Assessment of Remote Learning Exceptional Circumstances for Winter 2020

Posted: April 1, 9:15 a.m.

Additional information is available in the Evaluating Students Online section.

Delivering final exams and assessments in a fully online environment is a daunting task, especially when many of the assessments were not originally designed to be delivered in an online environment and must now be delivered using different methods and tools. You should carefully consider the risks and benefits of various types of assessments for this highly unusual semester.

At the bottom of this document, you will find our contact information. Please be in touch with us if you have any questions or need help or advice in adjusting your assessment strategy to these highly unusual circumstances. We are here to help you achieve your assessment goals as you and your students deal with numerous external pressures in the next few weeks.

This document highlights some of the concerns, challenges, and recommendations for delivering online assessments. In short, wherever possible, final assessments this semester should be asynchronous, open book, flexible, and should focus on the learning outcomes that have not yet been assessed by previous course work. For reasons outlined below, both pedagogical and practical, traditional final exams should be the exception rather than the rule for this semester.


  • Prioritize simple solutions 
  • Aim for fairness and equity amidst a variety of contexts and challenges
  • We are committed to, and responsible for, assuring students meet learning outcomes 

Challenges & Risks of Online Assessments

Many of you will have already thought about the kinds of challenges that online assessment delivery can present. For example:

  • it may be difficult to reliably monitor or lockdown students taking an exam - Students who are taking exams remotely may have access to multiple browsers, devices, people, or digital tools that will be outside of your control.
    • many students will have technical issues - Students may not have suitable devices/environment for online-exam delivery. This might include a poor internet connection, no access to a webcam, or even just a lack of access to a quiet space in which to write their exam.
    • some students have returned home abroad - With students needing to write exams across multiple time zones, consideration for how and when these students will write needs to be identified.
  • some students require accommodations - For any number of reasons, some students might require additional time or other resources to write their exams online. It may be difficult or impossible to provide accommodation for students in remotely delivered traditional exams this term.
  • capacity issues with synchronous exams - having a number of students writing exams all at the same time may introduce support issues that could impact your exam.

Recommended Assessments

Due to the many challenges associated with the delivery of fully online assessments, you should employ alternative assessments if at all possible. These recommendations focus on delivering asynchronous final assessments and open-book exams that offer flexible delivery options to help to mitigate some of the technical risks of high-stakes, synchronous exams. 

  • Alternative (non-exam) assessments: this can include assessments like a Final Project or Essay. Suggestions and further information can be found here
  • Open-book tests: this assessment type assumes all students will have access to any resources during the exam. Types of questions (application vs. memorization) and time of the exam will require careful consideration. Some open-book exams include a flexible exam-writing window (e.g. give students 24 hours to complete the assessment). 

This type of assessment mitigates some of the main challenges and stresses of online delivery. While technology can fail in any circumstance, asynchronous or flexible delivery provides enough time for you and your students to find alternative solutions should anything go wrong. The flexible window for completion of the assessment reduces stress for both students and instructors. It allows students across time zones,  or those with other specific needs, to be accommodated. It allows you to facilitate the exam process and respond to exam issues. Given the expectation that students can use all available resources to complete these types of assessments, it allows you to focus on evaluating the students rather than preventing, deterring, or policing their actions during the assessment process.

Pedagogical Considerations for Current Winter 2020 courses

When determining what to assess, it is worth considering what outcomes have already been assessed. Look at your learning outcomes for the course and identify what still needs to be assessed. This will give you an indication of what your assessment should focus on. In a credit/non-credit course, it is important to verify that all learning outcomes have been completed by students. A traditional final exam will often not be necessary in these cases when a complementary assignment can help you complete your assessment goals

Where to Find Help and Advice

For further assessment advice, request a consultation from CTL or contact CTL at:

For further consultations or technical advice on which digital tools may work best for your assessment. Contact eClass support at: