If you are seeking to assess learning in a more flexible way but still want to have some form of exam, an open-book take-home exam may work. These exams rely on time constraints although they are generally longer than an in-person exam. If you use a take-home exam to replace a final exam, you must use the date set by the Registrar’s Office as your due date. Take-home exams may include limiting resources used, requiring students to rely more on course materials and their own learning. Such exams have less pressure on memorization, and often rely on more knowledge construction, helping to reduce the likelihood of cheating. They also allow a bit more time for students to work through answers and focus on analysis, synthesis and critical thinking which is especially useful for those students who are EAL or who have exam anxiety. These exams tend to be more challenging and have higher expectations than traditional timed exams as students are expected to edit their work and the focus is on knowledge mastery rather than quick thinking or recall.

What is an open-book take-home exam?

An open-book take-home exam is a set of questions provided to students with a limited window of time to complete them from the time they are given the instructions with the assumption that they can access resources to assist with their answers. The time window can vary, although giving less than 48 hours is problematic, as students may need more time to access equipment. Giving a longer time allows for higher expectations of students, both in terms of content and editing. Students should be told clearly what resources they can use. Given the realities, it may be best to assume that students can and will access all class resources and potentially anything they can find on the internet as well.

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  • Be clear in expectations of students in regard to what resources they will be required to use, citation requirements, and expectations regarding collaboration - or no collaboration. Also be clear on expectations of formatting and level of editing.
  • Questions should be crafted to be answerable in multiple ways using expected resources with a focus on analysis, synthesis, and evaluation that would make it more problematic to seek external help.
  • Choose your time frame with thought and recognition of other demands on student time and/or access to required software or equipment.
  • Students might also want to collaborate in composing their answers, and this needs to be addressed, however you see fit. You will have to rely on the honour system to some degree, as you do with any assessment not completed in front of you. Be clear on what is and is not allowed and why it matters beyond potential punishment. Incorporating personal experience and thought, as well as creativity where possible can encourage students to produce their own work.
  • Ensure that the questions you share are provided in an accessible format that can be opened on any device (e.g. PDF, web page, email, Assignment or Quiz tool in UR Courses, Google Doc, etc.)

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