Testing is a big topic of discussion right now.  Delivery of our courses remotely will continue into the fall, and with that testing will also continue to be done online.  It’s worth the time to look at your course materials and the learning outcome to see if a test is the most appropriate method of assessment.  

If possible, replacing a test with another assessment is a way to address concerns with academic misconduct and unauthorized collaboration in an environment where controls are not as strict as they have been in the past. 

Some courses will still need a test, based on the subject matter or the learning outcomes.  In that case, it is worth have a look at the questions and type of exam to see how it can be adjusted.  The way that we are currently teaching and delivering testing lends itself well to open book testing.  

Open book questions call on students to apply materials, not just copy from the course materials or repeat something found in the textbook.  Open book questions can really challenge students to think about what they have learned, how they understand it, and how the information is applied in the real world.  

Even for closed book tests, asking questions that students can flip to in course materials are not the best right now.  Multiple choice questions that challenge students to demonstrate an understanding, not a repetition, of materials is ideal for our situation. 

If you are using a test bank, take the time to make adjustments to it.  Chances are the test bank you are using is on a website somewhere and students will just search for it.  Take the time to change names or items in the question so that students do not just copy it into a search engine.  For example, if the test bank says “Sally sells apples”, change it to “Manjeet sells pens”.  The application of the idea doesn’t change, but it deters students from copying answers.  

PACE is mandating the use of a test bank starting this fall. We will work with instructors to set this up; in short it requires that tests have a bank of a minimum of 1.5x the number of questions individual students will see so that the tests can be randomized.   

Take the time to think about the use of tests, and the questions, to ensure that academic rigor is maintained. 

After posting this, I had this shared with me. It is a great visual of the question of testing in the current setting:

So you need to put your exam online?

Things I’ve Learned – Wrap Up

My course with U Calgary on teaching in the virtual classroom wrapped up this past weekend.  We were tasked to look at tools we have learned to use in our online platform and how we would incorporate them into a virtual class session.   It was a great way to end off the course and to think about how you want to have the students become engaged with the material, the instructor, and each other. 

As you’ve probably seen by now, Zoom has a lot of tools that can be used when teaching a class.  The trick is to think first about what you want to achieve in the session, what is the topic and the outcome, and only then to think about the tools and how they work.  Only use the tools that are going t work for your topic and outcome, don’t try to make things fit (the square peg in the round hole idea). As a general rule, when first teaching a group, the recommendation is to start with simple tools before moving the complex, and to check at the start of each session that everyone remembers how to use the tools and is ‘good to go’.

In Zoom, the tools range from: 

ToolUsed forKeep in mind
Cameramaking a connection with the classstarting / ending a sessionUse selectively for best impactNot everyone may want to turn on their cameraUsing it continuously adds very little when someone can only see your face
ChatGeneral conversationSharing spellings, linksGetting input from a large number of people Checking understanding on things with simple responsesChat is recorded as a text file and is not visible in a recordingGood practice to read the chat aloud so that the recording picks it upConsider pre typing messages you want to send in a Word Doc so that you copy and paste to save time
Chat (private)Can connect one on one with individuals Be sure to change back to everyone when you want to text the groupAnd that you are not on group when sending a private message! 
Raise handTo check for questionsTo allow for interruptions To select someone to answer a questionLower hands after use so that you know when they are raised next timeShows in the participant window 
VotingStraight forward options with only 2 choicesChecking that everyone is in session or at their computerClear after use Has a built-in counter so that instructor can see the number of respondents Shows in the participant window
Whiteboard UW account currently allows only for host to annotateCan preset materials onto the whiteboard, but have to have meeting open to do thatCan save a copy to your computer
Screen shareCan share anything from your computer to the callMake sure anything you want private is closed so does not accidently displayConsider share a specific application instead of your desktop
Polls Good for checking understanding (think MCQ)Good for checking moodCan be set up in advance or done on the flyCan be done anonymously or record namesResponses are stored, allowing for checking participation 
Breakout RoomsFor group discussionNot recordedStudents can share whiteboard or screenStudents can call you to come to room for assistanceInstructor can leap in and outWhen closing rooms, Zoom gives a 1 minute warning before shutting them
General indicatorsStudents have the ability to ask the instructor to speed up, slow down, need a break, or that they are away from the computer 
Onscreen reactionsThese are good for check insRequire that you have camera view open & may need to scroll through to see them

If you want to review a very comprehensive list, check out this website:

but bear in mind that not all of these features are available through our UW Zoom set up.

If you want to see my final course assignment in which I put the tools to use in a simulated classroom, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/DpFnrz0nDGQ

Things I’ve Learned – Five

My course with U Calgary is wrapping up, putting everything into practice and trying out different ways of delivering materials to see how it works.

For each of the course assignments, we are using a form of a storyboard. A storyboard is a visual of what you are going to deliver in a session, and there are many ways to set them up. There are some available online specifically for working with the Articulate software: https://community.articulate.com/downloads/course-design/storyboards

The one we are using is relatively straight forward:

The left hand column has a visual of what will be displayed on the screen of the virtual classroom, the timing column denotes the number of minutes spent on that visual, the facilitator column is the script, what is being said to the class, the producer column in the technical directions. Technical directions may be to open a poll, close a poll, monitor chat, advance slide, etc..

Very few of us at PACE have the luxury of a producer, but I still found it valuable to fill in as I have the document with me during my teaching session and the column acts a cue for all those things that need to be done.

When I first started teaching, I had used a form of storyboard, but as PPT became more common and had a notes section, I got away from it. Now that I’m learning to adapt to the new way of teaching, I’m finding a huge value in going back to having a storyboard for designing and delivering my session.

You can learn more about them, and this specific model here: https://lightbulbmoment.info/2017/01/25/facilitator-guide-for-live-online-classroom/