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Moving assessments & final exams online

Last updated: November 16, 2023, 4:49 p.m.

The transition to moving assessments online can pose challenges for faculty and students. Some courses use assessment methods that are more easily transitioned online, while others use formal, proctored exams that will prove very difficult to administer virtually for a variety of reasons.

In these instances, we encourage faculty to consider the intended learning outcomes and select appropriate alternative forms of assessment that will measure student learning effectively to ensure they have achieved the course requirements.

This guide is intended to assist faculty with final proctored tests or exams to find viable alternative assessment activities.

How to adapt your assessments & evaluations

Before making a decision, first revisit your course objectives

Examine your assessments/exams and think back to how you designed them. Write down learning objectives for each assignment (if you did not do so originally).


  • What evidence of student learning were you looking for?
  • What knowledge, skills, attitudes or values did you want your students to demonstrate by completing the assessment?

This will help shape your thinking about the online assessment alternatives you might use to evaluate your learning objectives.

Important considerations

The following topics are important considerations for faculty as they select the best assessment option for their specific needs and context:

Consider revising your course grade breakdown to minimize the weight on the final exam and distribute learning over the term. No matter what assessments you choose, they will be conducted from a distance, and this will be a new way of working for many students and profs alike.

More frequent low-stakes assessments

Whether you are teaching a face-to-face, blended or online course, a good practice is to keep learners engaged throughout the duration of the course with more frequent, lower-stakes assessments. If you are teaching an online course, this is particularly important as it is easier for students to lose engagement without face-to-face meetings.

Distributed low-stakes assessments like quizzes, reading summaries or responses, and homework problems ensure students engage with the course content on a regular basis and provide feedback on learning to students earlier and more regularly (Kuh, 2010). In particular, testing more regularly has shown to increase retention and imporve learning (Roediger & Butler, 2011). Research also indicates that anxiety in students of colour and women in certain fields are disproportionaltely impact performance on high-stakes assessments (Steele & Aronson, 1995; Cohen & Garcia, 2005 ).

Implementing this approach means that while you are increasing the number of assessments, the workload is more evenly distributed throughout the duration of the course; it should not mean more work for students.  If students are not used to this approach, it may seem at the outset that it is more work, so it is important to explain to students course workload expectations at the beginning of the course. 

NOTE: If you adjust your assessment plan be sure to calculate course activity in order to avoid increasing the workload for students.

Final assessment

In general, lowering the stakes of the final assessment to less than 30-40% of the course grade when possible is a good practice to give the assessment the best chance for success, particularly in the case of exams. Giving too much weight to a single assessment comes with its own challenges in any course, but in an online course it can be especially challenging.

When possible, it is also good practice to scaffold high stakes assessment. This means breaking it down into smaller parts, so that students have some feedback on the assessment before the final is submitted. Examples of scaffolding activities include:

  • preparing an outline or proposal
  • providing feedback on a first draft (in this case, you might choose to provide only a grade for the final draft)
  • submitting the assessment in sections
  • allowing opportunities for peer feedback

While the university is offering some online proctoring solutions, these may not adequately address many concerns related to academic integrity, especially concerning multiple choice exam formats.  For this reason, we urge faculty to carefully explore the alternative assessment options, consult with a member of the Centre for Teaching and Learning to help you find a feasible alternative, and/or collaborate with colleagues to design an alternative option.

The key to choosing the right option lies within your course learning objectives. You can design an assessment that requires students to demonstrate their learning in a more holistic way. You can do this by replacing Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) with questions that are more open-ended and require students to instead do some or all of the following: 1) integrate knowledge and information,  2) explain in short answer  3) apply critical analysis 4) write out the steps to demonstrate a process  5) demonstrate a procedure, etc.

Take-home exams and timed exams

Attached you will find two PDF documents that you can share with your students and ask them to sign. Their purpose is two-fold:

  1. To provide a concise summary of the details of your exam (whether a take-home, or a timed exam) and to let students know how to reach you during your exams. A gentle reminder that, as with in-person exams, you should be available to your students while they write their exams in order to answer any questions they may have.
  2. To remind your students of their responsibilities under the Academic Code of Conduct.

Current assessment format What is being tested? Alternatives to consider
Multiple Choice Questions
  • Knowledge
  • Facts
  • Concepts
  • Recall Definition
  • Identification
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Problem solving
  • Open book exams
  • Problem solving take home assignment - students work at home and submit the assignment online
Short answer questions
  • Knowledge
  • Concepts
  • Facts
  • Recall
  • Definition
  • Identification
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Problem solving
  • Open book exams
  • Problem solving take home assignment - students work at home and submit the assignment online
  • Short written assignment/essay

Essay responses on exams

  • Writing
  • Analysis
  • Critique


  • Procedural knowledge
  • Critical thinking
  • Hypothesis testing
  • Evaluation of evidence

Ask students to:

  • Design a lab for a specific purpose
  • Describe how they would carry out a particular test. What equipment, controls, precautions must be considered?
  • Explain how they would test a hypothesis
  • Provide possible reasons for particular outcomes

Direct Observation or Practical Demonstration

  • Procedural
  • Knowledge
  • Analysis
  • Critical Thinking
  • Record a demonstration of procedure (e.g., on a phone, tablet, or computer) along with a description of key steps and/or cautions and share with students
  • Provide an online clip of a procedure for student analysis

Performance or Procedure

  • Procedural knowledge
  • Aesthetic skills
  • Communication skills
  • Analysis

Ask students to:

  • Record a performance or procedure using their phones, tablets, or computers
  • Critique a performance or procedure. Identify steps, identify problems with procedure


Problem Sets
  • Analysis
  • Assign and photograph handwritten responses

Scenario-based (see also Critiques)

  • Critical Thinking
  • Observation
  • Analysis
  • Application of knowledge
Ask students to review a scenario for key information/factors or for actions to be taken:
  • An experiment has been conducted with the following control and the results are surprising. What might account for your observations? 
  • You are working with a patient/client/child and [the following thing] happens, how would you respond?
  • Review a video, image, or text and answer questions, provide an analysis, reflect on, or make connections between course concepts

Critiques / Creative work

  • Analysis
  • Application of knowledge
  • Set up pairs or triads for students to email work to each other and provide feedback using a rubric. Provide peer readers with specific descriptive questions to answer, such as “What is the biggest unresolved question in this work?” or “What are the biggest strengths of this piece?“
  • Ask students to
    • Critique a visual
    • Identify multiple examples of a visual for analysis


  • Knowledge
  • Oral Communication
  • Organization

Ask students to:

  • Present in class using appropriate technology and media (face-to-face)
  • Record presentations using phones or computers (online asynchronous)
  • Deliver presentations in an online class using Zoom (online synchronous)
  • Submit a written script or detailed outline of the presentation.
  • Submit slides with speaker notes

Group presentation

  • Knowledge
  • Teamwork
  • Interpersonal Communication

Ask students to:
  • Present in class using appropriate technology and media (face-to-face)
  • Use Zoom or Teams to coordinate a presentation; one group member can share their screen while the other members take turns speaking (online synchronous)
  • Each contributor records their contribution using simple technology (online asynchronous)
  • Offer self- or peer-assessment options using a simple Microsoft Form 
  • Generate a digital poster to be shared on Moodle


Peer or Self assessment

  • Critical Thinking
  • Analysis
  • Reflection
  • Provide Google Form along with information or criteria for assessment
  • Reflective writing submitted via Moodle or in class.
This document was produced by the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Ryerson University. Some information adapted from Bowdoin, Brown, John Hopkins, and Stanford Universities.

When moving your assessment online for the first time, consider the exam format and questions you have typically used in your in-person exams. Ask yourself which alternate format requires students to demonstrate the same type and level of learning that you wanted to see on your original exam. Below are some examples you may consider. If none of these meet your needs, please contact the Centre for Teaching and Learning to get individual consultation and support.

Current assessment format

Possible online alternative(s)



Multiple-Choice Exam

Moodle Quiz

Via your Moodle course, students select an answer from a choice of answers within a time limit.


Moodle Quiz

Note: Moodle Quiz supports MCQ, true or false, drag and drop, cloze (fill-in-the-blank), matching, numerical, selecting missing words, short answer questions, essay questions, etc. with the option of embedding images and video into the questions.

Short-answer questions

Longer-answer Questions or Essay questions

With an essay assignment, you can use Assignment activity in Moodle to assign, distribute, collect, grade and return student assignments. You can bulk download all papers and bulk upload the graded papers. The system will distribute the corrected exams to the appropriate students. Grades can be entered within Moodle and saved into the Moodle Gradebook.

You can also administer short- and long- answer questions in Moodle Quiz. You can optionally use a question bank to provide each student with random questions.

Assignment Activitiy in Moodle


Moodle Gradebook











Essay Exam

Open book exams

Write the whole exam in a Word or PDF document (preferably both, in case some students do not have Office installed on their computer), upload it to a Moodle Assignment activityIf it is a timed exam, only make it available at a specified time. Moodle can track the submission time, signal late submissions, and auto reduce marks for late submissions based on how you set it up. 

You can also administer short- and long- answer questions in Moodle Quiz. You can optionally use a question bank to provide each students with random questions

Word processor and Assignment activity in Moodle













Moodle Quiz




For other ideas, see Adapting Labs and STEM Courses to the Online environment.

Ask students to:

Design a lab for a specific purpose

Describe how they would carry out a particular test. What equipment, controls, precautions must be considered?

Explain how they would test a hypothesis

Provide possible reasons for particular outcomes

Word processor and Assignment activity in Moodle

Presentations, demonstrations, & performances

**It is important to accept other formats (ex. written) since some students may not have the physical space, materials or equipment to produce a video or a live stream.

Presentations, demonstrations, & performances

Ask students to:

Record short videos


Present individually/in groups synchronously via zoom


Write a detailed description of their presentation and submit slides


YuJa (recordings)


Zoom (live)


PowerPoint with narration


Camera and mic


Word processing/slide deck presentation software

Peer assessment & feedback on assignments

Online Peer assessment & feedback on assignments

Assign students to groups; members will share their assignments & provide each other with feedback.

Your assignment grading rubric and create some student guidelines

Moodle Workshop Activity or Forum Activity can be used to facilitate this. Students can also upload their work to Moodle using the Student Folder Resource

Peer assessments of group work & individual contributions

Online Peer assessments of group work & individual contributions

Ask students to assess their peer’s contributions to group work.

Concordia’s Peer Assessment Tool (open to all faculty & students)



Ask students to reflect on their learning to engage more deeply with the EL experience or course content.

Templates and guidelines:

Word processor and Assignment activity in Moodle


Case-studies, scenarios and simulations

Online Case-studies, scenarios and simulations

Ask students to review the case and provide a written report.


Guiding questions related to the case.

Word processor and Assignment activity in Moodle



Photo essays and portfolios

Online Photo essays and portfolios

Ask students to present their EL experience, reflections, and work visually.

Word processor and Assignment activity in Moodle


Slide deck presentation software


Personal website/blog


Online Reviews

Literature reviews on scholarly works, studies, EL experiences/ activities and other reports from practitioners.

Word processor and Assignment activity in Moodle

Field notes and reports


Ask students to submit field notes from an EL experience and to synthesize their reflections in a final report.

Word processor and Assignment activity in Moodle

Note: Although you are encouraged to try alternative assessment formats that fit the online environment, it is important to avoid assessment methods that students are not familiar with, require technology tools that students may not have access to, or require learning to use a new tool. This might cause undue anxiety and discomfort in your students and may also demonstrate more their ability to use the tool than of their course knowledge.

With so many decisions and options, you may require pedagogical support to select the best approach, adapt your assessment, manage the changes to grading and giving feedback, manage the volume of marking resulting from your adaptation, etc.  For any pedagogical concerns or questions, please contact the Centre for Teaching and Learning.

It is important to consider accessibility at all times when teaching in class or online. If you have students with disabilities in your course, you will need to provide accommodations for students (as required by Concordia’s Access Centre for Students with Disabilities). Some students require more time to do an assignment or exam due to their special circumstances. Extended time can be easily set up within Moodle Quiz and Moodle Assignment for one or more students. For specific questions unrelated to the functions within Moodle, please contact the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities.

If you think your students are not familiar with the Assignment or Quiz activities in Moodle, it is strongly recommended that you give a mock exam (or a simple version of it) a day or two before the actual exam to prepare students for this new format. This also ensures that any technical issues students may experience can be identified and resolved ahead of time. In addition, both you and your students will feel less anxiety over potential technology glitches when the real exam comes.

Now that you’ve planned and tested your Assignment or Quiz activities in Moodle, it is time to implement your online assessment. If you anticipate technical difficulties, contact IITS ahead of time for support.

Use Moodle Quiz settings to reduce cheating

Cheating is always a concern when it comes to online assessment. The following tips can help minimize cheating.

  1. Create multiple (unique) versions of the test: Moodle’s Question bank allows you to create multiple questions for each question that test the same content area and learning objective and organize them into categories. When you create your test, you can set the system to randomly draw questions from each category. Moodle can also randomize the order of all questions and answer choices within each question, so students will receive a different version of the test even though you do not prepare extra questions for each topic. 

  2. Set a time limit and start time: You can set a time limit with Moodle Quiz to reduce the opportunities for students to cheat. However, you also need to ensure that students have sufficient time to complete the exam in case of technology problems. Additionally, give students an ample time frame (usually a day or two) within which they can complete the Quiz. This is to accommodate students’ different schedules. However, if you want to do a high stakes exam with Moodle Quiz, starting the exam at the same time for all students is one way to minimize cheating.

For more information on Moodle review Using Moodle to facilitate learning


Take-home and open book exams


Other assessment resources


Cohen, G. L., & Garcia, J. (2005). "I Am Us": Negative Stereotypes as Collective ThreatsJournal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(4), 566–582.

Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J.S., and Whitt, E.J. (2010). Student success in college: Creating conditions that matter. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Roediger HL, III, Butler AC. The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retentionTrends Cogn Sci. 2011;15:20–27.

Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of personality and social psychology69(5), 797.

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