Alternative Assessment Strategies for Large Enrolment Classes

When it comes to large class assignments, think small

One of the most common things these resources suggest is for instructors to think small in terms of large class assignments. Whether that is the one-sentence summary assignment or taking a larger assignment and breaking it into smaller parts, this strategy will help with student workload. 

These assessments will encourage students to relate the material to real-world examples and they will not be time-intensive for instructors as other larger style assignments like final exams or major research essays. Automatic grading options like quizzes are available on D2L and they work well, but there is labour involved in uploading these quizzes into the D2L shell because one cannot upload a word doc as a quiz. Sometimes the best option for lessening the amount of assessment is to rethink the type of assignment you would assign online.

Science theatres

This is one possible ungraded written in-class activity or if not in class then as a discussion board entry. This exercise not only enhances comprehension, but also writing skills, and can provide you with valuable written feedback. Used at the end of the class, the one-sentence summary can be a good review of material just covered. At the beginning of the class, it can review material covered previously and serve as a starting point for the lecture of the day. The one-sentence summary can also be used in its own right to enhance general writing ability.

  • Objective is for students to state the major point of an entire lecture or section in a limited amount of writing.
  • Select a recent issue covered in class, in relation to that issue, answer the following questions as quickly as possible in front of your students: “who did what to whom, when, where, how, and why?” and turn your answer into a grammatical sentence.
  • Announce another, similar topic to your students and give them five minutes or so to produce their own one-sentence summaries.
  • Collect these to determine if students recognized the key points of the lecture. One optional extension is to have students swap with the person next to them – have a few minutes’ silence for reading and formulation of comments, then a few minutes of discussion in pairs before discussing the summaries as a class.

An "open book examination" is an assessment method designed in a way that allows students to refer to either class notes and summaries or a “memory aid”, textbooks, or other approved material while answering questions. An open book exam can also mean that students are provided with the exam questions prior to sitting the formal exam or are to complete as a ‘takehome’ exam.


Short written assessments offer many of the same benefits as one-sentence summaries. They reduce grading time for instructors and can enable students to link course content to real-world contexts. 

In one example from McGill University, an instructor assigns three assignments of 250 words as part of their assessment strategy. Read more.

Use technology to your advantage

Consider using a platform that is already populated with questions and that will grade the assignments automatically. Again there might be the initial labour of inputting questions or curating the questions for your own course.

Develop your rubrics

Well-developed rubrics will help with efficiency and consistency. Some websites have samples of rubrics instructors can adapt to their own courses. D2L also allows insertion of rubrics into the dropbox assessment window to help with efficiency.

More resources

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