Orange background with image of a person sitting at a desk with a computer

Lesson 2: Adapting course elements

Adaptable student assessment

Adaptable course design provides opportunities for modifying existing assessments for use in different environments. Considerations for adaptable student assessment: 

Choice – Can a take-home exam be adapted to an online exam? 

Cumulative assignment – Can an assessment be broken down into smaller assignments and their weighting changed if needed? 

Assessment type – Can a traditional assessment, such as a quiz or test, be adapted to a project-based or collaborative project? 

Communication and feedback – Can feedback be strategic in audio, video and written format and divided into individual and whole-class feedback? 

The following table provides examples of common assessments that could be adapted for use in either a face-to-face or online context, depending on your needs.

  1. In-class assessments

    Short answer questions that require critical thinking or higher-order skills.

  2. Online assessments

    Open-book or take-home assessments which involve more conceptual or applied questions that are not easily found in a textbook. 

  1. In-class assessments

    Oral presentations are created in a visual format while the students narrate their topic.

  2. Online assessments

    Presentations are created in an infographic format, video recording or PowerPoint and uploaded online. 

  1. In-class assessments

    Students role-play or perform a simulation in front of the class.

  2. Online assessments

    Students submit a group video narrating the topic.

  1. In-class assessments

    Students complete research, gather credible evidence and debate each side of a topic.

  2. Online assessments

    Digital portfolio in which students compile some of their best work from the semester and include a critical reflection.

Check out the updated “Submission Types” resource on eLearn for more information about submission options.

Please refer to the University of Calgary Calendar for specific regulations about scheduling tests and assessments in in-person, blended, and online courses. 

Put into practice

Alternative Online Assessments

See this resource for examples of alternative assessments.

View resource

Strategies for communication and consistency in assessments

In an adaptable course design, the more clear and consistent assignments are for students, the better understanding they will have of what is expected of them regardless of the learning modality.

Transparent assignment design refers to teaching practices that make the objectives and assessment criteria for assignments clear (WSU Office of Assessment for Curricular Effectiveness, 2020).

Considerations for communication and consistency in assessments: 

Have the reasons why the students are completing this assignment and which learning outcome, skills, and knowledge they will gain from this experience been explicitly explained?

What are the necessary steps needed to successfully complete this assignment? Have these steps been articulated clearly?

What are the file naming conventions and submission guidelines for this assignment? Have these been explained to students? 

Are the learning technologies which students need to use to complete the assignment if they are not in-person or if the course delivery model changes accessible?

Are exemplars available to indicate that what a successful submission looks like? Has the rubric or other grading criteria that will be used by the teaching team to assess learning in either face-to-face or online contexts been explained to the students?

Put into practice

See the following guides with examples on how to use transparent assessment design in your course.

Transparent Assignment Design Template

Download (Word)

Quick Guide to Transparent Assignment Design

Download PDF

Transparent Assignment Design in a Biology Course

Download PDF

Lesson checklist

  • Identify adaptable course elements in your existing course
  • Modify class planning, learning activities and assessments in the event of an unexpected disruption
  • Develop transparent guidelines and expectations that improve communication and consistency during uncertain periods

References and resources

Eaton, S. E . (2020). Academic Integrity During Covid-19: Reflections from the University of Calgary. International Studies in Educational Administration, 48(1), 80-85. 

Indiana University Bloomington, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (n.d.). Authentic Assessment. 

Joosten, T., Weber, N., Baker, M., Schletzbaum, A., & McGuire, A. (2021). Planning for a blended future: A research-driven guide for educators. Every Learner Everywhere Network. 

McLaughin, L. & Ricevuto J. (2021, June 2). Assessments in a online environment: You won’t need that lockdown browser! Faculty Focus. 

O’Keefe, L., Rafferty, J., Gunder, A., Vignare, K. (2020, May 18). Delivering high-quality instruction online in response to COVID-19: Faculty playbook. Every Learner Everywhere. 

Center for Teaching Excellence. (2021, March 1). Adaptive Teaching Guide. 

Transparency in Learning and Teaching Higher Education, (n.d.). 

University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence (n.d.). Writing Intended Learning Outcomes.

More lessons

People standing in front of books and computer

Lesson 3: Leveraging learning technology to support student learning experiences

Computers and books

Lesson 1: Getting started with adaptable course design

Person working on a computer

Lesson 2: Adapting course elements