Every test students take the remainder of spring semester has an extra question. The answer isn't found in any book or article, but is determined by how they arrive at the information to answer the other questions.
How to structure assessments and maintain academic integrity is one of the biggest challenges instructors and students face with online instruction in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Many instructors are adjusting the way they test students' knowledge, others are using technology to ensure rules are being followed, but for most, the answer lies with the students themselves.
"We really treat it as an opportunity for personal growth for our students," said associate professor of chemical and biological engineering and Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) faculty fellow Monica Lamm. "If we give them clear ground rules, what are they going to do, and how are they going to conduct themselves when no one is watching them?"
The move to online instruction is challenging because not every student has access to technology -- for example, high-speed internet or a computer in their home -- and that extends to testing.
"Students are not always as tech-savvy as we may think, so I have to provide more guidance and step-by-step instructions as much as possible," said associate professor of kinesiology Elizabeth Stegemoller.
Most instructors give students more time to complete tests online and may set aside time to answer questions they have during the exam.
Genetics, development and cell biology associate teaching professor Sayali Kukday identified several areas she adjusted to benefit students while still maintaining firm expectations for results.
Before the online switch, Kukday allowed students two attempts at a test and the ability to go back to questions and change answers. Now, tests are open-book with one chance to take them, and once a student moves from one question to the next, their answer is locked in.
Going to open-book testing has happened in courses across campus, but Kukday noticed scoring averages actually went down on the first attempt.
"I think the problem is students tend to think open-book means, 'Oh, I am not going to prepare, I am not going to study,'" she said. "They don't put the same time into preparing for it."
Lamm, who co-teaches her spring course with assistant teaching professor Karen Burt, provided reminders to students along with a study guide before a test to help them prepare and troubleshoot. It included:
- Where will you work on the assessment?
- What time will you start?
- Allow enough time to upload your work.
- Think about how you will uphold the idea of academic integrity.
They also compiled a list of what could and could not be used to take a test. To accommodate students with slow internet service, they gave the class 12 hours to complete the exam.
Music while miles apart
Testing students in the music department brings its own set of challenges. Unlike other departments, there was little online presence to build upon for virtual instruction.
"We had one or two classes with one format offered always being online," said professor of music and Faculty Senate president Jonathan Sturm.
Sturm modified how he administers tests in Canvas. Each test comes in two versions -- Microsoft Word and a PDF -- allowing students with a stylus to write directly on the document while others type. It includes uploaded music examples for the students to listen to and answer more questions.
"Some of the exam is the same as if it were face-to-face, but I am trying to do fewer of the multiple choice or quick answer, and I follow that with a more thoughtful question," Sturm said. "They have to explain the answer, and that would be impossible to do unless they know the answer."
Music faculty also are conducting music continuation exams and performance juries online, which required new technology to accommodate a wide range of needs.
Associate professor Sonja Giles said she uses multiple apps for specific online purposes. Giles and other faculty use Zoom or Webex and apps in Canvas for studios and juries, but three other apps meet other needs.
- Flipgrid: Allows students to record themselves and send the file to their instructor with better audio quality than an app like FaceTime.
- Acapella: For pieces of music that need accompaniment, this app allows students to record one part and play it back while they add the other(s).
- Auralia: Ear-training app delivered through Canvas.
Continuation exams -- a milestone that must be passed in the late sophomore or early junior year to continue in a major -- will be adjusted from a live 40-minute examination to recordings of the required performances.
"They will record a video that includes a prepared repertoire, a self-prepared piece, and then do sight-singing or reading on the actual day of the exam during finals week," Sturm said. "We will give students an hour to download the sight-reading or singing, look at it, record it and submit it. A jury of faculty will then watch it."
With the university's online testing centers closed, instructors can use a lockdown browser in Canvas. It doesn't allow students to print, copy, visit other websites or access other applications until they submit their test. Respondus Monitor, a webcam feature enabled when the browser is locked, records students during online, nonproctored assessments.
CELT made instructors aware of Respondus Monitor but cautioned how and when they use it.
"It doesn't guarantee success, and it doesn't necessarily deter cheating," said CELT program coordinator Lesya Hassall.
Stegemoller planned to use Respondus Monitor but had to adjust because of technology issues.
"A student emailed me five minutes before the exam to say they couldn't get their webcam to work, so I just went into my exam and took the webcam off. I don't want to create any more anxiety for them. I use it to set the bar that I expect academic integrity."
Stegemoller tries to honor accommodation requests whenever possible, but said there are limits to how far she can go for one student without putting the rest of the class at a disadvantage.
"I have learned you just have to let some things go," she said. "You can't control everything."
Being flexible and adjusting expectations on a case-by-case basis is important to overall student success, Kukday said. She stressed not drastically changing how a class is taught.
"I used active learning strategies in the class before we went online, and I continue to do that," she said. "You have to be consistent dealing the same level of complexity from before to after moving online."
Stegemoller said acting with grace and understanding can be beneficial to students -- but also is something instructors should apply to themselves.
"Professors and teachers are very perfectionistic in their approach," she said. "At this point, give yourself a little bit of grace. Get students the information you want them to learn and if it is not perfect, it is OK."