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Online assessment

Contingency planning: exploring rapid alternatives to face-to-face assessment  

This is drawn from an open access resource developed by Sally Brown and Kay Sambell for the sector to support the transition to online assessment and is taken from: 

Brown and Sambell (2020) consider five basic strategies programme teams might adopt: 

  1. Defer or re-schedule deadlines: allowing students more time to complete work, particularly if they themselves are ill. Deadlines for return of assessed work with feedback may also need to be relaxed beyond the normal 21 working days where assessors are affected. This might also mean that announced dates for awards may be delayed by weeks or months.  
  2. Assess only what has been taught before the time of the campus-based restrictions. If it is difficult to reschedule some teaching for the remainder of the teaching period with activities that are not possible to move online, it may be possible to adjust assessment so that you assess students only on material that has been delivered to date, so long as the course doesn’t include exams that are required by professional bodies as exemptions for professional exams 
  3. Consider how much assessment is still outstanding and decide whether you can waive further assessment. We might review what assessment has already taken place and, having considered whether it is essential that further assessments be undertaken, we could achieve a mark by averaging grades for work already submitted, rather than requiring the outstanding pieces to be completed. This is not likely to be possible in professional courses where there are requirements for all learning outcomes to be demonstrably met, but might be possible on some programmes 
  4. Change the mode of submission: work that was formerly submitted in hard copy could now be submitted electronically, ideally through established university e-submission systems but also, in the final resort, via email to a named contact. Many of you are already using e-submission processes for coursework, including narrated PowerPoints or similar for submitting student presentations. Where students can make video recordings, these can be submitted electronically, however, some work, such as artefacts, will still be problematic.  
  5. Offer alternative assessment formats: the table below provides some manageable alternatives to consider, together with some important considerations.  What are suggested here are some reasonable adjustments to be used in times of crisis, which will not exactly replicate the original assessments, but may offer your students some manageable alternatives in challenging times. Below the table we have included some links to resources* that you may find useful. 

Download the full document at for detailed guidance on how different assessment types can be adapted for online delivery.

Other resources

Quality Assurance Agency, Preserving Quality and Standards Through a Time of Rapid Change: UK Higher Education in 2020-21

Quality Assurance Agency, Assessing with Integrity in Digital Delivery

Sally Brown and Kay Sambell, Fifty tips for replacements for time-constrained, invigilated on-site exams

50 suggestions [DOC 44KB]

Sally Brown and Kay Sambell, The changing landscape of assessment: some possible replacements for unseen, time-constrained, face-to-face invigilated exams

The Changing Landscape [DOC 86KB]

Alternatives to face to face assessment [PDF 760KB]

Take home assessment guidance [PDF 435KB]

Guidelines for constructing alternative assessments [DOC 18KB]

QMUL Assessment Strategy [PDF 682KB]