Alternative Assessment Ideas

The following assessments could provide an alternative to your face-to-face final exam. When selecting an alternative assessment, consider if it allows students to demonstrate the core learning outcomes of your course.

Take Home Exams or Open Book Exams

Use this form of assessment if you want students to:

  • Have access to notes, texts, or other information during their exam
  • Apply knowledge from available sources to specific problems, questions, or case studies
  • (Option) work in groups to collaboratively access and apply information to specific problems, questions, or case studies

Dr. Nicole Campbel from BMSc has designed a guide for faculty on creating Take Home Exams

Example forms of digital submission:

Critical Reflection

Use this form of assessment if you want students to :

  • Apply theory to practice or real world situations
  • Explore alternative perspectives
  • Assess the impact of the course experience on their own personal growth

Critical reflection prompts might ask students to:

  • Prepare a written paper similar to a short or long-form essay question typically seen on a face-to-face final exam. For example, students might be asked to synthesize ideas from across weeks. What are the themes of your course? How can you form synthesis or analysis questions around those themes?
  • Explore their assumptions/biases, strengths, weaknesses, skills, identity, or emotions in relation to a course theme
  • Articulate the assumptions embedded in arguments, social media posts, or any form of communication
  • Engage on a meta-cognitive level by asking students to explain how they have met the learning outcomes in the course and how they will apply this learning in the future.

Example forms of digital submission:

  • Written response submitted as links to Blog posts or a Word document to OWL Assignments
  • Video submitted to OWL Assignments or shared on a OWL Student Page or link to Vlog response
  • Narrated PowerPoint submitted to OWL Assignments or VoiceThread presentation
  • Visual representation made with an application such as Canva or LucidChart, saved and submitted as a PDF

Possible evaluation rubrics:

Video Presentation or Performance Test

Use these forms of assessment if you want students to:

  • Move in-person oral presentations to digital formats
  • Demonstrate a skill- or performance-based learning outcome (such as theatre, dance, etc.)
  • Apply their knowledge and skills - independently or in groups - by performing a complex procedure or creating a product.

Example forms of digital submission:

  • .mp4 file submitted via the OWL Assignments Tool or on a OWL Student Page
  • Create and post a video to a website such as YouTube or Vimeo and share the link in OWL assignments (suggest that students set these videos to “unlisted” rather than make them publicly available)
  • Have students use Student Pages in OWL to share their videos
  • Use VoiceThread to create an oral presentation that will allow students to leave comments and questions for each other.

Find the Error/Flaw

Students receive calculations or problem-solving questions that have already been solved but contain an error or flaw. Ask students to identify (and possibly correct) the error.

Use this form of assessment if you want students to:

  • Demonstrate their ability to find errors in sets of data, problem solving questions, or arguments

Example forms of digital submission:

  • Written response submitted in an Office 365 document (e.g., Word or Excel) and submitted to OWL Assignments

Concept Maps

Use the creation of concept maps or flowcharts if you want students to:

  • Represent knowledge in graphic form
  • Organize and categorize knowledge
  • Identify connections and relationships between abstract or complex ideas.

Example forms of digital submission:

  • Written response submitted in an Office 365 document (e.g., Word Smart Art or PowerPoint slide) and submitted to OWL Assignments
  • Visual representation made with an application such as Canva or LucidChart, saved and submitted as a PDF submitted to OWL Assignments or a OWL Student Page

Qualtrics

Qualtrics, Western’s supported survey platform, can be used to administer assessments (e.g., multiple choice, true/false, short answer, essay) and has the Qualtrics guide to support its use. The software has an array of functionality, and it is important to be experienced with Qualtrics and its various functionality before using it for course assessments. Assessment errors can be very difficult, if not impossible, to address after the fact and can happen easily when using software with which we have limited experience. 

Also, as outlined in the Plan for Success, it is also important to recognize that students may have limited, inconsistent, or no access to the internet, and online tests may pose serious difficulties. Having contingency plans in place in case a student has difficulty accessing your assessment is necessary.     

Dr. Erin Heerey, with the Department of Psychology, has created a series of videos on Qualtrics to support faculty in:

A number of these functions may help reduce academic integrity offensives.

You may want to let students know in advance if you’ve employed certain options (e.g., time limits on pages, preventing multiple attempts at the test, opening and closing times for the test) so that they can plan their test taking strategy accordingly. 

If you have questions after reviewing the videos and Qualtrics guide, please contact the WTS Helpdesk.

More Ideas

If you are looking for more ideas, you may find inspiration from these resources from other universities: