SUBJECT: Guidance on Final Exams for Winter 2020

Dear faculty colleagues: 

We have been delighted at the positive reports on the teaching transition from your deans, describing the serious work going on in the trenches recording content, designing assignments, keeping in touch with and supporting our students. A big THANK YOU to our faculty colleagues for everything you are doing to ensure that our students continue to learn and keep advancing towards their graduation goals. 

We appreciate the feedback we are hearing about faculty flexibility with students around offering extensions, accepting late work without penalty, a willingness to work asynchronously where possible, and other strategies that allow people to manage their time effectively given all the burdens they are bearing.  We encourage and endorse such generosity at this particular time.

We know that the final exams and assessments have been a source of special concern and conversation for you and your colleagues recently. We have spent some time thinking about this as well. The present circumstances are taxing for you, but also for our students, who are likely experiencing challenges in their personal and professional lives. This does not necessarily mean that we have to craft easier exams, or do away with them altogether, but it does mean that we have to think differently about these assessments under these circumstances. 

We would like to share some recommendations for designing your final course assessments this term and in the summer sessions. Given the circumstances, you may well have to accept that what you might have planned at the start of the semester is no longer feasible or could inadvertently pose additional hardships on our students. Please start to consider if the assessment you had chosen at the start of the semester is still appropriate or if you should be very seriously considering an alternative way forward.

Given the outcomes/goals you had for the final assessment, what alternative assessment formats that work asynchronously would achieve most of those goals? Rutgers' Remote Exams website has 10 alternatives to exams. The special section for open-book assessment in quantitative courses offers suggestions such as show-all-work questions, conceptual questions, and questions in which students identify an error in a proof or computation.

Also, think about James Langs’ (a recent keynote speaker on our campus) suggestions about how to reduce cheating Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, or providing an honor code to your students before the test. Here are two pages from other universities with examples that could be adapted for use with your students.

Some of these suggestions might lead you to craft final assessments that may take slightly longer to grade. Please remember that we have extended the deadline for grade submission to 5:00 pm on April 28th, 2020.  

Whenever possible, we strongly encourage you to offer your final examinations in an asynchronous mode. This flexibility offers many advantages. As our students are managing multiple commitments and constraints, this flexibility will help them substantially if they are in a position to select a ‘good time’ to do such an important part of their coursework; this seems both fair and supportive. It also reduces concerns about potential bandwidth overload, or other technical issues owing to simultaneous student activity. For the same reasons, we strongly discourage setting strict completion time limits on your students. Please consider working with the Hub to redesign your synchronous or timed exams. For guidance on scheduling of the final exams in winter 2020, please see Scheduling of Final Exams.

Finally, we want to share some guidance about e-proctored exams. Most e-proctored exams, such as ProctorU, charge students directly (approximately $20/hour/exam) thus adding unanticipated educational costs in already strenuous times. Moreover, many students who are not in fully online programs --- which tend to use these software tools more frequently — are demonstrably uncomfortable with what they perceive as an invasion of privacy by e-proctoring solutions. Given the circumstances of this transition to remote teaching, and the multiple stresses our students are experiencing, we strongly discourage you from resorting to e-proctoring solutions unless you have been using them routinely in your program and courses before this transition and unless the students were made aware of this on your syllabus. On the whole, it is our considered advice, after careful research into various available options by the Office of the Provost and the Hub, that redesigned final assessments as described above will prove more effective and fairer to students now and in the future.

You all will likely have other, more creative ideas, which we hope you will share with the Hub and your colleagues. We have set up a GoogleGroup (‘HowITeach’) where you and your colleagues could post questions or share solutions as a community of practice. As always, remember that the Hub is available and happy to help you redesign your assessments or other aspects of your courses. Feel free to schedule a virtual meeting using the HUB's meeting bird online scheduling links.

With gratitude for all you are doing in these trying times! 

Ilir Miteza

Mitch Sollenberger

Carla Vecchiola

Office of the Provost

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