze data, create learning resources for the rest of the class, and teach each other course material. If you are adapting an existing project or designing a new team project specifically for the remote learning environment, consider the following:
- How do the course objectives inform the project? How you can inform students of that connection in order to help them complete their projects appropriately?
- How accessible will the assignment be for students? Since students will likely be collaborating across a variety or time zones and with different technologies, be sure students will be able to meet virtually in order to complete the project.
- How might you use a rubric to evaluate the project as well as allow the students to self- and peer-evaluate their work?
To track the teams’ progress, you might ask them to keep minutes of their meetings. Ask them to regularly summarize their work in an email or discussion post to you for formative feedback. Think about setting interim deadlines over the course of the project to help everyone stay on track.
Written assignments of a variety of lengths and complexity work well in a remote learning situation, and standard research papers and lab reports are only two of the most common genres. As mentioned above, short written "CATs" such as a minute paper or muddiest point can be low-stakes learning checks and give you insight into what all students are learning quickly. You might ask students to submit the answer to a question on the course Canvas discussion board. Written exams or exams that allow students to provide written rationales for the technical answers they are giving allows students to demonstrate what they know in their own voices and may make academic dishonesty less likely. Larger research reports, white papers, etc. can be written by individual students or student groups to meet your course objectives as well. Often a good rubric will ease grading time, and using students to peer review each other's work has learning benefits as well.
Student video presentations are an excellent way for students to demonstrate their learning, research, and/or success in meeting learning objectives. Presentations can be moved online and delivered synchronously and asynchronously. Video and screen capture technologies make this relatively easy for students. By using Kaltura Capture and posting their videos in MyMedia in Canvas, their work is automatically captioned, which will be important for students needing certain accommodations. Podcasting can also be an effective way for students to present as well, and a transcript of the episode can be created. This resource from Stanford offers excellent specific advice for moving student presentations to asynchronous video (note that you will need to use Tech’s technologies not Stanford's); this article from Faculty Focus offers advice for working with students on video presentations; and this guide from NPR gives advice and assignment options for podcasts.
Reflection activities can be used to demonstrate, contextualize, and explore student learning. For example, you might have students submit a brief written or video response to a learning activity they complete online, detailing what they learned and what is still confusing to them. Students might keep learning journals, writing responses to their learning in and out of class, connections they are making, and challenges they are facing. Reflections can be used at the end of content units or major assignments to allow students to self-assess their work, what they think they did well, where they want to improve, and how they plan to learn in the next phase of the course. End-of-the term reflections and reflective portfolios also give students the opportunity to compile and curate evidence of their learning while reflecting on their learning over time. Visit this page created by the University of Missouri-St. Louis for a variety of reflection activities that might work in your courses. Similarly, this page suggests reflection activities most useful in Geoscience.