Alternative Assessment

Contingency planning: exploring rapid alternatives to face-to-face assessment

This guide aims to offer some suggestions for quick and reasonable alternatives to offering face-to-face classes and assessments online.

In transiting your assessments to online consider:

  • None of these quick fixes are likely to need considerable planning, training and activity.
  • Any alternatives should endeavour to “be as close as possible to the current unit running in face-to-face mode” and should maintain the balance of formative and summative assessment, as well as being inclusive, accessible, valid and reliable.
  • It’s easier to stick to low-tech and text-based systems. The simpler the better.
  • It is important that any changes to assessment are communicated and explained to both students and all those involved in assessment of learning outcomes. .

There are five basic strategies for you to consider:

1. Defer or re-schedule deadlines

  • Allow students more time to complete work, particularly if they themselves are ill
  • Relax deadlines for return of assessed work with feedback

2. Assess only what has been taught before the time of the campus-based restrictions

  • If it is difficult to reschedule some teaching for the remainder of the teaching period with activities that are not possible to move online, it may be possible to adjust assessments
  • Assess students only on material that has been delivered to date, so long as the course doesn’tinclude exams that are required by professional bodies and programs with accreditation standards as exemptions for professional exams

3. Consider how much assessment is still outstanding and decide whether you can waive further assessment

  • We might review what assessment has already taken place and, having considered whether it is essential that further assessments be undertaken, we could achieve a mark by averaging grades for work already submitted, rather than requiring the outstanding pieces to be completed.
  • This is not likely to be possible in professional courses and programs with accreditation standards where there are requirements for all learning outcomes to be demonstrably met, but might be possible on some programmes.

4. Change the mode of submission

  • Work can be submitted electronically using LEARN, LEARN Dropbox tool, or RRC Polytech email.

5. Offer alternative assessment formats:

What are suggested here are some reasonable adjustments to be used in times of crisis, which will not exactly replicate the original assessments, but may offer your students some manageable alternative.

If you currently use…. You could instead consider using …. To assure standards you might need to consider…
Time-constrained unseen exams in invigilated exam rooms or in-class tests
  • Take home exams, in which you set the questions or tasks virtually and ask students to submit their responses by email or through LEARN within a set period of time.
  • LEARN support timed release of examination papers and corresponding submission
The design of questions may need to be reframed to move away from recall-based tasks to questions that require students to demonstrate how they use information rather than reiterate what they have learned. It will be important, therefore, to provide guidance for students in the change in orientation of the task. It is also good practice to re-run any changes to question formats through the usual moderation processes.
Inclass presentations where students speak to an audience of their peers/others and are assessed not only on the content but also their presentation techniques. Ask students (individually or in groups) to submit a narrated presentation in electronic form.

  • PowerPoint offers a slide-by-slide voice-narration recording facility
  • Ask students to prepare a podcast or a video on the topic to be submitted electronically by email or through LEARN.
You will need to take account of the fact that, given the recorded presentation format, students can have multiple opportunities to prepare the item they are submitting, rather than having to cope with the one-off nature of a live presentation.
Oral assessment (e.g in language learning). Use WebEx for live video assessment or have students submit a recorded video Students may need significant support in developing confidence to work virtually where they have no prior experience.
Group collaboration, discussions, and activities Encourage your students to:


Staff as well as students may need be supported to learn how to use this approach if it isn’t currently part of their normal learning experiences.
Labwork It may be possible to replicate some aspects of lab work through simulations in which students are presented with data sets and required to interpret them. Often this means focusing on interpretation of data rather than working in the lab to achieve the results personally

Simulations can also be used remotely so students can ‘see’ data produced elsewhere and be asked to comment/interpret.

Virtual labs are an alternative for some disciplines.

If students can be provided with differentdata sets for personal interpretation, this can mitigate the risk of ‘over-sharing’ or personation.
Face-to-face feedback Individual and generic group feedback can be delivered by

  • Audio in the LEARN Dropbox tool
  • Video

Adapted from C Brown, S. & Sambell, K. (2020). Contingency planning: exploring rapid alternatives to faceto-face assessment. Microsoft Word Document, Staff and Educational Development Association, (SEDA), UK.