As remote teaching continues, it’s a good idea to think about what it might look like to assess your students’ learning during these unusual times.


  • You and your students may have little or no experience teaching and learning remotely, or during an ongoing crisis.
  • Your students are facing new challenges daily such as lack of technology access or skills, illness, unemployment, lack of privacy, uncertain housing arrangements, increased childcare responsibilities, heightened stress, etc.
  • You and your students have limited control over many of the stressors you’re facing, and this impacts everyone’s ability to make decisions, learn and attend to the complexities of life.

These considerations are important as we decide how to assess our students during this crisis. If we maintain our standard ways of assessing student learning, we may be inadvertently assessing their privilege — their access to resources, the stability of their home environment, and other external factors that they have little control over — rather than their ability to learn and engage with new information and skills.

Three questions to ask while making assessment decisions

  • What does it look like when your students are learning?
  • How can you clearly communicate your expectations to students?
  • How can you give students opportunities to reflect and assess their own learning?

This article provides you with some guidance and resources for how to assess your students in a variety of contexts.

Spring 2020 – Winter 2021 Temporary P/NP Policy Changes

Per the PSU Office of the Registrar, this temporary change in policy is intended to support students during the period of remote instruction that is taking place from Spring 2020 through Winter 2021 expanding the number of courses that offer a Pass/No Pass grading option. The Spring 2020 – Winter 2021 Pass/No Pass Policy can be found on the Office of the Registrar’s website.

If you are implementing a P/NP option, provide students with the Student FAQ and PSU grading standards for undergraduate and graduate-level courses so they are aware of the pass/no pass grade requirements.

The article, “Encouraging Student Agency through Alternative Assessments,” provides three ways you might consider grading your students this term that allows for more flexibility and student choice in conjunction with the new Pass/No Pass Policy.

Remote Assessment Strategies

Student Learning Outcomes: Link your assessment activities to the student learning outcomes for the course. This helps students see how each activity connects to larger assignments and helps them better understand the course goals. Check out this OAI+ assessment article for guides to writing effective student learning outcomes, creating rubrics, and implementing assessment techniques. 

Feedback: Provide students with regular feedback on their process work that is not linked to points or a grade. Students are more likely to remember your feedback and incorporate it into future work if your comments are not paired with a grade. Check out these 5 research-based tips for providing students with meaningful feedback. Low stakes, formative assessments that give you and your students feedback about their learning come in many forms:

Guidelines: Provide students with clear guidelines, examples, and rubrics that inform them of the desired learning outcomes for a given assessment. Allow time and flexibility for students to ask questions and make suggestions about how they might meet the learning outcomes in more than one way. Employing a Universal Design for Learning strategy will serve a diversity of learners. 

Student Self-assessment: Give students an opportunity to continuously reflect on their learning in their remote course through self-assessments that count toward their final grade. Students can self-assess in large online courses when they are taught how, and doing so deepens their learning and motivates them to keep learning. Self-assessment can happen in a variety of formats:

Peer Reviews: Asking students to provide feedback to their peers gives them an opportunity to learn from one another and think critically about their work. Consider giving students specific elements to focus on during peer review and model what good feedback looks like. It helps to provide students with a rubric, checklist, or series of questions to answer as they examine their peers’ work. This OAI+ article on Active Remote Learning has a section on peer review and includes example prompts. 

Alternative Assessments: All students may not have the technology needed to take online exams, so be ready with alternatives or exceptions. Consider what you hope to measure through these exams, share these goals with students who don’t have the necessary technology, and brainstorm alternative assessments that might measure the same learning in a different way. This will help to cultivate student motivation and will foster a caring learning environment. Many creative alternatives are available to students who might not be able to meet the learning outcomes in traditional ways:


Remote Exams

Remote exams that do not use a proctoring tool can be provided to students in a variety of ways. 

Use D2L to create and administer an exam. D2L exams (called “quizzes”) provide functionality for enhancing academic integrity through features like randomized questions and exam time limits. During these difficult times, we recommend allowing students to take exams more than once for an improved grade. If you are new to using D2L quizzes, please contact the faculty support desk prior to administering the quiz to your students.

Use D2L to distribute and collect exams via D2L Assignments. Optionally, use date restrictions to set time limits. Consider whether the exam should be open book. If you are able to assess students’ learning outcomes with an open book exam, we highly recommend you consider doing so in this situation.

In limited circumstances, such as for very high stakes exams or when required by accrediting bodies, remote proctoring may be suitable. Learn more about remote proctoring.

This article was last updated on Dec 8, 2020 @ 11:11 am.

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