What are they?
Musings are 1 to 2 page writings on some interesting idea you have used in your class, some useful class activity you have used, something you have learned at a conference. They are intended for all disciplines and all students. Some potential topics could be how you used active learning, flipping your classroom, how you bring 'research' into your classroom, how to mentor your students, or transfer issues.
Professor of Earth Science and Geology
A connecting principle
Linked to the invisible
Logic so inflexible
Yet nothing is invincible
The Police - Synchronicity I
As I write this in July of 2020, it is clear to me that most or all of our classes will be in an online delivery modality for the near future. There are two basic ways online classes can be run: synchronously or asynchronously. Either have all the students meet live using Zoom or Webex at prescribed ‘class times,’ like face-to-face classes, or have the students log into the LMS when their schedule allows it. Of course, there are a myriad of options between those two “end members.” Let me state here that I am not a pedagogic expert and am learning more each day. This musing is only a means of communicating some of the ideas and resources in my extensive reading and participation in multiple webinars and seminars in the weeks following the COVID-19 transformation to online. It is also not a complete list, but I think it may be a good place to start (the conversation).
Synchronicity can probably best be summarized as being a personal choice. However, it is important to be aware of some issues associated with either modality before that choice is made. This is not an exhaustive list or discussion and is meant as a starting point to your decision-making process. Comments and statements in this document will surely ignite new issues and concerns in your class design and choice.
An asynchronous class can essentially be viewed as designing a ‘flipped’ class, where instead of using an in-class lecture format, pre-recorded lectures of presentations are made available for students to view online. In-“classroom” time can then be used for discussions, active learning and other higher-order cognitive activities with students. More information about flipping a class can be found at Harvard’s Flipping Kit (https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/flippingkit) or by reading this SAGE 2YC musing (https://serc.carleton.edu/sage2yc/musings/flipped_class.html).
Clearly, for an asynchronous class, the course content needs to be delivered to the students in some fashion. One option is to develop and post detailed PowerPoint slide decks that can stand alone and need no input or explanation for understanding. These detailed slide decks can (should?) contain links to websites with supplemental information or videos or animations. Although this is time consuming to develop, students have the ability to view your class content at their own pace and review it as their schedule permits.
A common solution is to record videos of instructors ‘doing’ the lecture. The most effective pre-recorded lectures can be as engaging as the best live lectures, since they can be created with multiple takes, can be edited, and can integrate graphics or animations. Those videos take time and resources that may not be available to all. Other video recording options are screen capture programs like Kaltura. With Kaltura, anything visible on the computer screen is captured, and you can also insert your image into the video. A class presentation can also be recorded using PowerPoint. A personal observation is that portions of slides can be very clearly highlighted during the presentation for emphasis, and there is also the option of writing comments on the slide. Videos are less vulnerable to unanticipated bandwidth issues that may be encountered during live sessions by the student or instructor. When recording class presentations, it is recommended that a recording of yourself is included in the video, as students want to see you and develop connections with you and their colleagues. These “talking heads” help to foster community in your class. We all know that the more student wants and preferences are included in an online class, the greater the likelihood of their success.
For the creation of a pre-recorded lecture, consider a few simple tips.
- Provide an explicit roadmap at the beginning.
- Break down the lecture into shorter segments of 10 to 15 minutes. A long pre-recorded lecture can be deadly to watch.
- Add periodic reflection questions for the students to consider. Try to make the learning experience “inductive” rather than entirely didactic.
- Speak to the student, not to the camera.
- Insert yourself into the lecture: a personal story, humor, or editorial commentary.
A note of caution for asynchronous delivery is that regular and substantive student-faculty interaction is required for courses to be classified as "online courses" and not "correspondence courses" by the US Department of Education (https://ccconlineed.instructure.com/courses/397/pages/correspondence-course-vs-online-course) and the Higher Learning Commission. A few examples of student-faculty interaction in an online class can include the following:
- providing feedback on assignments, learning journals, or other reflective activities.
- participating in discussion forums or chats.
- sending frequent announcements to summarize the previous week or describe the next week.
- providing online or telephone office hours.
- mentoring individual learners.
- working with small groups of students assigned to help teach portions of the course (peer teaching)
In addition to ‘home-made” course-specific videos, consider using content developed by publishers or others. It would be wise to explore open content on websites like Khan Academy, VideoLectures.net, iTunesU, Forum Network, Merlot, OpenStax, OER Commons, CCCOER, and Creative Commons. Professional organizations and societies may have resources that can be used. It’s always important to ensure the content aligns with the course and modular learning objectives, and that copyright compliance guidelines are followed.
Once the content delivery is completed, the live sessions can be used for more interactive discussions, small group work, or office hours. These live (synchronous) sessions can have any of the synchronous activities discussed later in this musing, or even showing supplemental videos. These sessions should be recorded so those students unable to attend can ‘participate’ at their convenience. The one approach to avoid, however, is a live lecture that leaves little time for student interaction.
The asynchronous mode has some important advantages:
- Students take online courses for the flexibility. Schedule conflicts with students are eliminated, as course content is viewed and completed on the students’ schedule.
- Students prefer to work at their own pace, and can easily (re-)watch recorded videos. This can be helpful to students who need additional time or other learning assistance.
- Students enjoy responding to questions with more thought and research. Online classroom discussions often have more depth and breadth for the pause between question and answer.
- Technology issues with faculty or students are minimized. Many students and faculty are challenged with insufficient bandwidth, which can prevent delivery or participation in synchronous online classes. Asynchronicity makes the online class more equitable to students who are bandwidth- or technology- challenged (other family members competing for access to a single device).
- Faculty are able to practice with technology to work out bugs or to present a ‘bug-free’ video or presentation with practice.
- Students scattered across different time zones are not penalized.
- Transcripts of video recordings and other learning aides can be used by students who may need them.
- Some faculty have found asynchronous to be more effective.
- It can help to develop self-directed learning practices in students, enabling them to learn how to be more successful learners in their academic careers. Students who can pursue individualized and self-paced learning skills tend to learn better and are more involved and motivated.
Asynchronous mode has some important disadvantages:
- A sense of community and instructor presence takes more effort to develop. Students view community and interactions with faculty and other students as an important part of an online experience. To develop that sense of community, faculty can, and should, create videos to communicate with students. In addition to the video recording of lectures, other videos could be the introduction to the course; how to navigate the course; instructions for a complex assignment showing the steps to a successful completion; and recording your comments to individual assignments submitted in SpeedGrader in Canvas.
- Students can easily procrastinate and not participate in class in (required) regular intervals. A suggestion to manage that would be to publish a typical weekly calendar showing the assignments that are due, and propose scheduling commitments for each day for the student to help with their time management (i.e. every Monday, read a chapter, every Tuesday, complete assignment and/or discussion) and provide estimated time that should be allotted for that task.
- Students need a stronger sense of engagement, as there may not be required regular opportunities for them to engage in the class. Best practices suggest that there should be 3 to 5 interactions per week by the student, which could be in the LMS or publisher-provided web assignments. Procrastinating students and those accustomed to, or needing, required regular meetings will suffer, and the class can easily fall off their radar.
- Some students have difficulty scheduling their work commitments without regular classroom meeting times.
The synchronous model is where instructors deliver their classes and lectures essentially as they would in a face-to-face class, but using Zoom or some other virtual meeting software (i.e., Webex, Big Blue Button). Having students listen to a lecture attentively for an hour or more on a small screen can be challenging, more so than in a lecture hall. It is critical that the instructor makes every effort to keep students engaged in the class. Also, it would be advisable to have the students keep their video active; this way their attention (or lack of it) can be monitored. In addition to the monitoring of the 20 to 40 student video feeds, the chat window needs to be monitored for questions or comments from the students. It is important for all students to have their videos on because it makes it more like the face-to-face classroom experience, where everyone can see everyone else, which helps to develop community in your classroom. It would also be advisable to have students mute themselves. Consider taking advantage of various features in Zoom to keep them engaged, such as Chat, polls, or invited Q&A (using Raise Hand). Using the Chat feature can be useful in deciding which student to call on next. For example, if a particular student comments in Chat that he/she disagrees with the student speaking, or has some additional data to provide, he/she may be willing to share with the class when called upon. Interestingly, Chat is kind of like “reading students’ thought bubbles,” an advantage over the physical classroom.
Long-term meetings can lead to Zoom fatigue for both students and faculty. Activities to break up the hour (+?) long meeting into smaller intervals, and keeping students engaged can include the following:
- Invite and respond to questions - for a large-class lecture format class with Q&A, consider inviting students to ask their questions in Chat. Another variation is to pick questions ahead of time for the class to answer at appropriate moments or, say, every 10-15 minutes. Students should be encouraged to use the Raise Hand feature in case they have an urgent question.
- Encourage students to reflect - for example, say “I’d like you to think about ….,” take a short pause, and then if appropriate, provide an answer, or solicit answers from the students. Again, the Chat feature can be helpful in having students record their reflections. You can also use breakout rooms for students to work in pairs or groups for deeper discussions (see think-pair-share below).
- 3-2-1 GO - when you are using Zoom, propose a question, and tell students to type their response in the chat window, but do not hit enter, yet. Give them a minute to consider and type in their response, and then count down 3, 2, 1, GO; and at “go,” all students hit enter. The chat window can be saved or watched again later in a recorded video if the student responses are needed for grade recording.
- Pause procedure - Pause for two minutes every 12 to 18 minutes, encouraging students to discuss and rework notes. The class can be divided into breakout rooms of 2 each for a think-pair-share approach, or students can use a private chat with a colleague. This approach encourages students to consider their understanding of the lecture material, including its organization. It also provides an opportunity for questioning and clarification and has been shown to significantly increase learning when compared to lectures without the pauses. Finally, it helps to break up the Zoom meeting and reduce Zoom fatigue.
- Retrieval practice - Pause for two or three minutes every 15 minutes, having students write everything they can remember from the preceding class segment. This approach prompts students to retrieve information from memory, which improves long term memory, ability to learn subsequent material, and ability to translate information to new domains.
- Think-pair-share - Ask students a question that requires higher order thinking (e.g., application, analysis, or evaluation levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy). Give the students about a minute to think about it, during which time the class is divided up into Zoom breakout rooms of 2, maybe 3, each. Once in the breakout room, ask them to discuss their responses for two minutes. Bring the class back together and ask groups to share responses and follow up with instructor explanation. By asking students to explain their answer to a neighbor and to critically consider their neighbor’s responses, this approach helps students articulate newly formed mental connections.
- Minute papers - Ask students a question that requires them to reflect on their learning or to engage in critical thinking. Have them write for one minute. Ask students to share responses to stimulate discussion or email their responses to you immediately after the class.
- Jigsaw – students are broken into ‘Expert’ groups, and each group is given a concept and a set of resources to develop a presentation to teach that concept in a video to the rest of the class. The ‘Expert’ group discussion board is monitored by the instructor while this work is being done (a day or so to a couple of weeks). The student ‘Experts” post their videos for other students to view asynchronously or virtually (synchronously) to the whole class. To assess understanding, a quiz can be administered, or students can be required to participate in a discussion forum which asks reflective questions.
- Entry ticket – students are given a question or a problem at the very beginning of a synchronous meeting. The students reply to you in the chat using the Private messaging option in Zoom, where they select you as the recipient of their chat. The chat can be saved for later grading and recording. Another option is to set the question up as a Zoom poll, but this would not allow recording of individual student responses if needed for grading purposes. Note that the same poll can be reused in multiple classes by creating a template, which is only available by using Zoom through an LMS like Canvas.
- Warm and cold calls - “cold call” a student just as in the traditional classroom, instead of waiting for them to raise their hand. For “warm calls,” message them privately in Chat before calling on them.
- Polls - Zoom’s polling features can provide class results in real time, similar to clickers. Zoom’s polling features can show the distribution of perspectives or understanding on a particular question. When used well, this can be a powerful complement to the lecture or discussion.
- Stretch times - consider permitting students to “stretch” every 20-30 minutes for 30 seconds. It can be harder to focus attention on a screen than in a classroom.
- Breakout groups - students can reflect in smaller sized groups. Rooms can be adjusted by how many rooms wanted and how many students per room. Students can be randomly assigned to rooms, or use pre-determined assignments. They can be for any length of time, and a 1-minute warning to reconvene can be issued to all rooms. The Zoom session host(s) can visit any of the breakout rooms during the reflection period. Note that neither the breakout rooms nor the chat in breakrooms is recorded.
- Role plays/debates between students - request two students to “role play” a situation, just as in the physical classroom.
- Students are present in class, and a sense of community can be developed (as long as they keep the video live in Zoom) through interactions between and among students and faculty. This can help students to avoid feelings of isolation and can potentially provide emotional support to students who may need it.
- It provides opportunities for faculty to offer active learning exercises on a regular basis.
- The sequence of lectures and PowerPoint presentations used in the face-to-face classes can easily be transitioned to an online modality.
- Students and faculty have to be present in a Zoom event for an hour or more. Since most best practice studies indicate that normal face-to-face lectures should be broken up into 15 to 20 minute segments, this is even more critical for Zoom meetings. Zoom fatigue is a real phenomena.
- It is potentially difficult for an instructor to (1) lecture, (2) monitor student engagement by looking at the video feeds from the students, and (3) monitor the chat window for questions or comments from the students, all at the same time.
- It is hard to do many traditional active learning activities in an online synchronous (or even asynchronous) environment.
- Students with disabilities or special learning needs may find watching Zoom meetings for a long time challenging.
- Students need a (relatively) quiet place in real time to participate in the long Zoom meetings, possibly difficult for some.
- Students have to show personal living space when using video (if required), and some may view this as an invasion of privacy.
- Students and faculty need access to a robust internet connection during the scheduled meetings, especially if watching videos during class.
- Many students may not be able to attend due to additional family and personal obligations and/or the availability of a computer in a busy family environment. If a majority of the class is absent, then the class presentation will need to be repeated (if not recorded).
- Discussion transitions may be harder than usual for students to recognize without non-verbal cues typically made during face-to-face presentations. Be sure to state clean, well-defined transitions.
In summary, this may not be a binary decision. It is certainly possible to have some combination of an asynchronous class with elements of synchronicity. One of many examples would be to have optional virtual meetings with the class on a weekly or biweekly schedule. These synchronous meetings could be recorded for those students unable to attend live. As you (re)design your class for an online modality, you should choose which combination works for your learning objectives and comfort level.
Baiyun Chen, Kelvin Thompson, Sue A. Bauer, Amy Sugar and Jessica Vargas, 2015, Course orientation module. In Chen, B., deNoyelles, A., & Thompson, K. (Eds.), Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning, from https://topr.online.ucf.edu/course-orientation-module/. (accessed 25 June 2020).
Every Learner Everywhere, 2020, Delivering High-Quality Instruction Online in Response to COVID-19, Faculty Playbook, https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/tools/delivering-high-quality-instruction-in-response-to-covid-19-faculty-playbook/, (accessed 25 June 2020).
Flaherty, C., 2020, Synchronous instruction is hot right now, but is it sustainable?, Inside Higher Ed, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/04/29/synchronous-instruction-hot-right-now-it-sustainable, (accessed 26 June 2020).
Harvard University, 2020, Best Practices: Online Pedagogy, https://teachremotely.harvard.edu/best-practices , (accessed 25 June 2020).
Indiana University Teaching Online, 2020, Types of Interactions, https://canvas.ucdavis.edu/courses/34528/pages/types-of-interaction?module_item_id=4974 ,(accessed 25 June 2020).
ION Professional eLearning, 2020, Instructional Strategies for Online Courses, https://www.uis.edu/ion/resources/tutorials/pedagogy/instructional-strategies-for-online-courses/, (accessed 25 June 2020).
Martin, F, 2020, Teaching Online Resources, Learning Design and Technology, UNC Charlotte, https://bit.ly/2vTtklX , (accessed 25 June 2020 )
Quirk, J. and Young, M, 2020, Lost (and found) in Translation: What Online Students Want, Educause,
https://er.educause.edu/articles/2016/4/lost-and-found-in-translation-what-online-students-want , (accessed 25 June 2020)
Professor of Earth Science and Geology
Most teachers waste their time by asking questions which are intended to discover what a pupil does not know, whereas the true art of questioning has for its purpose to discover what the pupil knows or is capable of knowing
As I write this in June of 2020, it is clear to me that most or all of the assessments given in our classes will be in an online delivery modality. One of the critical issues with online classes is maintaining the integrity of the assessment. There are many issues that need to be considered when designing assessments for our online classes. Let me state here that I am not a pedagogic expert and am learning more each day. This musing is only a means of communicating some of the ideas and resources in my extensive reading and participation in multiple webinars and seminars in the weeks following the COVID-19 transformation to online. It is also not a complete list, but I think it may be a good place to start (the conversation).
First and foremost in this process is to ask if our assessments adequately assess our learning objectives, and whether it is authentic assessment. Students need to know what they are going to be assessed on, so clear and well-communicated learning objectives lead to better student performance, an equitable classroom, and helps unprepared students succeed. Also, students are less likely to cheat (Google) when the assessments seem most authentic to them. An assignment is authentic if it (1) is realistic, (2) requires judgment and innovation, (3) asks the student to “do” the subject, (4) replicates or simulates the contexts in which adults are “tested” in the workplace or in civic or personal life, (5) assesses the student’s ability to efficiently and effectively use a repertoire of knowledge and skills to negotiate a complex task, (6) allows appropriate opportunities to rehearse, practice, consult resources, and get feedback on and refine performances and products.
Authentic assessments also (1) require the student to submit a high-quality product or performance and a justification of solutions, (2) should be known in advance to students, (3) should be tied to real-world contexts and constraints, (4) require the student to ‘do’ the subject, (5) require a range of skills and knowledge, (6) involve complex tasks with potentially no right answer and that may not be easily scored, and (7) provide usable diagnostic information about students’ skills and knowledge. Further characteristics of authentic assessment can be found in Lombardi, 2020. Obviously, not all assessments can have all (or any?) of those authentic requirements, but they are features that should be considered as a starting point.
Second, at what level of Bloom's taxonomy should the assessments be? Best practices would suggest that the Bloom’s level of assessment needs to match that which is presented during class. For most 100-level classes, a majority of assessments are probably at the lower-order cognitive skills of remember, understand and apply. Assessments at the higher-order cognitive skill level (apply, analyze, evaluate, and create) are challenging. Clearly, a particular exam needs to have a distribution of questions at the various Bloom’s levels that are proportional with your class presentations.
Once the level of assessment is determined, then the kinds of assessment can be designed. This involves determining the balance between summative and formative assessment. Summative assessments are for the assessment of learning, and formative assessments are assessing for learning. If the weight, and therefore pressure, of the typically high-stakes summative exams is lessened, there is less reason for the student to resort to cheating (Googling).
Formative assessment provides instructors and students with timely and frequent feedback on mastery of course material and learning objectives. In essence, instructors are sampling student learning and providing immediate feedback based on the results to modify their instruction and the students’ learning experience. Students can use the feedback to identify areas of weakness for further study. Formative assessments are sometimes graded and are typically frequently administered in classes. They are usually low-stakes, with multiple opportunities to improve. Examples of formative assessments include group problem-solving, homework, in-class activities (clicker, think-pair-share, jigsaw, gallery walks), and minute papers.
Summative assessment results are used to assign student grades, make comprehensive conclusions about mastery of course learning objectives, for accrediting programs, for graduation, or to enter programs. They are usually graded and are high-stakes events with one opportunity to do well. Feedback is often delayed. Even though more assignments for assessment may be better than too few, instructors need to be cautious of administering too many summative assessments. If there are too many assessments, students may not be able to focus on deeper learning. Options for summative assessments other than timed exams include projects, portfolios, capstone presentations, and case studies. These generally ask the student to demonstrate knowledge with higher-order cognitive skills, rather than simply reproduce it.
A common summative assessment is the multiple choice question with 4 or 5 choices. The format of the question and quality of the distractors determine the Bloom’s level (i.e. if the distractors are easily eliminated and require only recall, compared with the existence of multiple plausible distractors). While this common assessment method is simple to use in an online class, it is important to consider the challenges that may be encountered to ensure academic integrity, and whether it is the best option for you to accurately measure learning.
Here are some pros and cons when considering writing multiple-choice questions, in no particular order:
- Allow for assessment of a wide range of learning objectives
- Objective nature of grading limits scoring bias
- Students can quickly respond to many items, permitting wide sampling and coverage of content
- Cognitive order (low or high on Bloom’s Taxonomy) can be manipulated by adjusting similarity of distractors
- Efficient to administer and score
- Incorrect response patterns can be analyzed, and statistical relations examined
- Less influenced by guessing than true-false
- Grading is easy
- Have the potential to enhance student performance on subsequent exams
- Limited feedback to correct errors in student understanding
- Tend to focus on low level cognitive order (Bloom’s remember, maybe understand)
- Results may be biased by reading ability or testing skill of student
- Development of valid and authentic items is time consuming
- Measuring ability to organize and express ideas is not possible
- Students can game the test
- Students can guess the answers
- Students can Google questions at low-order cognitive skills (remember), given enough time
- Little room for students to demonstrate creative thinking
- Students more likely to recall distractors as true on subsequent exams
- Not possible to earn partial credit
- Writing higher-order cognitive questions (analyze, synthesize, evaluate) is labor-intensive
- Students generally do not employ deep-learning approaches for multiple choice tests
- Use 3-5 responses in a vertical list under the stem; 4 is generally recommended.
- Put response options in a logical order (chronological, numerical), if there is one, to assist with readability.
- Use clear, precise, simple language so that wording does not affect students’ demonstration of what they know (avoid humor, jargon, cliché).
- Each question should represent a complete thought and be written as a coherent sentence.
- Avoid absolute or vague terminology (all, none, never, always, usually, sometimes).
- Avoid using negatives; if required, highlight them.
- Assure that there is only one interpretation of meaning and one correct or best response.
- Stem should be written so that students would be able to answer the question without looking at the responses.
- All responses should be written clearly, approximately homogeneous in content, length and grammar.
- Make distractors plausible and equally attractive for students who do not know the material.
- Ensure stems and responses are independent; do not supply or clue the answer in a distractor or another question.
- Avoid “all of the above” or “none of the above” when possible, especially if asking for the best answer.
- Include the bulk of the content in the stem, not in the responses.
- The stem should include any words that would be repeated in each response.
An option to give assessments that are not Googleable includes bringing in more low-stakes formative assessments. This reduces student stress and incentives to cheat (Google). Here are some suggestions for formative assessments for online classes. They are mostly for synchronous online classes, but some are adaptable for asynchronous online classes.
- 3-2-1 GO - when you are using Zoom, propose a question and tell students to type their response in the chat window, but do not hit enter. Give them a minute, and then count down 3, 2, 1, GO; and at “go,” all students hit enter. The chat window can be saved or watched again later in a recorded video if the student responses are needed for grade recording.
- Pause procedure - Pause for two minutes every 12 to 18 minutes, encouraging students to discuss and rework notes. You can divide the class into breakout rooms of 2 each for a think-pair-share approach, or you can have students use private chat with a colleague. This approach encourages students to consider their understanding of the lecture material, including its organization. It also provides an opportunity for questioning and clarification and has been shown to significantly increase learning when compared to lectures without the pauses. Finally, it helps to break up the Zoom meeting and reduce Zoom fatigue.
- Retrieval practice - Pause for two or three minutes every 15 minutes, having students write everything they can remember from the preceding class segment. This approach prompts students to retrieve information from memory, which improves long-term memory, their ability to learn subsequent material, and their ability to translate information to new domains.
- Think-pair-share - Ask students a question that requires higher-order thinking (e.g., application, analysis, or evaluation levels within Bloom’s Taxonomy). Give the students about a minute to think about it, during which you divide the class up into Zoom breakout rooms of 2, maybe 3. Once in the breakout room, ask them to discuss their responses for two minutes. Bring the class back together and ask groups to share responses and follow up with instructor explanation. By asking students to explain their answer to a neighbor and to critically consider their neighbor’s responses, this approach helps students articulate newly formed mental connections.
- Minute papers - Ask students a question that requires them to reflect on their learning or to engage in critical thinking. Have them write for one minute. Ask students to share responses to stimulate discussion or email their responses immediately after class to inform future class sessions. Like the think-pair-share approach, this approach encourages students to articulate and examine newly formed connections.
- Concept maps – students create a graphical illustration consisting of arrows, connecting boxes or circles that represent relationships (arrows) between concepts (boxes/circles). The student can draw one by hand and send a pdf or take a clear picture using a cell phone. An online tool that can make concept maps, such as Lucidchart (https://www.lucidchart.com/pages/usecase/education) may be useful.
- Jigsaw – students are broken into groups, and each group is given a concept and a set of resources to develop a presentation to teach the concept to the rest of the class. The ‘Expert’ group discussion board is monitored by the instructor while this work is being done (a day or so to a couple of weeks). The student ‘Experts” post their videos for other students to view asynchronously or virtually (synchronously) to the whole class. To assess understanding, a quiz can be administered, or you can have required participation in a discussion forum asking the students reflective questions.
- Entry ticket – students are given a question or a problem at the very beginning of a synchronous meeting. The students reply to you in the chat, using the Private messaging option in Zoom, where they select you as the recipient of their chat. The chat can be saved for later grading and recording. Another option is to set the question up as a Zoom poll, but this would not be able to record individual student responses for grading purposes. Note that the same poll can be reused in multiple classes by creating a template.
There are some options for the summative assessments, which are usually high stakes and tend to promote more cheating episodes (Googling) from students, other than multiple choice exams. Please note that not all these suggestions will work with everyone, and some may not work with anyone. They are just some suggestions to consider to have un-Googleable assessments, and to perhaps inspire..
- Use proctoring software to monitor students during these high-stakes summative exams. This is effective, but only for students who have the required technology (i.e., camera and microphone, sufficient and stable broadband, no Chromebooks). Students without this technology will not be able to take these exams and will do poorly or fail your class. Also, many students may not want to use the camera in their homes, which can be interpreted as an invasion of privacy, because it exposes your student’s personal space(s) to strangers at proctoring services. There are also the issues of other people in the home potentially setting off motion detectors, the availability of the technology in a family who may all need access at the same time, and the stress of having a camera pointed at them during the exam in addition to the stress of a timed exam.
- Monitor the students using synchronous Zoom meetings during the exams. This is effective but tedious and potentially logistically challenging to ensure all students get the exam delivered at the same time before the meeting starts. Students can also take a picture of the test and email it to you.
- For multiple choice tests, randomize the questions, shuffle answer options, use question pools, give different tests to different students, and/or give them as timed exams. You can also choose to only give 1 question at a time.
- Replace (6) multiple choice and true-false questions with (2 or 3) short answer questions. These short answer questions can be written so that they are authentic, such as on current events or real-world applications. You may consider penalizing the students for taking half of their answer to rephrase the question to help them focus on their response.
- Give the students the answer to a problem, and ask students to provide 2 or 3 explanations as to how that answer was determined. You can also pose a solution to a problem and have the student comment on whether they agree or disagree with that solution. Finally, you can propose a problem, propose 2 solutions, and ask the students to pick one of those solutions and defend their choice.
- Ask the students a question and have students video-record their answers and post their videos.
- Give the students oral exams consisting of 3 questions, and the students have to explain their responses. If you give each student a 15-minute oral exam, it is probably equal to the time that you would spend writing, administering and grading an exam for a class of 30. This oral exam can be given using the student’s cell phone, or it can be recorded in Canvas.
- Use real-world and/or current data/events in your questions. These data/events may not have yet been incorporated into the Google database.
- Give a challenging open-book/open-note test, where if students have not studied or developed a set of good notes, they will still fail.
- Allow students to use the internet, but warn them that the information they get from a Google search may be wrong.
- Provide a web address that you know has faulty or incorrect information, and ask the students to critique its content and discuss why it is incorrect.
- Ask the students to reflect on how the course, or a topic in the course, has changed their thinking about the course, a course subject, or their lives. This helps students become more aware of the effect your class has had on them intellectually.
- Provide a technical paper and have the students summarize and review it.
- Provide a list of ‘trade books’ appropriate for the class, and have the students write a critical review of it.
- Have the students make up their own essay question and answer it. If it is included in an exam of other essay questions, it cannot duplicate an essay question you administer.
- Have the students write an annotated bibliography in which they choose 5-10 key scholarly articles from the course readings and write a short critical summary for each, explaining what the article is about and then giving their assessment of the article’s value to the field.
It is true that many of these choices may involve more time to grade and to evaluate. However, this would be an opportunity for you to truly evaluate what you are assessing, how you are assessing it, and why you are assessing it. If you discover that any of your assessments are not consistent with course goals, then perhaps you may view this as an opportunity to redesign how you assess your classes. I know I have. Is being able to find answers more or less important than memorizing them? Remember that your students are now in the age of instantly accessible information at any hour of the day or night. So, do we want to assess students’ knowledge or the critical thinking necessary to evaluate that knowledge?
Finally, there is probably no uncheatable assessment to the determined and/or financially-able student.
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What to do?
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