Resource: Essays or projects instead of proctored exams

This may be an opportune time to explore essay exams (or projects) that don’t require proctoring. These would be open-book and open web, and time limits could be imposed by controlling start and end times. Since online provides flexibility, students could be allowed to submit their exams within a 24-hour period. This would be a test of mastery rather than speed of recall.

Shimabukuro, J. (2020). Essays or Projects Instead of Proctored Exams: A COVID-19 Response. Educational Technology and Change.

We’re going to need to change our thinking around how we assess our students’ understanding – assuming that this situation continues for a lot longer than is currently anticipated. We can’t set up proctored exams (when students complete the assessment on a locked down computer) so we need to create assessments where there are no solutions that can be found with a Google search.

This post on using essays or project-based assessments instead of proctored exams gives a useful list of the kinds of questions we might consider for upcoming tests. Here are some of the examples provided:

  1. Applying a process to an unfamiliar case or problem.
  2. Comparing or contrasting two or more theories or writers.
  3. Explaining a concept with an illustration or example from personal experience or observation.
  4. Critiquing a theory via different logical methods.
  5. Defending or attacking a popular or unpopular opinion, theory, or advocate.
  6. Analyzing the critical factors of an unfamiliar case or problem.
  7. Analyzing the short or long-term implications of a specific process or course of action.
  8. Testing transfer of knowledge from a known to an unknown situation or case.
  9. Imagining new, different, or controversial applications for a process or theory.
  10. Examining underlying issues in a given controversy or debate.
  11. Weighing different solutions for a problem selected by the student.
  12. Conducting a small-scale survey on a controversial topic and discussing the results.

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.

5 replies on “Resource: Essays or projects instead of proctored exams”

This is indeed helps student integrate learning. one can model a case and interrogate how it was managed. why client ended up in the facility they find themselves in and probing further management. it could work as a group working on particular cases.
I only see group giving the size of our classes. 60+

Yes, I agree. Instead of asking how to control the assessment, we can turn it to our advantage by using what’s freely available to develop different skills and competencies than what we’re used to.

Great idea. It will encourage students to become more proficient in soft skills. This is what is needed now and in the future.

Hi Marianne. You’re right. This works well for smaller classes, although I’ve used a similar approach for my ethics assessments over the past few years in classes of 50+ students. I use Google Docs and then get students to give each other feedback using Google Docs on comments on blog posts, depending on how they submit. That way the students can do the bulk of the feedback around things like structure, content, alignment with the assessment question, etc. Then when I give feedback it’s limited to more high level ideas. It significantly cuts down on the time I spend giving feedback.

Good suggestions Michael…. also easy to manage if you have 20 or less students in your class?
I am in favour of open book online assessment – set time limits and raise the stakes…. 70 or 80% to pass. I am almost sure students will engage more with the content than they would have otherwise…. for FM also award some marks to level of engagement – also easy to monitor on any LMS…..

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