Alternative Assessments

See also:

This guidance aims to offer some alternatives to in person  or face to face assessments and offers suggestions on adjustments that might be made to assure the standards of students’ achievements. Any alternatives should endeavour to be as close as possible to the validated face to face assessment and should maintain the balance of formative and summative assessment, as well as considering inclusivity and accessibility.

Alternative assessment will need to be approved by the Chair or nominee of the School Quality and Standards Committee.

Extensions and rescheduling deadlines

There are a couple of options available to course teams to allow students more time to complete their assessment. Course/Programme leaders as the designated signatory can agree extensions in the current situation (GEAR B 5.3.2) and without documentary evidence (GEAR B 5.3.4) for up to 14 days. However, academic staff are also encouraged to think about rescheduling assessment deadlines so that it is applicable to all students. Rescheduled assessment deadlines should be communicated to all students via a method agreed at School level such as an announcement on My Studies. The list of rescheduled assessment deadines should also be noted at the next SQSC.

But do bear in mind the impact of rescheduling and extension on other deadlines.

Key points

Stick to low-tech and text-based systems where possible – try not to introduce something which will require additional skills to be developed for students and staff.

Reminder: Turnitin cannot accept image-only submissions, videos or documents with less than 25 words and links are NOT clickable in the document viewer.

Any changes to assessment need to be communicated and explained to both students and all staff involved in assessment of learning outcomes and those involved in assessment administration.

There may be instances where students will need to handwrite their assessment submissions, to enable us to keep in line with GEAR this is the advice and guidance:

  • Students may handwrite their course work where there are no alternatives to producing electronically generated work
  • The student should scan their work to create a PDF (OneDrive Scanning instructions for students pdf)
  • The preferred submission method would be to upload to a My Studies submission point (reminder: Turnitin cannot accept image only submissions, videos or documents with less than 25 words)
  • If the student is unable to upload to My Studies then an email submission of the PDF or photo can be accepted through the School COVID19 email address, which should generate a receipt for the student to confirm the email has been received.
  • A student should not email work to an individual member of staff (GEAR section B 2.5 i).

Alternatives to face to face assessment

The table below provides some alternatives together with some important considerations.  The suggestions here are some reasonable adjustments to be used in times of crisis, which will not exactly replicate the original assessments, but may offer your students some manageable alternatives in challenging times.

Firstly, consider the Learning Outcomes – what is the assessment actually assessing and how else can this be achieved? i.e. if group work isn’t a learning outcome consider an individual assessment but of a reduced student effort (duration, word count etc.).

If you currently use You could instead consider using To assure standards you
might need to consider
Time-constrained unseen exams in invigilated exam rooms or in-class tests

“Take-home” exams,

in which the questions or tasks are set virtually/online through My Studies and students submit their responses electronically within a specified time period – ie.g.  within a day, a few hours, or longer. Students are allowed to consult their own notes, course texts and other materials.

Consider the use of My Studies tests where the examination could be changed to release questions in the form of short tasks (to test a range of knowledge, as an exam would), to be completed over short fixed periods, rather than releasing all of the questions at once for a single submission.  The next question is released by completion of the previous.

Measures should be put in place to ensure that that students are not unduly burdened with a number of assessments at the same time.

Using Tests and Quizzes in My Studies

As with normal take-away papers, because students have access to materials, the design of questions may need to be reframed to move away from recall-based tasks to questions that require students to demonstrate how they use information rather than reiterate what they have learned. It will be important, therefore, to provide guidance for students in the change in orientation of the task. It is also good practice to re-run any changes to question formats through the usual moderation processes.

You could have a pool of questions which are allocated randomly to different students, if you want to reduce the possibility of similar answers/responses.

To deter cheating you could advise students that you will run ‘spot checks’ or mini-vivas with a sample of the student population, where you will discuss their reasoning for the answers they’ve provided.

In-class presentations where students speak to an audience of their peers/others and are assessed not only on the content but also their presentation techniques.

Ask students individually to submit a narrated presentation in electronic form which can then be tutor-marked and peer-reviewed.

PowerPoint is familiar to most students, and offers a slide-by-slide voice-narration recording facility

Ask students to prepare a podcast on the topic to be submitted via Panopto.

Reminder: Turnitin cannot accept image only submissions, videos or documents with less than 25 words
You will need to take account of the fact that, given the recorded presentation format, students can have multiple opportunities to prepare the item they are submitting, rather than having to cope with the one-off nature of a live presentation
Portfolio, logbook or assessment notebook

It is likely that the best solution here is to move hard-copy portfolios to e-portfolios,

Students can scan their work to create a PDF (OneDrive Scanning instructions for students pdf) of hard copy portfolios to upload/submit electronically to My Studies; alternatively portfolios can be photographed and submitted.

Where these have been partially completed already, assessors will have to use professional judgment to decide whether sufficient evidence of achievement of the LOs has been achieved already.
Viva Voce exams, e.g. for PhD examinations in person, or other forms of oral assessment These could be undertaken by Skype or Microsoft Teams Students may need significant support in developing confidence to work virtually where they have no prior experience.
Assessed seminars, group discussions and other similar activities. Hold in Microsoft Teams Staff as well as students may need be supported to learn how to use this approach if it isn’t currently part of their normal learning experiences. Support is available here.
Lab work

It may be possible to replicate some aspects of lab work through simulations in which students are presented with data sets and required to interpret them. Often this means focusing on interpretation of data rather than working in the lab to achieve the results personally

Simulations can also be used remotely so students can ‘see’ data produced elsewhere and be asked to comment/interpret.

See also: QAA Thematic Guidance on Practice and Lab-based Assessment (external site: pdf)

If students can be provided with different data sets for personal interpretation, this can mitigate the risk of ‘over-sharing’.
Posters Posters created in digital formats (e.g. using powerpoint) can be uploaded to My Studies. You can also use a digital infographic, mind map or other visual which can be also be submitted via My Studies, for example, or posted on Microsoft Teams, particularly if peer review is required. To confirm authenticity of the submitter, you may wish to supplement this with a short online oral assessment.
Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE) and other test requiring students to demonstrate a range of skills. It may be possible for students to submit digital portfolios containing, for example, videos of themselves performing a range of practical tasks. Video footage can be submitted via a My Studies Student Panopto Submission This may be problematic in professional disciplines where the achievement of specific capabilities is required at 100% e.g. Nursing, drugs calculations
Peer assessments and support Move away from peer assessments during this period, this is unlikely to be the sole mode of assessment for a module. Suggest using Microsoft Teams if Peer Assessment is essential  Provide students with appropriate support to use Teams
Face-to-face feedback

Individual and generic group feedback can be delivered by tutors via audio or online means.

There is an audio feedback function on Turnitin or video feedback can be pre-recorded using Panopto

Creative Arts

Crits and Practice

Crits offered online through Microsoft Teams

Students continue working at home where possible but with appropriate briefings on use of materials.

Assess the work produced so far and a vlog of student describing the steps yet to be taken. Can the Learning Outcomes be met through assessing the process rather than the outcome?

Provide students with appropriate support to use Teams

Creative Art students are likely to feel a sense of ‘incompleteness’ and will need support through the process of submitting work which is not complete.

Film/Media Production

Assess the work completed to date if the student doesn’t have access to resources to enable completion (either at home or by accessing the resources which will still be available on campus. Students should not be penalised for incomplete work if they decide not to access the resources available) consider shifting the focus from final outcome to ‘process’. Can the Learning Outcomes be met through assessing the process rather than the outcome?

Students produce a (individual) reflective vlog on the process and the future steps which need to be taken to complete.

Media/Film students are likely to feel a sense of ‘incompleteness’ and will need support through the process of submitting work which is not complete or polished.

Key Messages

It is vitally important that decisions to adjust assessment briefs are based on sound pedagogic considerations and that they match the scale, amount of student effort and level of the learning outcomes to which the course teams are committed by the course documentation.

It is also important to remember that both staff and students may be working outside their comfort zones, and that support be provided/signposted for those struggling with new approaches.

As with all forms of assessment, account will need to be taken of reasonable adjustments for all students with temporary or long-term health conditions, disabilities and additional needs through their Learning Support Plans.

With thanks to Prof. Sally Brown and Prof. Kay Sambell for collating sector practices

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