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Alternative Assessment

Alternative assessment refers to non-traditional methods of evaluating students' learning, such as projects, portfolios, presentations, multimedia, etc as opposed to traditional exams and quizzes. It focuses on assessing students' deeper understanding and skills rather than memorization and recall.

Alternative assessment methods can provide a more comprehensive and authentic view of students' abilities. They promote critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity, which are valuable skills for real-world applications. Additionally, they can reduce the potential for cheating or plagiarism and can reduce stress related to high-stakes exams.

Our team of Instructional Designers is available for one-on-one consultations to explore innovative forms of assessment and learning strategies that not only engage students but also uphold academic integrity. By reimagining assessment formats, you can deter cheating while enriching the educational experience.

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Using Alternative Assessment Tools

Traditional high-stakes assessments, like midterms and finals, can exert pressure and cause anxiety that can impact students performance, often emphasizing memorization over genuine understanding. Alternative assessment strategies or the integration of recurring, low-stakes assignments can focus on a student's abilities and how they apply their knowledge, rather than what they simply know or recall. 

  • Low Stakes: Use more low-stakes assessments like homework and quizzes instead of high-stakes exams. This gives students more chances for practice and feedback and gives instructors meaningful data points on understanding and progress. Low-stakes assessments are assigned fewer points and sometimes may be graded based on completion instead of accuracy.
  • Reducing High Stakes in Assessments: Strategies may include dropping the lowest score, retakes, drafts, providing revision opportunities, or reducing single assessment impact on overall grade
  • Panopto: Panopto’s simple in-video quizzing capabilities help instructors test comprehension, reinforce key concepts, improve knowledge retention, and make their videos more engaging. Panopto quizzes can be integrated directly into the Canvas gradebook
  • Project: projects as an assessment method bridges theoretical knowledge with real-world application and can provide a comprehensive view of a student's abilities, preparing them effectively for professional settings
  • Video: Videos can be used as a  means of illustrating student’s understanding, whether it's explaining a concept, showcasing a skill, or offering reflections on course material
  • Open Book exams: Open book exams containing more conceptual questions or applied questions can be more difficult to look up online.
  • Reflective Paper or Presentation: Reflective assessments can provide time for students to absorb what they learned and to engage with thinking about how they have learned.

Alternative Assessment Tools in Canvas

  • Assignments - create assignments for students to upload their work instead of assigning a quiz/exam that requires Respondus Monitor. Peer Review capability can be added to assignments, as well as rubrics.
  • Quizzes - create a Classic Quiz or a New Quiz to assess student knowledge. Become familiar with the various options (ClassicNew) that you can change to quizzes that will alleviate the need for Respondus Monitor. Classic and New Quizzes have the basic questions including multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks, matching, essay, etc. but New Quizzes has a few other question types that Class Quizzes do not. 
    Options when using Quizzes:
    • Include an Honor Statement to your quiz instructions or as a question in the exam.
      • Examples: a)  "I have done my own work and have neither given nor received unauthorized assistance on this work." (add as question. From Fresno State Honor Code), b)  "You may use your books and notes while taking the test but you must work on your own. Do not share your answers or discuss with anyone, even after completing the test. You will have 60 minutes to complete the test up until the deadline of Tuesday at 11:55 PM. (add to quiz instructions), c) Please read the statement below carefully before beginning the test: By selecting the Attempt quiz now, I acknowledge that I am the assigned student taking the quiz and the work is entirely my own. (add to quiz instructions).
    • Drop lowest score(s). Setting up Assignment Groups (Categories) in the Assignments area gives you the ability to drop the lowest score(s). Besides offering multiple low-stakes exams, dropping the lowest score(s) take pressure off the student to cheat.
    • Use Question Banks (Classic Quiz)/Item Banks (New Quizzes) when building your quiz to pull a specific number of questions from a larger pool of questions into the quiz. The quiz will randomly pull questions from the bank so student tests will not be the same.
    • Shuffle Questions. This is done through using a Question Bank on Classic Quizzes and through the Settings in New Quizzes
    • Shuffle Answers in Multiple Choice/Multiple Answer questions. Be sure that all possible answers are worded correctly (e.g., all of these options, none of these options, etc.)
    • Add a time limit. Once a student begins a quiz, they will only have a certain period of time to complete the quiz. This reduces the amount of time that students have to be fact-checking or looking for the answers (suggested questions times: 30-45 second/True-False question, 60-90 seconds/Multiple Choice question).
    • Show one question at a time. This only shows the question the student is working on at the moment and not the entire quiz. A sub-option is to Lock questions after answering so once a question is answered, the student cannot go back to change their response.
    • Use Short answer/Essay questions instead of multiple choice questions that require students to analyze and evaluate rather than recall facts.
    • Choose to release only scores and not show student's their correct/incorrect answers until after the exam is complete for everyone - or don't release that information at all.
    • Assume it's open book! 
  • Discussions - can be graded or ungraded. Use Discussion boards for students to post replies to a prompt you give them and also allow them to reply to each other.
  • Google Assignments - You can create an online assignment that embeds a document directly from your Google Drive folder. Accepted assignment types are Google Documents, Spreadsheets, and Slides. 
  • Respondus Lockdown Browser is a secure browser used solely for taking online exams and quizzes within Canvas. This feature is still available while Respondus Monitor is not. You can require the LockDown Browser by accessing the quiz through the LockDown Browser link in the Course Navigation. When students access the Quiz they will be prompted to download the browser.

    Note: We have become aware of an issue when students access an exam/quiz on an iPad that has been created as a Canvas New Quiz with the Respondus LockDown Browser enabled. Students will be locked out of not only the exam/quiz but also their iPad.

    iPads can still be used in this scenario if students follow the steps outlined below when accessing the exam/quiz. Students are not able to tell if an exam/quiz has been created as a Classic Quiz or a New Quiz until they have begun the exam/quiz.

    Please let your students know if the exam/quiz is a New Quiz so they can perform the following steps and not get locked out of their exam/quiz and their iPad and share these instructions with your students if using New Quizzes with Respondus Enabled:

    If your instructor uses Canvas New Quizzes with the Respondus LockDown Browser enabled and you access the quiz/exam on an iPad, follow these steps so you don’t get locked out of your iPad (and exam!!)

    • Open the mobile browser (Chrome or Safari) on your iPad -  NOT THE CANVAS STUDENT APP!
    • Log into Canvas ( and navigate to the quiz.
    • Start the quiz and the LockDown Browser app will automatically launch.
    • Turnitin is an originality checking and plagiarism prevention service. Use as part of a Canvas Assignment.

Alternatives to Remote Proctoring

In-Person Alternatives

For digital exams, an in-person, proctored setting offers a secure environment that maximizes exam integrity. Students access the digital test via their devices but complete it under the direct oversight of instructors or proctors. This combines the flexibility and efficiency of digital exams with the security of a supervised setting.

On paper
Paper-based exams provide an alternative that is free from technological constraints. These can be administered in a controlled environment where the physical distribution and collection of papers add an extra layer of security against dishonest practices.

Oral exams
Oral exams offer a unique, interactive way to gauge understanding and critical thinking skills. Conducted either in person or via video conferencing tools, oral exams allow instructors to dynamically adapt questions, probe deeper on responses, and effectively minimize the chances of cheating.

Online Alternatives

For digital exams offered asynchronously online, make sure the settings are configured for maximum effectiveness: select random questions from large question banks (especially if they are provided by a textbook publisher and may be found by students on sites such as Chegg), use a time limit, show one question at a time and restrict ‘free’ navigation of the exam, and require short answer/essay questions where students explain answers to multiple choice questions

Panopto Quizzes
Panopto offers the option to embed quiz questions within videos and the scores from these video quizzes can be recorded in the Canvas gradebook.

Video Recording
Similar to an in-person oral exam, you can task students to record a video of themselves responding to a prompt on video. This gives the opportunity for identity verification and the chance to provide individualized prompts to reduce information-sharing among students.



What are some practical examples of alternative assessment strategies I can implement in my classes?

You can explore options like group projects, reflective journals, case studies, peer assessments, oral presentations, and ePortfolios. These methods encourage active engagement and allow students to demonstrate their understanding in diverse ways.

How can I ensure the fairness and reliability of alternative assessments?

To maintain fairness, provide clear assessment criteria and guidelines to students. Consider using rubrics to evaluate their work consistently. You can also incorporate self-assessment and peer-assessment components to enhance objectivity.

Are there any challenges associated with using alternative assessment, and how can I address them?

Challenges may include increased grading time, varied student abilities, and resistance to change. Address these challenges by setting realistic expectations, offering support and training to students, and gradually incorporating alternative assessment methods into your teaching practice.

What options exist for continuing to use exams or proctoring?

  • Request to have your quizzes built
    • The Academic Technology and Resource Center is a resource where faculty can receive assistance in creating Canvas quizzes with features that promote academic integrity. The Center accepts requests to create Canvas quizzes for you or provide hands-on guidance to optimize your assessments for secure and reliable test-taking.
      Request Quiz Creation
  • Bulldog Testing Center
    • The Bulldog Testing Center offers a secure, proctored environment for faculty who want to administer supervised exams. Faculty can schedule a window of time for students to take their exams under the watchful eye of professional proctors. 
      Contact Bulldog Testing Center