Skip to main content

Alternatives to proctored exams

Your learning goals are an excellent place to start when considering alternative assessments. What do you hope students will be able to do by the end of your course, and in what ways can they demonstrate what they know?

The following options are drawn from this presentation about alternatives to proctored exams:

Quizzes offer a low-stakes opportunity for students to demonstrate mastery of material and give you ongoing information about student understanding. Frequent quizzing has also been shown to reinforce student understanding. Learning management systems can randomize questions in quizzes, making cheating more difficult.
Writing quiz questions both builds and demonstrates students’ understanding of the material. This assignment can be structured as a collaborative group activity.
Many disciplines already have a tradition of take-home exams, typically involving more conceptual or applied questions that students cannot quickly look up in a textbook.
Students can create audiovisual presentations using a variety of media, such as PowerPoint, Prezi, and other tools.
This project gives students choice in selecting works while assessing their higher-order abilities to evaluate sources, compare multiple perspectives, and provide rationales for their choices.
Students create a one-page fact sheet on a topic. Students must select relevant facts and explain them clearly and concisely.
These allow for personal reflection on learning and peer-to-peer instruction, both of which reinforce and deepen understanding. Students do need instruction in the task of providing constructive feedback. Targeted rubrics laying out expectations for student work are very helpful.
A student-selected portfolio of work from the semester. Students compile their best or representative work from the semester, writing a critical introduction to the portfolio and a brief introduction to each piece.
Creative assignments work best when they have some “real-world” relevance and offer students some choice in delivery format.
Group projects require students to demonstrate mastery of subject matter and develop their ability to communicate and work collaboratively. It is crucial to make your assessment criteria and grading scheme clear, and to ensure that there are clear, explicit expectations for each team member.
STEM and other quantitative courses face a particular challenge in creating effective online exams. Review this special advice for open-book assessment in quantitative courses.

Other Guidance and Resources

These sites provide additional ideas about alternatives to traditional exams: