Remote Assessments

Remote Assessments

This guide has been drawn up most of all with the instructors in mind who work with large enrollments and are accustomed to testing using written exams or bubble sheets.

To find the optimal solution, connect with our CELT instructional designers for support or pedagogical consultations by emailing; this will also create a ServiceNow ticket for easy tracking.

1. Determine the acceptable evidence of learning

Your learning goals are an excellent place to start when considering alternative assessments. Read through and respond to the following questions about the assessment:

  • What do I hope students will be able to do by the end of my course?
  • What ways can they demonstrate what they know?
  • How can I make it more meaningful/authentic?
  • How can I incorporate knowledge creation?
  • How can I leverage the online context? 

2. Consider the impact of proctored exams at this time

Traditional timed, proctored exams are possible using the tools available in Canvas along with remote proctoring tools (e.g., Respondus Lockdown Browser) or proctor it yourself with Webex or Zoom. However, proctored remote exams have several drawbacks:

  1. They are often even more stressful for students than in-person proctored exams, which can negatively impact student performance.
  2. They require substantial planning and setup on the part of the instructor and the student.
  3. Not all students have access to the appropriate technology to use services; instructors will have to make accommodations for such students.
  4. Students may have privacy concerns about third-party recorded remote proctoring. Instructors will need to make accommodations for these students.
  5. Finally, these tools are not a recommended assessment solution in the current COVID-19 situation. Introducing new software and testing procedures may put a significant burden on students on top of an exam’s usual stress, and can add inequities based on internet access.
  6. Therefore, faculty should consider other assessment strategies to adjust to the current situation, only using proctored exams when no other options work (e.g., due to accreditation rules).

For these reasons, we recommend using alternatives to timed, proctored exams wherever possible during this time. Large enrollment courses reliant on in-person exams should consider open-book exams or frequent low-stakes assessments as alternative assessment strategies that are relatively easy to grade. See the sections below for details and advice.

3. Choose the suitable remote assessment method

Review the following options as alternatives to proctored exams:

This project gives students a choice in selecting works while assessing their higher-order abilities to evaluate sources, compare multiple perspectives, and provide rationales for their choices.

To set this assessment up, use the Assignments Instructional Strategies page.

A course map is a visual representation of a course. Structured much like a mind map, a course map provides an overall visual representation of the content and highlights relationships among key ideas. Students consider the hierarchy of concepts and important connections when they create a map of the content.

Ask students to create a game that could be used with next semester’s class in order to help future students learn the content.

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.

Ask students to submit them in a digital format.

For example, students might take a photograph of a poster and submit it, or submit the digital file they created (if they created the poster in PowerPoint, for example). They can do this via a Canvas assignment.

To set this assessment up, use the Assignments Instructional Strategies page.

Students create a one-page fact sheet on a topic. Students must select relevant facts and explain them clearly and concisely.

To set this assessment up, use the Assignments Instructional Strategies page.

Group projects require students to demonstrate mastery of subject matter and develop their ability to communicate and work collaboratively.

Set clear expectations for individual contributions. Set general directions with a rubric explaining how the final product will be assessed. It is imperative to identify individual contributions and expectations for each team member.

Assign individual and team grades for the team assignments. 

Assess process as well as product and monitor the online group space.

Develop a template for peer feedback and share it with students prior to the project.



Creative assignments work best when they have some “real-world” relevance and offer students some choice in delivery format.

Reflective Papers

If the class is experiential in nature (e.g., student teaching, performance), ask the students to write a reflective paper/critique of their experience. The key here is to make them tie this to theory or themes in the course so that it doesn’t become an effusion of personal feeling. Even in non-experiential/performance courses, a reflective paper can be very useful. Some classes ask students to add a reflection to a term paper.

To use this option, set it up as an assignment in Canvas.

If it has multiple essays, you could make each into a separate assignment, or combine them into one assignment and allow students to choose which essay topic they address in their response.

Many disciplines already have a tradition of take-home exams, typically involving more conceptual or applied questions that students cannot quickly lookup in a textbook.

For guidance on how best to employ this option, use the Open Book Exams Instructional Strategies page.

These allow for personal reflection on learning and peer-to-peer instruction, both of which reinforce and deepen understanding.

Don’t assume your students know how to peer review: Students may not know how to comment on one another’s work in a constructive way.

Targeted rubrics laying out expectations for student work are very helpful.

Learn more from CELT’s Peer Assessment page.

Students can create an infographic, narrated slideshow, or photo album that highlights their learning in the course.

To set this up, use the Assignments Instructional Strategies page.

Then, share with your students how-to upload to Studio and embed it into their Assignment, use the Studio in Canvas page.

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.

For next steps, use the Quizzes and Exams Instructional Strategies page along with the Low and High-Stakes Quizzes in Canvas

Writing quiz questions both builds and demonstrates students’ understanding of the material. This assignment can be structured as a collaborative group activity.

In lieu or as part of a standard final exam, instructors might consider requiring a short paper reflecting on what the student learned over the course of the semester. Emphasizing specificity and the use of examples can create entirely meaningful documentation of learning.

Possible questions include:

  • What have you learned this semester?

  • What terms and concepts do you now recognize or understand differently?

  • What terms, concepts, and ideas are more complicated now?

  • What are you now able to explain (to your family, to a friend, to a roommate, to anyone else you may encounter)?

  • How do you read/think about current events differently?

  • How can you use information and ideas from this class now and in the future?

Possible requirements include:

  • Reference a minimum of [X] course materials in the reflection.
  • Select a recent news article/op-ed/tweet and use it to structure the student’s reflection. Are there terms the student reads differently? Can the student situate the issues raised in different or more complex ways? If the student were the editor, how would they push the writer to clarify or extend the article? If the student met the writer, how would this class inform questions the student might ask?

  • The student could reread 1-3 course readings and discuss how they read them differently now than at the beginning of this class. What terms or references can the student identify or situate? What connections can the student make to what they have learned?

  • The student could review an assignment from earlier in the course and revise it. What can they now do better, more efficiently, more clearly, etc., than at the beginning of this class? Why? What helped them improve over the semester? 

  • Identify a challenge the student faced in this course, explain the challenge, identify what they did to overcome it, and reflect on what it means about this course’s material/design/goals. What can the student carry with them into the future from the class?

This remote assessment method is from Best Practices for Remote Examinations by UC Berkeley Academic Senate. Retrieved (February 12, 2021) from

4. Communicate clearly with your students

Provide an announcement that contains information about the exam and ensure that students contact you with any questions. To help outline your communication to them clarify details using these guiding questions:

  • What is the format of the exam?
  • When will the final exam be?
  • What am I allowed to use during the exam?
  • What am I NOT allowed to use during the exam?
  • What does the exam cover?
  • Will there be a final practice exam?
  • What happens if there are technical issues? What if I need a makeup exam?
  • What about cheating? Place the academic integrity statement prominently at the beginning of the assessment to emphasize responsible behavior, see examples on the Academic Integrity page.
Parner, L. L. (2020, June 25). Alternatives to the traditional exam as measures of student learning outcomes. The Scholarly Teacher. Retrieved from Woldeab, D., & Brothen, T. (2019). 21st Century assessment: Online proctoring, test anxiety, and student performance. International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education, 34(1), 1-10.

Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), Iowa State University’s Remote Assessment, is a derivative of Remote Exams and Assessments, used under BY-NC-SA and retrieved on April 17, 2020 from Rutger University’s Remote Exams and Assessments website ( This work, Remote Assessment, is by Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), Iowa State University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.