Like the rest of the world, most higher education institutions were not prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic and the shuttering of college campuses across the country. Making matters more difficult, all of this took place right before the beginning of final exams.

One of the most pressing concerns we’ve heard from educators is how best to deliver end-of-semester assessments remotely. The good news is that with Top Hat, you have a number of options you can use to test student mastery and mark a meaningful end to the term. All of these tests are secure and generate unique access codes for students to ensure accountability and academic integrity. In this article, we explore three different summative assessments using Top Hat along with tips and best practices to get you started.

Open-Book Exams

Why use this type of assessment: Open-book exams offer greater flexibility for instructors and students, making them conducive for asynchronous learning environments. A well-constructed assessment provides interesting opportunities to test more than rote memorization, including higher-order thinking skills. According to the Center for Teaching and Learning at UC Berkeley, open-book exams are particularly effective when it comes to incorporating questions that focus students on using synthesis, analysis and evaluation to assess what they know. The ability to include digital reference materials like images, video and audio clips also allows more freedom and creativity in constructing an open-book exam.

How to set it up in Top Hat: Use the Create menu in Top Hat to start building your open book exam in pages. Once you’ve created your ‘page’, you can populate it with a variety of easy-to-use question types such as matching, sorting, fill-in-the-blank, long-form answer and click-on-target. Pages also lets you embed multimedia and other reference content alongside your test questions, allowing students to use these sources to inform an argument or analyze a diagram and its findings.

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Once your assessment is ready, use the calendar in the Assign menu to select a specific date and time that the test will be open for. Ensure that you select the Homework option so students can respond to the questions. The other option, Review, is great if you want to provide students with a study resource ahead of time or want students to be able to review their answers afterward. By default, the test will be assigned to all students enrolled in your Top Hat course. However, if you need to accommodate specific students by giving them additional time to complete the test, you can easily do this by assigning an extended due date to those students specifically. Many students are balancing their studies with family life and other responsibilities, so providing flexibility is particularly important.

To learn more about open-book exams, click here.

Top Hat Tip: Adjust the settings for your open book test to your desired level of difficulty. For example, you can set the number of attempts per question or provide feedback to indicate if students got the question right or wrong after each attempt if you want to provide students with more support and flexibility.

Live Proctored Tests

Why use this type of assessment: In response to the need to deliver traditional summative assessments in remote learning environments, Top Hat offers secure proctored tests and exams students can take on their own computers, at a pre-set time and from any location. This is an important option for instructors overseeing courses that require proctored exams for accreditation, such as nursing and other professional programs. 

Professors can easily run an exam with a specific start and end time, while secure lockout capabilities keep students from exiting the test screen throughout the duration. If a student navigates away from the test webpage by opening a new tab or browser window, they will be unable to re-enter the test unless they are unlocked by the instructor.

In a live proctored test with Top Hat, no measures are taken to verify students’ identities. However, each instance of opening a test in Top Hat generates a distinct access code that students will need in order to enter the test. During the test, you can monitor your students’ progress in real-time using an easy-to-understand proctor report. You can see who is still writing the test, who is locked out and who has completed the test. This type of assessment also employs auto-grading functionality, allowing professors to focus on teaching rather than grading.

How to set it up in Top Hat: To get started, use the Create menu in your Top Hat course and select Top Hat Test. Once created, you can populate your test using the Insert Menu to transfer multiple-choice questions from elsewhere in your course or create new ones. When preparing to administer the test, be sure to adjust proctoring settings to set the lock-out time limitations for students leaving their browser window. For a remote test, we recommend setting these between five and ten seconds for leaving the test screen and between three-to-five departures regardless of time. An added benefit of this type of exam over open book exams is that you can randomize the order of the questions so students will receive questions in a different order. 

To administer the exam, select the Start Test button to generate a unique test code that you can share with students so they can start taking the test. In this same window, there is an option to view the proctor report. By monitoring the report, you can keep track of the progress of all students registered in your course in real-time and immediately see if there is any irregular behavior flagged. If a student is locked out, simply clicking on their name will open a detailed view where you can review the exact details of how they got locked out and determine whether you will unlock them. Once the test is complete, be sure to adjust your test hand-back settings to ensure your students receive feedback in a timely manner.

To learn more about live proctored tests, click here.

Top Hat Tip: In advance of the exam, set a time with students to administer a practice test. Practice tests help to tie up any loose ends before the real test begins and gives students a chance to feel comfortable with the format. This is an easy way to alleviate student stress and anxiety for these high-stakes assessments and only requires a few questions in the test itself.

Remote Proctored Tests

Why use this type of assessment: Top Hat also offers an advanced proctoring option that uses video recording, advanced machine learning, and facial detection to automatically watch for suspicious activity. This method allows students to complete assessments as planned, with any irregular behaviors flagged in a reliable follow-up report delivered to professors. This assessment type requires that students use computers or laptops with a webcam for verification during the test.

How to set it up in Top Hat: The set-up for this assessment is similar to live proctoring, with directions on how to create and design it in the section above. However, the main difference with this test is that you will need to prepare your students by making sure their systems are set up as well. 

To help your students prepare for the test, create a page in Top Hat to summarize assessment guidelines and instructions for them. Include important information such as the requirement of a valid ID to validate their identity in order to access the test. This is particularly important to ensure the right students are taking the exam. You should also provide students with the tech requirements for this exam including a computer with an up-to-date browser and webcam since Top Hat’s remote proctoring capabilities require these tools to monitor for irregular activity. 

To learn more about remotely proctored tests, click here.

Top Hat Tip: Don’t forget to run a practice test with students and have them download the Chrome browser extension ahead of time to ensure a smooth test-taking experience.

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