Learning remotely is probably a big adjustment for yourself and your classmates. It might even feel overwhelming. There are things you can do to help you succeed with this unfamiliar mode of learning. First, take a look at the more general tips below to help you get organized. Next, use this resource to learn more about the types of assessment that apply to you. You should be able to find some useful information about how to tackle your assignments and exams successfully.
General tips for learning remotely:
- Create a folder on your computer for every class if you have a computer. If not, figure out how you’ll stay organized.
- Check the Student Notes Class Portal to be sure you know how your instructor will be communicating with you.
- Log into UR Courses and look for a revised syllabus. Save it to the folder. If there is no revised syllabus, check your email. If there is still no revised syllabus, save the original one. Whichever one is most recent is the one you should go by.
- Read the syllabus and make note of: exam/quiz dates, deadlines, if the class is being held synchronously (you log in when the class would normally be held) or asynchronously (you can access the materials any time), how office hours work, and which softwares are being used for what purposes.
- Make yourself a one-page cheat sheet for each class (doing it on paper is a good idea as writing physically reinforces the information). Write the name of the course on the top. On one side, list all of the technologies being used and what they are being used for (e.g. lecture - Google Classroom, Office hours - Zoom, Course materials - Google Drive). Most classes are blending technologies so you want to make sure you are using the right thing at the right time.
- Those cheat sheets you just made? Tape them on your wall, and then log all your deadlines in the system of your choice. For example, you might prefer paper with the "make my phone yell at me" backup.
- Plan 2-3x the amount of time you normally would for any assignment. Expect typos and mistakes you would not normally make. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your professors. We are all adjusting and dealing with many stresses.
- Remember that you are just an organism. You need sleep, sunlight, food, and safety. No one has all of these right now, so you can expect your brain to lag on you. Brains need to be safe to learn and we are all finishing this semester under the neurological strain of an immediate threat to life. Do your best, but remember that your academic performance is not indicative of your worth period, but especially so right now
- There are a lot of stressful things going on right now so if you need to reach out for help, please do so. University of Regina has resources for mental health.
General Information About Assessment
You can expect to find different forms of assessments in the courses you are taking into the future. Recent world events (COVID-19 pandemic in winter 2020) have created the need to assess students’ work in alternate ways, different from some of the methods commonly used before: large group invigilated written exams, or even multiple-choice, short answer online timed exams.
It will be very helpful if you take some time to understand these different forms of assessments, and how they will impact your success in your courses. Learning new success skills may take some getting used to. That is why we have written the sections below, to overview the various assessment types you may encounter and to provide tips to successfully show what you have learned.
Presentations test your ability to communicate your knowledge, ideas and message to a targeted audience effectively, in a medium other than pure text. They are a structured performance.
NOTE: If you are managing anxiety, and speaking to a crowd is debilitating for you, speak to your Instructor about an alternative assessment:
Respecting Students’ Presentation Anxiety: in fairness, some students will need alternative assessments (Some Students Want to Abolish In-Class Presentations)
You will need to be clear on how your presentation will be assessed. Below is an example of how the University of Reading assesses presentations. Ask your instructor to provide clear expectations.
Three dimensions of a presentation: (University of Reading, UK Staff and Student Feedback and Assessment Sheet for a Presentation)
Be sure to perform well in each of these dimensions:
- Mastery of Subject Matter
- Knowledge and understanding of core material
- Extent, quality and appropriateness of research
- Conceptual grasp of issues, quality of argument, and ability to answer questions
- Mastery of the Stage:
- Quality of room management, including use of chosen technologies
- Effective use of audio-visual material - whiteboard, visual aids, etc.
- Organisation/structure of material (intro; main body; conclusion)
- Mastery of Communication:
- Audibility, liveliness, clarity, and engagement of presentation
- Confidence and fluency in use of language and chosen technologies
- Appropriate use of body language (inc. eye contact)
- Listening skills: responsiveness to audience
Possible Criteria for Grading Your Presentations:
Your grader(s) will choose specific grading criteria, primarily from things like the list below; be sure to know from the very outset, which of these criteria they will be looking for in your presentation:
A. Presenter Skills
- Eye contact
- Facial expression
- Voice (enthusiasm)
- Voice (pitch)
- Voice (volume)
- Voice (expression)
- Voice (articulation/enunciation/pronunciation)
- Voice (pace)
- Voice (volume)
- Smooth transitions through sequenced topics
- Non-distracting use of notes
- If using media, the presenter faces the audience, not the screen
- Clear objectives
- Clear framing of how the presentation will unfold at outset
- Quantity of content is appropriate
- Selected content supports objectives
- Selected content relates to course material
- Selected content shows evidence of cited research
- Selected content shows presence of critical analysis
- Selected content is balanced, does not show evidence of researcher bias
- Content is organized
- Presentation closes with effective summary and conclusions, in which conclusions, recommendations and limitations are all stated
C. Use of Media
- Best practices for effective slides are followed
- The Seven Deadly Sins of PowerPoint Presentations are avoided
- Grammar, spelling, etc. is accurate
- Images reinforce and complement the message
- Images are properly cited
- Media runs without glitches or delays
- Media-presenter interface is smooth and seamless
- Distracting bells and whistles are absent
Forum discussion participation is a popular method for instructors to assess individual and group participation in an online or blended course, and to determine level of understanding of course content. Forum discussions do two things that you need to be good at to succeed as a student:
Forum posts are your opportunity to show your Instructor that you are fully participating in the class - don’t waste it. Post to the forum diligently according to the instructions in the Syllabus.
- They are your opportunity to learn your course material better by talking about it with classmates. Good forum involvement is actually a way of preparing for exams.
In some courses, your Instructor might have you do a “Forum Digest.” If so, read this section carefully!
What you are directed to do:
- Create a small portfolio of your best posts throughout the semester,
- Explain the context of those posts in the ongoing discussion,
- explain how your posts relate to the course objectives,
- provide a rationale for why you chose the particular posts,
- provide an over-arching description of how your forum digest demonstrates your growth during the semester.
- Instructions on how students can digest their posts in UR Courses
- Criteria for judging the quality of your postings:
- Posts are well developed responses that fully address and develop all aspects of the Instructor’s prompting question;
- Posts include factually correct, reflective and substantive contribution;
- Posts’ references are properly cited, as required by the Instructor;
- Posts contributes to discussion with clear, concise comments;
- Posts advance the overall class discussion;
- Posts never challenge your classmates’ core cultural identity and so induce “the backfire effect”;
- Posts demonstrate thoughtful analysis of your classmates’ posts, and extend meaningful discussion by building on others’ previous posts;
- Posts are in the expected register of communication: casual, informal or formal;
- Posts are respectful, observing the rules of netiquette.
- Here are criteria for judging netiquette:
- Use appropriate language. Excessive use of “chat” or “instant messaging” jargon is not acceptable for online discussions.
- Read existing follow-up postings and don’t repeat what has already been said.
- Inappropriate and/or offensive language, especially comments that might be construed as racist or sexist, are not appropriate and will be dealt with on an individual basis.
- Be careful with humor and sarcasm. One person’s humorous comment can be another person’s boorish or degrading remark.
- Do not use all caps in an online environment. Using all caps is considered SHOUTING.
- Use proper spelling, capitalization, grammar, usage, and punctuation. Utilize the Spell Check feature.
- Remember that there are other human beings reading your postings, so treat everyone with respect. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t be willing to communicate face to face.
(Adapted from: The University of Washington School of Medicine/Global Health/Department of Public Health Grading Rubric for Weekly Online Discussions)
You have been directed to collect and curate a selection of your term work into a portfolio, according to guidelines set down by your Instructor.
How you will benefit from your portfolio:
- Since you are in charge of your portfolio, its success is in your own hands
- You will enjoy the freedom to choose your own artifacts, based on your keenest interests.
- You get to connect the content of the course to their personal lives, through your portfolio choices.
- You will have to become good at making decisions, because you can’t just cram everything into your portfolio like a hoarder.
- Your meta-cognitive thinking will develop, as you reflect on your separate artifacts, and figure out what makes them contribute to a cohesive whole.
Read your Instructor’s guidelines and follow them closely
- Your portfolio will not be simply a collection of artifacts - it is a curation - i.e. for each artifact you choose, you must provide a succinct rationale for why you included it, and you must also submit an over-arching explanation of how your whole portfolio ties together as a whole that reflects the major learning goals of the course.
Depending on the discipline, the guidelines set down and the kinds of student artifacts will vary greatly (see Resources, below).
- Follow the guidelines and the sequence of artifact due dates clearly from the very start of the term, so that your Portfolio is created in sync with the unfolding course content, and not crammed in at the last minute.
- Tie your chosen artifacts to your Instructor’s major course goals. For example, if research skills are a key goal, an annotated bibliography would be a good artifact to be included, along with a small collection of scholarly articles that you have reviewed. If media literacy is a goal, then a collection of media artifacts along with your analysis and criticism. If an important theory within the subject discipline is a key goal, then items that apply and illustrate that theory being active in the real world, would be a good artifact to include.
- Ask your Instructor to model some good artifacts, and pay close attention when they do, noting their explanation of why it is included in its portfolio; also, ask your Instructor to model some weak artifacts, and listen carefully to their explanation of why they are weak.
- Teaching Portfolios: https://teaching.usask.ca/teaching-support/teaching-portfolios.php#About
- Journalism Portfolios: How to make your journalism portfolio stand out
- Visual Arts Portfolios: Portfolio Requirements - Visual Arts
- Engineering Portfolios: (PDF) Engineering Portfolios: Value, Use, and Examples Engineering Portfolios: Value, Use, and Examples
- Social Work Portfolios(PDF)
- Preparing Your Portfolio
- Liberal Arts Portfolios: Credit by Portfolio
- Undergrad Science Portfolios: Portfolio - Course guides 2019 Faculty of Science
- Undergrad Business Portfolios: STUDENT PORTFOLIO: HOW-TO & SAMPLES
- Nursing Portfolios: Nursing Portfolio | How to Create, Examples, and What is it?
- Tomprof.stanford.edu: Student Portfolios: An Alternative Way of Encouraging and Evaluating Student Learning
- White, C.M. “Student Portfolios: An Alternative Way of Encouraging Student Learning,” In Achacoso, M. V., & Svinicki, M. D. (2005). Alternative strategies for evaluating student learning. Ch.5. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
You have been directed to write metacognitively about your learning throughout the term.
Genuine learning creates actual changes in your thinking, attitudes and behaviour. A good way to assess your personal growth over the course of a semester is through a REFLECTIVE JOURNAL. Follow the Instructor’s guidelines and prompts for reflection along the way. A good journal demonstrates your personal changes that have occurred, along with an understanding of HOW and WHY they occurred.
This is what the URegina Student Success Office says about Reflective Journals: Learning Journals I | Student Success Centre
"Your learning journal is a commentary on your learning curve. It should reflect not just what you have learned but how you've learned it. What were the key turning points in your understanding of the subject area? Remember that a learning journal unfolds in time: it's not the same thought pattern at one stage as at the next. But you also need to show the continuities between one stage of development and the next. One strategy you can use is to reflect back on what you said earlier and let your reader know when and why you changed your mind. This is called "metacognition" or "recursion." It means you're thinking about your writing AS you write. In effect, you're drawing a map of your thought process in the midst of the process itself. Obviously, a learning journal is a dynamic entity, subject to alterations, changes in direction, etc. during the time it's being composed."
- Good Reflective Journals: (McGill University, Guidelines for Assessment of Experiential Learning)
- Show a mixture of content and process: there should be a balance between the reflections and the underlying content/theory and disciplinary skills.
- Engage in purposeful, meaningful reflection that encourage a “big picture” perspective.
- Your writing must be personally and emotionally relevant to you, and show the connections you are making between your learning in the course and the real world.
- Critical reflection: you should critically reflect on your own learning, connecting your experience to theory and gaining insight into yourself and your interactions with the world.
- You can also consider how your new skills, knowledge and experiences are transferrable to other situations or environments, including those outside of academia.
Open-book Take-home Exam
An open-book take-home exam is a set of questions provided - often ahead of time. You will be given a set time length to complete. The time to complete can vary, but is usually a bit longer than an in-person exam. The instructions for Take-home exams are usually very specific and will outline exactly what resources you will be permitted and also not permitted to use during the time you are writing.
The benefit of an open-book take-home exam is that you won’t be required to memorize massive amounts of material. However you will be expected to provide more well-thought out responses than memory recall exams such as quiz format require. So be prepared to write solid analytic and theoretical responses during your exam in some detail. Be sure that you are avoiding plagiarism in your work. You can also expect to be graded fairly toughly since instructors will expect - with your access to the resources they specify - to be so familiar with the materials that you can provide well thought out analysis and critique, and to edit your work so it is readable and well cited, as required by your instructor.
For those of you who deal with exam anxiety you may quite enjoy this type of examination. You will have some time to figure out how to respond well. But that doesn’t mean you will have time to cheat. Your instructor will have written the exam questions such that you won’t be able to find answers by looking around. Your best solution is to know your course material well.
- Study! Study! Study! Focus on understanding concepts thoroughly rather than on memorization.
- Make notes as you study to keep track of themes, topics, and connections between concepts. You can also flag important sections to make them easier to find later.
- Ask for clarification if you are not clear about the expectations. For example, you should know what resources you are expected to use, any citation requirements, whether or not you are allowed to collaborate with others, and what is expected with respect to formatting and editing.
- During the exam, take the time to present clear, concise, and well thought out answers. Since you have more time than an in-class exam, typically the expectations will be higher with respect to the quality of your writing and the depth and breadth of your answers.
Project (Individual or Group)
A project is a good way to assess students' ability to APPLY their learning to a real-life-like scenario (either teacher-assigned or student-selected). A good project tests students' knowledge, understanding and critical analysis of content, and also demands reasoned, relevant, and thoughtful, decision-making, communication skills and creativity.
Projects can encompass all sorts of forms and formats. It is any discrete undertaking that generally has some form of virtual, paper, video, or actual artifact. Students should try to choose a project format that clearly demonstrates and showcases knowledge, skills and abilities.
Possible artifacts include:
- Research project write-up
- Help guide
- Lab instructions
- Photographs with write-ups
- PDF documents
- Implementation plan, marketing strategy
- The applications are many.
- Be clear on the guidelines and grading criteria set out by your instructor before you begin. Guidelines can include anything from assignment length, to use of sources, to overall creativity in these guidelines. Ask your instructor for clarification if necessary.
- Choose a project that is meaningful to you. If it is something you care about, you will be more engaged and motivated which will translate into deeper learning and a more personally satisfying experience.
- It is possible your instructor provided you with a suggested schedule and feedback points to help you with the process. Try to follow the schedule closely so you do not run out of time at the end and get off-track. If this has not been provided, create a schedule for yourself and ask your instructor for feedback early on to make sure you are on the right path.
- Remember that a good project demonstrates the following:
- knowledge of key concepts
- analysis of the relations among key concepts
- application of the key concepts to solving a problem
- critical thinking skills to support decision-making
- clear, concise, organized, engaging communication
Annotated Bibliography or Literature Review
An annotated bibliography is a listing of sources, arranged in bibliographic order, with summarizations of the sources. It usually follows a particular style guide format (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc). It can also include critique and analysis of each source, depending on the requirements of the assignment. Annotated bibliographies can vary in length, both in number of sources and in the length of summary and analysis required. Be sure to follow closely your Instructor’s requirements (see below for more detail) - if the directions are unclear, ask questions!
A literature review takes this process farther and is a way to demonstrate that you have more widely investigated the current state of scholarship on a particular topic; you do this by listing sources, often arranged by theme or argument. Connections between sources should then be discussed as a way to map the particular area of scholarship. Literature reviews can be part of a larger assignment, such as a research project, a study, or a thesis. It is important to ensure that you understand what is being asked of you and what your finished product should look like.
- Ensure that you are clear about your instructor’s expectations. Can you answer the questions below for an annotated bibliography?
- How many sources are required? Is there also a maximum number of sources?
- How long should my annotations be?
- Do I need to include anything beyond a summary and an analysis/critique of the usefulness of the source?
- Am I supposed to draw connections between sources?
- What types of sources should/can/must I include?
- How about these questions for a literature review?
- Do you have enough guidance for defining your topic? Is it an argument paper or a survey or examining a hypothesis?
- Are there expectations on the number of sources?
- Is there guidance on the length of each entry?
- How should you group your entries (theme? chronological? position?)?
- Plan ahead for how to take notes as you read sources to keep track of which ones will be included and tracking main points. If this assignment leads into another assignment, you may want to take more detailed notes as you read. Consider if you want to take handwritten notes or prefer to type? Do you want to use a notebook or recipe cards? If using electronic sources, how will you organize any PDFs or links?
- Archer Library SPARK info on annotated bibliographies: Annotated Bibliographies - SPARK
- A guide for students writing an annotated bibliography: Writing an Annotated Bibliography | Writing Advice
- Information on writing literature reviews: Writing a literature review assignment (and for instructors: providing guidance)
- A guide on writing a literature review for students: How to write a literature review · Help & Writing
Fact sheets are a method of condensing technical, scientific, and/or academic information into an easily readable format for an audience not familiar with the material, usually in a one or two page handout. Since they can be used to consolidate extensive information on a subject and translate complex information into common language, it can be used to assess students’ ability to consolidate a wide range of material and to share or teach it to others. Fact sheets have real-world applications as they are often distributed to the general public or specific groups of people to disseminate important information.
- Be clear on the expectations and guidelines set out by your instructor such as length, formatting guidelines, and target audience. If you need clarification, reach out to your instructor.
- Research your topic using a range of reputable sources, and then determine what information is MOST important to include for your intended audience. Determine how that information should be organized.
- Write in easily understandable language for an audience who may not be familiar with the information. Try to avoid technical terms and simplify complex concepts using simple, common everyday language.
- Be clear, concise, and polished. Your space is limited and your fact sheet will likely be informationally dense, so choose your words and images carefully!
- Anticipate and address potential questions your intended audience may have. You may want to have a friend or family member read your fact sheet for understanding to get some feedback on this.
- Graphics can be used as interest on the page.
- Double check your facts and figures for accuracy.
- Use an interesting layout design to catch the audience’s eye.
Oral exams are a method of examining a student’s knowledge and ability to critically analyze and defend it in the present moment. Oral exams can also be used to assess the integration of theoretical principles to real-life situations, scenarios, or to practice settings. You will be asked to provide thoughtful and well-informed answers to higher level questions. These questions and scenarios could be provided ahead of time, so you will have time to research and provide references as required at the time of examination.
An oral exam will allow you to show how much theory you have been able to absorb and to apply to other material you have already learned, as well as to real life situations. You might be asked to demonstrate a set of skills learned in the course and relate the relevant theory while doing so.
Oral exams can take place in person or via web conferencing methods. You may or may not be permitted to have a support person present. If the oral exam is done via web conferencing, your support person would need to be introduced and be visible to the instructor at all times.
How can you Prepare?
- Be sure that you understand the exam requirements. This will help you to prepare and to stay within the expected guidelines at the time of the exam. Don’t hesitate to clarify any questions or concerns you have ahead of time with the instructor.
- Be clear on the exam description, what is being assessed, how long it is to be, what materials you can bring if any, and how you will be graded.
- Give yourself time to prepare - start several weeks ahead of time.
- Be sure to study the relevant theories taught in the course and be prepared to discuss them at the time of the oral. This has the added bonus of also preparing for any written exams at the same time!
- Be prepared for questions during the exam - practice with other students if possible (see Example Questions below)
- If you have the opportunity, pick the time slot during the day when you are the most alert.
Examples of higher level questions for the Strategic Sampling Method:
- Provide examples of key terms being illustrated in contemporary society, and explain why their chosen illustrations are good ones.
- Apply key terms to a challenging scenario that you describe in your test question.
- Provide pairs of terms to compare and contrast.
- Make rational interconnections between groups of 3 -5 key terms.
- Describe common misconceptions of the term, and explain why these misconceptions are a problem to society.
- Propose (and create a rationale for) a workable research question that would lead to further investigation of the term.
- Solve complex problems in Math, Science, Health Sciences and Engineering.
Many resources on oral exams relate to thesis or PhD oral examination and can be adapted to undergraduate settings.
University of Regina resources on oral examinations, search for Oral Exams at https://www.uregina.ca/search.html
Quizzes or Exams
Online quizzes and exams are similar to pen and paper exams with the exception that you are doing your exam on your computer or mobile device. You may encounter a number of different types of questions, with the most common being multiple choice, true or false, and essay questions. Your quiz may have a strict time window to complete where all students are expected to start at the same time, it may have a wider time slot to begin but be on a strict timer once you start, or it may be more open. You may have one attempt or many, depending on your instructor’s intent with the exam.
There are some specific things you can do to make sure you are prepared for your exam that will help reduce your stress and improve the chances that things will go smoothly.
- If it is possible, using a computer rather than a phone or tablet is recommended.
- If you are able to use a wired connection, that is the best option, but if not, finding as stable a wireless or cell connection as possible is important. No need to add to your stress by having your internet cut out during the exam.
- Make sure you know where you will find the exam, whether it is in UR Courses or elsewhere.
- Double check the timing of the exam:
- When will it be available (double check time zones if you are not in Saskatchewan)?
- Do you have to start it at that time or do you have some flexibility?
- How long do you have to complete your exam once you begin?
- Be sure you know if your instructor is allowing options like taking the quiz or exam more than once.
- If possible, minimize distractions and interruptions. If you can find somewhere quiet to do your exam, that is ideal. Make sure you will be able to stay there for the duration of writing the exam. Let anyone sharing space with you know that you will be busy and not available unless absolutely necessary. If your pets have a tendency to interrupt, try to minimize their opportunities.
- Make sure you are aware of what you are allowed to access during the exam. In many cases, you may not be allowed to access class notes, textbooks, etc. That is referred to as a “closed-book” exam. An open-book exam indicates you are allowed to access at least some resources. If you are not sure, ask your instructor ahead of time. This is an issue of academic integrity and not following these requirements is a form of academic misconduct.
- If you have never taken an online quiz or exam before, try out a practice quiz if available. This will let you see what the exam looks like and how it works.
- If you experience any issues during your exam, make sure to contact your instructor as quickly as possible.
- If you have accommodations that would impact the exam, such as increased time for an exam or needing a reader or typer, contact your instructor in advance of the exam to determine what can be arranged.
- If you will be unable to complete the exam due to a lack of access to devices or internet, contact your instructor as early as possible to discuss alternate arrangements.
- Ensure you are clear on the topics the exam covers and how your instructor recommends you prepare. If they have provided any sample questions, ensure you understand how to answer those question types.
- Check out the UR Courses Student Guide for info on taking Quizzes and Exams.