Alternative online assessments

There are many possibilities for alternate students assessment online such as presentations, student-created videos, and online discussions. 

An open book exam is a student assessment method designed to promote and assess higher order learning such as critical thinking, problem solving, synthesis and evaluation. Open book exams, or take-home exams, require students to connect course material, their own experiences, and other sources of information to solve real-world scenarios or problems

  1. What to consider

    • Communicate to students the purpose and nature of an open book exam, along with explicit instructions such as time management, length, academic integrity, assessment criteria, timelines, and due dates.
    • Focus on problem-solving, critical reasoning, and application of skills rather than foundational recall of information.
    • Open book exams can be cumulative, drawing on content from the entire course.
    • Design questions that require students to identify and apply information from multiple sources, drawing on real-world scenarios.
    • Connect the exam questions to the course learning outcomes to focus on student learning and set the appropriate level of challenge. Be careful not to make the exam too difficult.
    • Provide student choice, such as selecting 2 out of 3 questions to answer, choice in topics, or finding additional resources as needed.
    • Open exams can also be done collaboratively in small groups.
    • For a timed open book exam use the D2L quiz tool or set the availability of the D2L Dropbox with a time limit.
  2. Resources

A case study presents students with a real-life or hypothetical scenario which is specific to the discipline and potentially what students might face in their careers. Case studies can be multidisciplinary and provide opportunities for students to apply concepts, research and evaluate other sources of information, work in groups, and present their ideas. Cases can be simple and short to long and complex. 

A quality case study has the following characteristics: 

  • there is no one clear answer or solution 
  • has sufficient information to promote a thorough analysis 
  • requires the student to think critically and analytically to recommend potential solutions 
  1. Assessment strategies for online case studies 

    • Post the case study in D2L and each student submits their response in the D2L dropbox. 
    • Present the case study in D2L and then have students work in groups using the D2L discussion board. Individual students can be assessed through their discussion contributions and a submitted assignment. Students could also complete the case as groups and submit a group assignment. 
    • Use the D2L quiz feature to create case-based questions for students to answer. 
  2. Resources 

A podcast is an audio narrative that uses audio recording to capture student self-expression and analytical skills in creative ways. A podcast is not a recording of a student reading a traditional paper. This assignment can be done individually (a voice memo) or collaboratively (conducting interviews).  

  1. What to consider

    • Have students listen to sample podcasts and share their thoughts in the discussion board 
    • Keep it simple, have students use their phones to record a 3-5 minute podcast. 
    • Require students to write a script they will submit alongside their audio file.  
    • Use a rubric to grade their final podcast assignment 
  2. Resources

    Assignment Design  

    Rubric ideas 

    Read about it 

A critical reflection paper combines critical and reflective thinking skills to articulate transformative learning that is supported by course learning materials and lived experiences. A critical reflection is not a summary of a reading but rather an opportunity for students to internalize and evaluate significant shifts in perspective that require openness and curiosity.   

  1. What to consider 

    • Provide examples and non-examples of critical reflection papers for students to read  
    • Use the discussion board to encourage conversation and questions about the papers 
    • Remind students to avoid thinking of this assignment as a diary entry  
    • Have students submit their critical reflection assignment via D2L Dropbox 
  2. Resources

    Assignment Design  

    Assignment Templates 

    Rubric ideas 

    Read about it 

Concept map is a visual organization and representation of how different concepts or ideas are intertwined and connected. It is a visual teaching tool to organize and structure knowledge to deepen understanding and comprehension. Concept maps can also be used to assess students’ knowledge and comprehension of abstract and complex concepts.  

  1. What to consider

    • It could be an individual assignment or a collaborative group assignment.  
    • Students could draw concept maps using pens and paper or create maps digitally. 
    • Get students to write a short paragraph explaining the concept map they’ve created or reflecting on the process.  
    • Provide specific instructions and expectations such as a grading rubric for this assignment.  
  2. Resources

    Digital concept mapping tools: 

    Using concept maps for assessment: 


    Read about it:

An infographic is a visual representation of information, including charts, diagrams, pictures and icons that are used with text and color to convey that information in a way that makes it easy for viewers to understand. When students create infographics, it requires them to analyze information, select the most salient content, and decide how to convey it to others. The infographic can be submitted alone or along with a short written paper in which the student outlines their decision-making process.

Finished assignments can be posted to a discussion board or used in an online student presentation.

Examples of student-created infographics:

An annotated bibliography assignment requires students to summarize the most salient literature on a course topic, making it a good choice for learning one topic in depth. Students develop skills in locating relevant literature, analyzing the quality of articles, understanding the arguments being made, and summarizing them in a brief description.

Example assignment guidelines:

Critiquing a current news article can be a meaningful learning experience as news articles are relevant and provide opportunity for critical analysis. Students will need to either critique a selected news article, or find one based on specific criteria to critique. This type of assignment can be used to assess students’ ability to identify credible news sources, research and provide other sources of supporting or contradicting information, express and justify their positions, and clearly communicate their ideas.

  1. What to consider

    • Provide examples of a news article critique and use the discussion board to discuss the elements of a good critique and news source. - Post a rubric or assessment criteria to help guide students work
    • Break the class into small discussion groups to provide each other with peer feedback
    • Use the D2L Dropbox for students to submit their assignment
    • Give students the option of using media to complete their assignment (such as recording a video or creating an infographic)
  2. Resources

Guiding questions are developed by the instructor to help students focus on their learning from an assignment. This technique actively engages students as they read, watch, and/or listen towards an identified goal (what you want them to know).

  1. What to consider

    • Using an assignment already planned or identified in the course outline, select an article, chapter, blog, or other document, post, youtube, video etc. for students to actively read and/or watch.
    • The assignment will be aligned with the course learning outcomes, the difference is if it was planned as an in-class assignment, it will be adapted to an online class.
    • Develop focused, guiding questions related to the assignment.
    • Students will use the guiding questions to work on the assignment.
    • Students can submit the assignment in the D2L dropbox and graded.
  2. Resources

Online discussions provide affordances for students to brainstorm ideas or work on project collaboratively, share their work, and reflect on the learning process. Different activities could be designed and implemented in online discussions to promote analytical and critical thinking. Start with a question or a prompt from the readings, the News or a video and ask students to post an original thought and a response to at least one other classmate’s comment.