Remote Assessment

This forum is for UM System instructors to gather and share ideas for different ways to assess students in remote or online classes.

Start a new topic

Ancient Mediterranean Studies Online Exam Protocol for Canvas


Here is a rundown of some basic testing protocols or online testing in Canvas that we have used successfully in Ancient Mediterranean Studies - we hope you find them of some use.


Principle One:  For a face-to-face class (like my mythology class – I only give Canvas exams online in that class because it saves a lot of time and effort) give tests synchronously over the course of your FTF class time. 


I usually give start the exam at class time and then extend the “open” window for 15 minutes after class ends. So, for 12:00pm class, open the exam on Canvas at 12:00pm and close it @ 1:15.


The extra 15 minutes will give them a little bit of “wiggle room” to get situated to take the exam. However, it’s not enough overtime to allow them to collaborate or otherwise cheat on the exam. 

A few years ago, I used to give wide windows for my online exams to on campus students. However, Claire McGraw totally busted a group of five students who were cheating (on campus no less, not very bright) by taking the test sequentially and helping each other out.

Anyway, you have to do online testing synchronously with FTF students or else they’re going to totally cheat. Of course, the smaller the class to lower the chance of this, but setting a time limit and testing synchronously obviates the whole thing.

*** Nota Bene: FOR THE CURRENT COVID-19 SITUATION, WE DO NOT RECOMMEND USING THIS PROTOCOL. However, I have included it here for the sake of offering a complete set of guidelines. ***


Principle Two:  Set a time limit for the exam.

Just base this on the 50 or 75 minute class period. I like the basic formula of one minute per T/F or multiple choice question. Industry standard is 30 seconds to one minute, but if you go to 30 seconds they’re all going to bitch about it. One minute is fair. If anybody gives you any trouble just say it’s departmental policy for online learning and refer them to me — I’ll take care of it.

By using the one minute per question rule, then if you have essay questions or short answer questions you can kind of have a benchmark about how much time you want them to spend on each of those in the exam. For example, short answer question – do you want to give them five minutes or seven minutes? Once you determine this, you can also use those minutes to scale the points that the question is worth. So, five minute as a response might be worth five points seven minute response worth seven.


Principle Three: Use test banks and randomize the exam questions.

If you give the students all the same test synchronously, you could probably get away with just using a small pool of questions, But you definitely have to randomize the selection within the test. In other words, if you want to ask everyone the same 50 questions you have to make sure that no one student sees the same question at the same time. Canvas can set for this in the test options.

 You will also want to randomize the answers.

 When you create questions in canvas it’s easiest to put the correct answer in the number one slot on the online form and then your distractors below. 

If you randomize your answers, you don’t have to do any thinking about where you want the right answer to be – it’ll be randomized every time the question is shown.


Principle Four:  Show one question at a time, no backtracking.

Showing one question at a time prevents the students from going forward and backward in the exam cherry picking the questions they know the best and then having a ton of extra time to just look up the other answers. Using a notebook to take an exam that his time is actually less effective than you might think, but we still don’t want them doing that.

By showing one question at a time, students do you get to “bank” time if they answer a number of questions quickly. Then, if they hit one they don’t know they can consult their notes ( I personally don’t mind this – it encourages people to take really good notes and that’s kind of what we want them to do anyway, right?).

If you do all of those things, you’re going to have a reasonably secure online exam. It is going to be open book by nature, but that’s not necessarily a terrible thing.


This is our best advice for setting up a good online examination that challenges the students while maintaining academic integrity. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to send me a mail:

Good luck with all your online endeavors!





Login to post a comment