Moving Your Final Exams Online

Moving Your Final Exams Online

We know that making the change to distance delivery for finals in a short period of time can be a stressful undertaking. To make your work easier, the OTL has some suggestions and resources that will help get you started with making the move to distance testing.

Take Home Exams

Converting exams to a take-home option may be the most straightforward course of action. Although this may feel uncomfortable because we worry about students using outside sources, take-home exams can provide the most flexibility for students and faculty.

Some adjustments to consider if you want to shift to a take-home option:

  1. Acknowledge that resources are available to students–this helps them understand that you know they will have access to text, notes, etc. It is important to set up the expectations so that students know you are aware of the use of resources and it is permitted. Bonus–this reduces student anxiety, but be sure to see #4.  
  2. Ask application questions–questions that reach beyond simply regurgitating facts make the best take-home questions. Then students must engage with material and consider ways to apply what they’ve learned.
  3. Provide time limits–set a reasonable time from the moment you release the exam to the deadline. This will prevent students from having the luxury of looking up every answer. Students with accommodations for extra time can be individually allowed extra time within the canvas platform.
  4. Communicate that preparation time is still necessary. Students should organize and review their material before beginning the exam for optimal performance. Simply because an exam is take-home doesn’t mean that it’s easier or that students don’t have to study. Quite the opposite, in fact! Set students up for success by communicating that study time is still critical.  

Put your Short Answer and Essay Exams on Canvas

Short answer and essay questions can be easily converted to Canvas. Create a quiz and select essay question. Then write in your prompt. You will need to do this for each question. 

Alternatively, you could disseminate the questions via email or however you normally communicate with students and ask them to save their responses and submit them to you as a word document or pdf. This would be more akin to a take home project.

Handling Multiple Choice Exams

Multiple choice exams can be created in canvas in the same way quizzes are created. If you have created an exam in a QTI (skip if you have no idea what this means) you can import it. Then deploy your exam in Canvas.

If you don’t have the ability to import, creating multiple choice exams in Canvas is a tedious question-by-question process. You may want to consider adapting the exam or allowing it to be a take-home.

Adapting Final Presentations

Use a zoom session and ask students to share their screens. Students can simultaneously present and share any slides or visuals at the same time.

Or, choose to have students submit their product to grade (i.e. powerpoint file) rather than asking them to present.

Respondus/Lockdown Browser

Some instructors may also be using respondus/lockdown browser features already in their courses. If you are already using this technology in your class, please continue.

This service prevents students from using internet browsers, and can use integrated cameras to record students while they take exams. However, if you are not already used the integrated camera feature and are not confident students have cameras, there is likely not time for students to acquire compatible cameras.

Don’t Forget the Honor Code

Many instructors may have concerns about honor code violations in more open testing formats outside of classrooms. Consider including a statement of the honor code (like the text below)  and asking students to type their name to acknowledge their adherence to the code (

Addressing Testing Accommodations

Don’t forget to prepare for students who have documented accommodations. You are encouraged to work with students individually to determine the best course of action. If you are using Canvas for testing, you can set up additional time

Other Final Exam Options to Consider

  • Alternative online assignment: provide a set of prompts for students to write a critical reflection on what they learned in your class. Ask that their answers be submitted via Canvas or email. 
  • Online closed or open-book alternative assessment or assignment:This includes turning multiple-choice exams into a short answer format on Qualtrics, replacing the exam with a graded alternative assignment that can be emailed or uploaded to Canvas. 
  • Online optional assessment or assignment: Give students the choice to (a) accept their current grade; or (b) complete a final assessment or assignment for a chance to possibly improve their grade, this is especially important for students who may be struggling in your course.

Alternatives to Traditional Testing

Moving exams to a distance option can be a challenge. Rather than taking the traditional approach, consider other ways students can demonstrate meeting the learning outcomes in your course. Below are some great websites with suggestions for creative alternatives.

Among the recommendations:

Consider whether you could offer the option to base the grade on work to date. Students with concerning grades may need to be offered alternative work.

From We are Teachers
Using YouTube, social media, and gamification.

From University of Minnesota
Considering open-book, take-home, student portfolios, and using summaries.

From Berkeley
A final paper instead of a final, reflective papers, memorandum or briefing, writing an op-ed, a poster session (can be done virtually)

From Florida State University
This site provides some ideas for labs and using discussion forums.

From UC Davis
A great matrix on alternatives methods of testing and potential impacts on students.

Look for more OTL communications about upcoming sessions and drop-ins, coming soon!