Assessment Best Practices

March 11, 2020

Learn more about alternative assessments for online courses.

A vector illustration of a laptop and other interfaces interacting in a very futuristic way.

When considering assessments, it is important to understand the impact and alignment of how the assessment matches outcomes for the course. The natural assumption is that proctoring will generate more thorough and credible learning experiences. Research shows that this is not necessarily true. Online proctoring has additional considerations around the added stress and anxiety on students and the impact this has on their performance, the additional setup necessary for the technology, and the possible technology challenges and issues. In short, not every assessment needs proctoring. The likelihood for cheating may be lower on different assignments depending on the assignment type, the trust the student has in the instructor and the course, value of the assignment in actual learning, and clarity of instruction. 


Want to create an assessment that is less likely to encourage cheating? Research shows the best way to avoid academic dishonesty is to avoid high stakes exams and short turnaround times.  In place of high-stakes assessments, consider using a video presentation for major assessments or converting a large paper or large complex math problem into a nested assignment where stages or portions are due on separate dates. Methods such as these are shown to have lower risk of contract cheating than many other assignment types. 

Alternative assessment ideas include having students:

  • Create a nested assignment that has parts due at intervals
  • Complete a real-world application of the content such as a problem-based project or practical application 
  • Tackle a bigger problem or project with no single right answer
  • Write a memorandum or brief
  • Create an annotated anthology or chapter on a topic
  • Write a reflective paper covering the content and implications
  • Video presentation or oral analysis

For more ideas and further details, view strategies 14-17 in Teaching Continuity Strategies.

Using Remote Proctoring

If you plan on using online proctoring, be sure to prepare your students for any upcoming large proctored event by providing them a practice activity with the software first. This allows time to work out some technical challenges and reduce the anxiety and stress that comes with using a proctoring option. Technology should never be a barrier to the learning experience. Outside of this preparatory experience, we recommend that proctoring should be reserved for midterm and final exams.  

Overutilization of online proctoring, such as using it for frequent low-stakes reading quizzes, chapter quizzes, or homework assignments, creates undue hardship on the students and system.


Bretag, T., Harper, R., Burton, M., Ellis, C., Newton, P., van Haeringen, K., ... & Rozenberg, P. (2019). Contract cheating and assessment design: exploring the relationship. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 44(5), 676-691.

Authored By

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Daniel Whitaker (Guest Author)
Former Instructional Designer, Digital Learning