Best Practice for Online Assessment


This article describes the best practices for online assessments, including design and content strategies.


It can be challenging to move your assessments fully online and still be able to measure students' learning to the same degree you do in the classroom. This guidance provides some best practices when you design and develop your online assessments.

Overall Design Strategies

Give students different types of assessments rather than two major exams (mid-term and final exams, for example). Use a combination of frequent practice quizzes, written assignments, problem-based assignments, group assignments, and weekly quizzes. Make each individual assessment worth a smaller percentage of the total grade. This has three benefits:

  1. prevent students from failing the course if they fail one of the major exams;
  2. minimize the benefits of cheating in the major exams because students need to show constant effort throughout the course.
  3. The use of frequent low-stakes assessments provides important formative feedback for students. 

Reducing penalties for poor performance by lowering the stakes can go a long way toward mitigating cheating.

Assessment Content

Higher level learning assessment can best be achieved through problems that require students to analyze and evaluate, through individual or group projects, writing assignments, and class presentation that require students to demonstrate higher order thinking and problem-solving. These assessments should be frequent enough that students have several opportunities to receive feedback throughout the semester. Students can submit varied assessments through Canvas Assignments.

When you must give a high-stakes exam:

  • Consider asking questions that favor analysis and synthesis over simple recall, whenever appropriate.
  • Consider problem-based questions that require the use of unique data sets
  • Consider assessment of performance such as presentation or oral exams, debates, etc.
  • When you must ask multiple-choice questions, use time limits, question banks, randomization, and other Canvas options listed below. You can also add an open-ended question that asks students to explain their choices for the multiple-choice questions so it is hard for them to cheat by searching online.
  • Include a T/F style question as the first question, where students can check "True" for a statement such as, "I attest that the work and answers on this exam are the product of my own work, and I adhered to all exam instructions."
  • Clearly communicate the methods and timing of the exam in advance of the exam
  • If you plan to use Respondus LockDown Browser, be sure you are familiar with its operation and requirements.
  • Be flexible with exam timing. Use exam time limits but have the assessment available (from and until dates in Canvas) for a longer period of time (e.g.24 hours).  Remind students of the fact that they must complete the exam in a single sitting. Once they begin, if they close the browser window, they will not be able to pick up where they left off. 
  • Hide correct answers and grades until all students in all sections have finished taking the high-stake exam.

When quizzing is appropriate, use Canvas quiz settings to make the quiz more secure and mitigate cheating. 

  • Time Limits: When you set a time limit for a quiz, students who are unprepared risk not having sufficient time to finish all the test questions. This deters looking up answers, as that takes time.
  • Multiple Quiz Times: A quiz can allow multiple timing settings that accommodates any student identified by Student Accessibility Services as needing additional time for quizzes and tests. Use the Moderate quiz option or add the student using the Assign To option to assign additional time for the student.  
  • Quiz Availability Time Range: If you are setting a Time Limit in the quiz, the Available From and Until dates should not be set to the same time as in the Time Limit.  Best practice is to make the Available From and Until dates a wider time range to allow students time to access the quiz.   The timer will start when the students starts the quiz and the quiz will end automatically at the end of the allotted Time Limit.
  • Shuffle The Answer: This applies to the multiple choice question type. When students get the same question, they might not have the same answer options. Don't use this if your question has option like "all the answers above". 
  • Display Questions One At A Time: It will be easier for students to take a screen-shot of the full exam and share with their peer if you have all the questions displayed at once. 
  • Text Entry: In addition to multiple choice questions, consider asking one or two higher-order questions that require students to synthesize answers from their knowledge on a few key concepts. Questions that extend past fact-recall will ensure that you are assessing students’ knowledge and understanding of the topics.

Use question banks: the question bank will generate a quiz with random questions from the question bank. If the question bank is big enough, students will have less chance getting same questions for the same exam.

Randomize quiz questions: You can randomize the order of the questions so students are not likely to get the same questions in the same sequence when taking a test. 

Assessment Administration 

Give students flexibility. Students might face many difficulties with no/bad Internet access, family sickness or need for accommodations. Having your assessments available for a short period of time will add extra stress to your students - you can either have assessments available for longer period of time (more than 24 hours) or ask students to communicate with you if they are experiencing any difficulties in life. 

Need additional help?

Please fill out this Canvas webform with as much detail as possible, or contact the ET&S Help Desk team on your local campus.

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Article ID: 2196
Mon 3/23/20 2:30 PM
Tue 3/29/22 11:58 AM
Applicable Institution(s):
Granite State College (GSC)
Keene State College (KSC)
Plymouth State University (PSU)
University of New Hampshire (UNH)