Teaching & Learning Resource Center

Keep Teaching: Alternatives to traditional finals

If you need to adjust a major assessment on short notice, you may have to make decisions about alternative ways to assess the learning your students have completed.

Start with your learning outcomes; choose assignments that show whether students have met them. This may mean assessing concepts in ways that are new to you or focusing on broader skills and concepts rather than specific details. Information-recall questions, the types of things that are easy to Google search, may not be possible or effective with the current constraints.

It will benefit your students if you're able to extend due dates and reduce the stakes of assignments whenever possible. Work with your department to coordinate efforts and share resources and options specific to your discipline.

Make changes clear to your students in multiple places, such as your syllabus, announcements, and in the assignment item itself in Carmen, with as much notice as possible. You don't need to have every assignment revised all at once, but be transparent as you move forward. If you are using a tool or submission mode that is new to the course, provide a practice opportunity to try the interface before your final.

Expand the sections below for ideas on assignments that align to different learning outcomes and are realistic to achieve with quick turnaround and reduction in student access to resources.

I need to know if my students can...

Remember

Students will be able to:

  • recall
  • recognize

You can assign:

  • Open-book, timed exams using the Carmen quiz tool

  • A Carmen assignment with a file upload for pictures or documents

Ask students to:

  • Recall or recognize terms, theories, events etc. Using fill in the blank or multiple-choice questions

  • Label diagrams a either on paper and submit a photo, or by downloading an image they can easily label by adding text boxes in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint and reupload as a file

Understand

Students will be able to:

  • interpret

  • exemplify

  • classify

  • summarize

  • infer

  • compare

  • explain

You can assign:

  • Class discussions in small groups for students to work through questions that might traditionally be found on individual exams

  • Short- and long-form writing using a Carmen assignment with a file upload or text entry

  • Open-book, timed exams using the Carmen quiz tool

  • Take-home style essay exams using a Carmen assignment with a file upload

Ask students to:

  • Summarize course materials

  • Compare theories, systems, etc.

  • Organize or classify events, terms, or examples using disciplinary criteria

  • Find and explain their own example of a course concept

Apply

Students will be able to:

  • execute

  • implement

You can assign:

  • Class discussions in small groups for students to work through questions that might traditionally be found on individual exams

  • Short- and long-form writing using a Carmen assignment with a file upload or text entry

  • Open-book, timed exams using the Carmen quiz tool

  • Take-home style essay exams using a Carmen assignment with a file upload

Ask students to:

  • Apply a theory or process to an application

  • Select the theory, equation, or procedure that best applies to a problem

  • View individual steps of a procedure in video or pictures and describe what should happen next

  • Complete a simulation activity embedded into a Carmen quiz question that approximates a lab or field experience. Ask students to describe what they chose or implemented at different steps of the process. There are open-access resources available for simulations in a variety of disciplines

Analyze

Students will be able to:

  • differentiate

  • organize

  • attribute

You can assign:

  • Class discussions in small groups for students to work through questions that might traditionally be found on individual exams

  • Short- and long-form writing using a Carmen assignment with a file upload or text entry

  • Open-book, timed exams using the Carmen quiz tool

  • Take-home style essay exams using a Carmen assignment with a file upload

Ask students to:

  • Describe cause-and-effect relationships in a case study or demonstration

  • Apply a theory or process to an application

  • Select relevant information from a complex example

  • Explain how multiple elements interact or work in conjunction

  • Identify potential bias, values or underlying intent in presented materials

Evlauate

Students will be able to:

  • check

  • critique

You can assign:

  • Class discussions in small groups for students to work through questions that might traditionally be found on individual exams

  • Short- and long-form writing using a Carmen assignment with a file upload or text entry

  • Open-book, timed exams using the Carmen quiz tool

  • Take-home style essay exams using a Carmen assignment with a file upload

Ask students to:

  • Judge or critique readings, performances, or products using disciplinary criteria

  • Check materials, methods, or conclusions against a known standard or the processes and procedures they have used in class themselves

Create

Students will be able to:

  • generate

  • plan

  • Produce

You can assign:

  • Class discussions in small groups for students to work through research, planning or other processes that might traditionally be included in individual final projects

  • Short- and long-form writing using a Carmen assignment with a file upload or text entry

  • A Carmen assignment with a file upload for submitting presentations, images, video, spreadsheets, etc.

Ask students to:

  • Research a topic and create a presentation or writing with key points and conclusions

  • Create performance art compositions or performances that can be notated or recorded using devices, locations, and equipment available to students

  • Write an essay, business plan, or recommendations for stakeholders or another authentic audience instead of a traditional research paper

  • Create a media project relevant to the learning they completed in the course

Grading considerations

  • Use the Carmen rubrics tool to give basic feedback on student writing while keeping grading manageable.

  • For essay exams, grading one question many times is faster than grading many questions one student at a time.

  • Seeing student learning in a discussion small group can demonstrate equivalent learning in a low stakes mode that is efficient to grade. Discussions can be set to "graded" and grades can be given to either individuals or groups.