Guidance for alternative assessment

The following guidance is provided to aid staff in developing alternative approaches to summative assessment to replace on campus examinations, presentations and practical assessments.

All of the following Technology-Enhanced Learning Systems: Blackboard, Blackboard Collaborate, Turnitin, Panopto/Aston Replay are available off campus from any reliable internet connection, do NOT have special access requirements, and can be used as with all standard coursework assignments.

Adjusting approaches to deliver remote assessment

When adjusting assessment from on campus to off campus, the University advice is to:

  • Focus first on the health and wellbeing of your students and yourself.
  • Remember that the key aim is to ensure that students are supported in meeting specified learning outcomes for the module and programme. Students will understand where adjustments are made if information is communicated clearly and consistently.
  • Consider the student learning experience, your own working situation, and adopt the best possible approach for the circumstances. As far as is possible, work with systems with which you and your students are comfortable and familiar and try to adopt the most flexible approaches.
  • Ensure that resources required for completion of assessed work are accessible for students. For example, reading materials should be made available online as the majority of students will not be able to access the library on campus.
  • Recognise that adaptation and adjustment are fine. These are exceptional circumstances. Ensuring that relevant accrediting or statutory bodies, external examiners and School Learning and Teaching Committees are informed, the key is to assess fairly, transparently and inclusively. You have license to make appropriate changes, but please ensure you consult with your School Learning and Teaching Committee.
  • It may not be possible to adjust approaches for all assessment activities. Where alternative approaches are not viable, assessment may simply need to be deferred to a future date or condonement rules explored with relevant Exam Boards. Equally, where students request the opportunity to complete the original assessment at a future date, every effort should be made to support this.
  • Note that whilst simple approaches are often the most effective, you can be creative. This need not be a deficit situation. We will all benefit if assessment is adjusted to enable more social and developmental approaches.

It is worthwhile undertaking a skills audit in your programme teams to ensure that support for using online assessment tools is available locally.

Key guidance and supporting information about online assessment tools

For examinations:

  • Please note that a wired connection is recommended for completion of an online Blackboard test and direct translation of exams into a timed online quiz is not the recommended approach.
  • Examination can be simply adjusted to a timed release of a question paper that can be completed and submitted via a Turnitin submission point. The advice is to adopt an inclusive 24-hour time period for completing and submitting question papers to ensure that no students are disadvantaged.
  • To mitigate for concerns regarding possible academic misconduct, colleagues are encouraged to consider requiring students to work with a recent publication and/or to incorporate some personal reflection to link to previous completed assessments.
  • Alternative approaches such as requiring students to complete a timed essay or report may be more appropriate.
  • Consider formative assessment opportunities and implement timed discussion board sessions where students can ask questions and get support.

For presentations, group work and other forms of practical assessment:

  • More significant adjustments may be required for some forms of assessment but there are ways of maintaining student collaboration.
  • Blackboard Collaborate may be suitable for supporting online presentations but be mindful of individual student circumstances and that some may not have access to reliable internet connections or desktop computers. Adjustment to meet individual circumstances should be managed responsively.
  1. General guidance on assessment tools in Blackboard
  2. Blackboard tests and surveys
  3. Setting up Turnitin assignments
  4. Setting up discussion boards for formative assessment opportunities
  5. Setting up group discussions for collaborative assessment
  6. Using wikis for group collaboration
  7. Using Blackboard Collaborate for online presentations

Requesting TEL, Academic and Quality Support in developing online assessment

All technical support requests related to the development of online assessments should be emailed to telsupport@aston.ac.uk. Please note that the CLIPP Academic Team and Quality Team will be working closely with the Technology Enhanced Learning Team to advise and support when required. Please refer to Associate Deans in Learning and Teaching regarding strategies in individual Schools.

The TEL Team will make every effort to deal with your query as soon as possible, but peak periods may result in a longer resolution time, particularly when there are significant numbers of off campus users.

Please note that there are other sources of information regarding online assessment. LSE have published the following useful guide, and Sally Brown has worked with colleagues in SEDA to produce this:

Assessment alternatives at a time of university closures