The online environment provides a number of ways for you to deliver exams. Each type of exam has advantages and disadvantages. Experience these exam types for yourself by trying the practice exams in the Deliver Online Exam module in the Teaching with Brightspace course.
Timed Exams (least flexible)
Timed exam – The exam has a defined start and end time with an enforced time limit. Students all write the exam at the same time. E.g., the exam is written as a Quiz in Brightspace starting at 7:00pm on December 16 and ending at 10:00pm.
Timed exams are best used for recall-type questions where students either know the answer or they do not. If the exam is closed-book, students need to develop their ability to retain information or processes and be able to recall these in a high-pressure, time-sensitive environment. If use of the course material is not necessarily correlated with high-pressure or time-sensitive situations, consider whether one of the other exam formats might be more appropriate.
Online exams are a new experience for many students this semester and present particular challenges and stressors which can be exacerbated by uncertain political and social contexts.
The potential for technical challenges and associated anxieties increases with each additional restriction or requirement placed on students writing the exam.
- Students may be writing in multiple time zones.
- Access to a quiet or distraction-free setting in which to write the exam.
- Access to a reliable internet connection.
- Access to an appropriate device with which to write the exam
- A device may crash or malfunction and cause a student to miss all or part of the exam.
- Other disruptions (e.g. power failure, internet outage) may cause students to miss all or part of the exam.
- Instructors need to accommodate students who are registered with the Centre for Accessible Learning. This can be done for each student using the Special Access setting in Brightspace – depending on the exam schedule, you may need to arrange a different time for students to write the exam
- If hosting a timed exam, consider running an ungraded practice version in advance of the real exam. This may help students feel more comfortable with an unfamiliar testing environment and might also uncover potential technical issues.
- Add “buffer” time to account for minor technical difficulties, e.g., delays in logging in to Brightspace, uploading/downloading files, slow internet load times, etc. Many students write more slowly in a digital environment than when writing by hand in a face-to-face setting.
If you are considering invigilating with Zoom or using the Respondus Lockdown Browser in your exam, please see our post on invigilating online exams and set up a consultation with your LTSI faculty support team to discuss these options as part of your approach to academic integrity.
Flexible Start Time Exams (moderately flexible)
Flexible start time – The exam has a limited time duration (e.g. 2 hours), but students can write the exam anytime during a specific time window. For example, the exam might start December 7 and a student can write it any time before the designated end date (e.g. December 10). Once a student begins the exam, they have a specified time limit in which to finish (e.g. 2 hours).
Providing a flexible start time for your exam has the advantage of mitigating several factors listed with timed exams. With a flexible start time it is often easier for students to:
- Find a quiet place to write
- Find a time to write the exam that doesn’t conflict with competing demands (distractions, other exams, etc.)
- Access a reliable device and internet connection
- Deal with unexpected interruptions, such as a potential power failure
Same-day Open Book Exams (moderately flexible)
Same-day open book – The exam is released and due on the same day. It does not have a set duration, though one may be recommended. E.g., students download a document from Brightspace in the morning and submit their response in an Assignment later that day.
Same-day or multiple-day exams provide considerably more flexibility than timed exams and significantly reduce the likelihood of technical challenges. They also have additional advantages such as the possibility of creating more alternative or authentic assessments or using higher-order questions that go beyond basic recall of information. Same-day exams are not as flexible as multiple-day exams.
Multi-Day Open Book Exam (most flexible)
Multiple-day open book – Students have multiple days to write the exam. It does not have a set duration, though one may be recommended. E.g., students download a document from Brightspace one day and submit their response in an Assignment on a different day.
Same-day or multiple-day exams provide considerably more flexibility than timed exams and significantly reduce the likelihood of technical challenges. They also have additional advantages such as the possibility of creating more alternative or authentic assessments or using higher-order questions that go beyond basic recall of information.
Note: Timed and flexible start time exams may also be considered “open book” if specified by the instructor. It is important to clearly communicate what materials students can or cannot use during an exam.