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As a response to the Covid-19 situation we have worked with the Centre for Technology in Education to provide guidance to teaching staff and programme teams on the design of alternative assessments. 

Below you will find the initial guidance and the subsequent approved assessment types.

Initial guidance

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Reviewing your assessment strategy

It is important to start this process by recognising the potential stress for students in responding to the uncertainties in the current situation whilst remaining focussed on their academic studies. One goal of reviewing your assessment strategy therefore should be to minimise the disruptive impact on students.  

We recommend that before deciding to introduce alternative assessments, you consider the following questions:  

  1. Do all assessments need to be carried out now or in the coming weeks? Can you defer or reschedule outstanding assessments to a later date, when the situation is more normal? 

  1. If learning outcomes/objectives for modules and/or courses have already been demonstrated in previous assessments, including formative ones, can you in fact waive further assessment?  

  1. What are the learning outcomes/objectives that are still outstanding and will need to be assessed? 

  1. How can you keep it simple, and familiar to students? For example can you fairly simply change the method of submission (e.g. hard copy to online submission, in-class presentation to recorded) for outstanding assessments that need to be completed? 

  1. How will you mitigate the effects of possible IT difficulties and associated stress that students may experience with online assessment or submission (e.g. move away from tight time-constraints)?  

Planning for alternative assessment

If, after reviewing these questions, you determine that alternative assessment(s) will have to be used to assess outstanding learning outcomes/objectives, these are key priorities when putting in place new methods of submission, assessment types and new timings: 

  • Accessibility – alternative assessment arrangements must still be inclusive and accessible for all students and you should make sure that all assessment materials and applications used are accessible. (It may be that you have already developed alternative assessments for a subset of students with particular learning needs; could these alternatives be used for the whole cohort?) 

  • Transparent for students – consider how students will be supported to undertake assessment differently. For example: how will you explain the purpose of the assessment, what guidance will students receive to support the undertaking of the task (including e.g. information on required file formats), will assessment criteria (rubrics) need to be changed to accommodate the change of assessment method, will students need a chance to practice the new assessment type and method of submission, and will the time taken for this preparatory support impact on deadlines for assessments? How will feedback be given? 

  • Consistency – consider how the changes you make relate to the approaches being taken in the wider programme. A co-ordinated approach is likely to make for a better student experience. 

  • Manageable for staff – consider the needs of the marking team. How will you ensure that they are all informed of the changes, and are confident and equipped to use the technologies involved? 


Extended guidance

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Approved Assessment Amendments

This further guidance has been developed in the light of feedback from students and the Students’ Union, and through discussions with teaching staff, with the BCP Education group, with CIDE and CTiE and with the Assessment Amendments Committee. It is also informed by the arrangements that other UK HEIs are making. These have signalled the need to give greater consideration to the diverse difficulties students may experience in a) equipment b) internet access c) coping with domestic circumstances d) residing in different time zones.  

It adds more specificity to the initial guidance above. It should also be read in conjunction with advice [[[NBSP]]] about their requirements [[[NBSP]]] from [[[NBSP]]] the relevant [[[NBSP]]] professional bodies.  

This guide is intended to:  

  • inform programme and module leads of the assessment types and methods of managing assessment that are approved at St George’s as a response to the current Covid-19 crisis.  

  • create a clearer typology for the assessment types and methods approved at St George’s at the current time.  

  • guide the decisions of the Assessment Amendments Committee made on the basis of the ‘Force Majeure: Assessment of Students’ forms that programmes have been asked to submit.  

  • form the basis for communicating clearly to students what to expect from assessments in the coming months.


The following baseline principles are designed, in line with OIA and QAA advice, to ensure an inclusive and consistent approach to current assessment amendments: 

  1. Technology: There can be no automatic expectation/assumption that all students will have access a) to a laptop or PC; b) to consistent internet connection. All assessments must be achievable with the minimum of use of a tablet and smart phone.  

  1. Timing will be adjusted to a minimum of 24 hours per assessment, although it will be possible to stipulate shorter time limits within this 24 hour period. The broad 24 hour window is because there can be no automatic expectation that all students will be able to access and complete an assessment within the normal exam timetable; that is, at the current specific ‘start and end’ times, and the current duration (e.g. 1 hour, 2 hours). More detail is given below. 

  1. Practice: All students will be given the opportunity (through students’ home page on Canvas) to practise using the necessary technologies via a mock ‘general knowledge’ assessment including quizzes, downloading and uploading, use of Panopto. This practice opportunity will enable students to identify any technical or accessibility issues and let their course/module leaders know, particularly students who have reasonable adjustments in place and who may have additional access needs.  Some courses are providing students with additional formative opportunities to undertake assessments in Canvas and this is recognised as good practice where possible. 

  1. Integrity/Professionalism: All students will be expected to read and sign a common ‘statement of honour’ for each assessment they undertake – e.g. all own work; b) no sharing of questions with others; c) understanding of how the assessment will run, including what to do if they encounter technical difficulties. The statement will help to establish our expectation that it is the responsibility of each student not to cheat in or pass on information about the assessment. The statement should be integrated into each assignment submission – for example it will appear as the first ‘question’ in a quiz and students will have to complete it before continuing.  

Approved assessment types and methods
  • By ‘exams’ we mean forms of assessment that are based on the traditional time-constrained exam, usually taken on campus, sometimes taken online. 

  • Where programme teams decide to stay close to this type of assessment, they will need to provide students with a 24 hour window to complete each exam. 

  • Students should not be asked to complete more than one exam in any 24 hour window. This means that there may need to be adjustments to previously issued exam timetables. 

  • Teams will also need to follow the guidance in 1.1 and 1.2 on the different types of exam questions and answers. 

1.1 Exams that do not require extended written responses  - SBA (Single Best Answer), MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions) and other Quiz-based Exams answered directly in Canvas  

  • These question types can be answered using a tablet 

  • They should not be combined in an exam with questions that require extended written answers e.g. essays.  

  • Pre-existing exams that require a combination of these question types with essays should be split into separate exams. This is to take away the strain of writing extended answers on a tablet computer. Please note that typing on the virtual keyboard of a tablet or phone is, at best, 25% slower than on a larger QWERTY keyboard, putting students using these tools to access their examinations at a disadvantage in time-constrained exams.   

  • Students should be given a 24 hour period within which to identify a suitable period within which they can take the exam.  

  • An additional 25% of the original exam time should be given for the exam itself: E.g. a 120 minute SBA exam will become a 150 minute exam.  

  • Canvas records the start and end of each student’s exam; if the internet connection is lost, Canvas will save the progress made by the student and they will be able to resume when they log back in.  

  • For students requiring reasonable adjustments a further additional 25% of the original exam time should also be given: E.g. a 120 minute exam will become a 180 minutes exam. 

  • It is good practice to randomise the order to questions in an exam of this kind and this can be set up in Canvas. 

1.2 Exams that require extended written responses 

  • Students should be advised wherever possible, to use a device with a physical keyboard ie laptop or tablet with an attached external keyboard. 

  • For this reason essay questions should not be combined with SBA and MCQ questions. These should form part of a separate exam (see above). 

  • Students should be able to download the Exam paper from Canvas at the start of a 24 hour period; they should submit their answers on Canvas before the end of the 24 hour period. 

  • Students should have the choice of submitting, either a word document or a scanned copy of a handwritten script. For the latter option it is preferable, but not essential, that they inform their course leader beforehand. 

  • Guidance on how to submit a handwritten script via Office Lens software should be provided to all students. Obtainable from CTiE. 

  • Students should be advised of the time they are expected to spend on completing their written answers e.g. ‘This paper is expected to take you 3 hours to complete’. When setting the exam, staff should use the same kinds of benchmark for length that they would do in a more traditional time-constrained situation e.g 2 hours for a 15 credit module.   

  • As the strict time-constraint will be removed, a word limit should be provided instead. The rule of thumb is 30 words per minute, so in 60 minutes a student may be expected to write up to c.1800 words. Thus in a ‘2 hour’ exam of 4 essay questions, students should be given a guideline to write up to c. 900 words per essay. 

  • It is understood that some students may not be able to complete the extended writing exam in one sitting within the 24 hour window; it is also understood that some students will take longer than the expected time; equally it is understood that some students will be able to refer to material in completing the exam. 

  • Questions should therefore be designed to be discriminating and to elicit higher order thinking from students rather than factual recall, simple description or explanation. Examples of higher order thinking are synthesis, critical evaluation, analysis, application and argument. Marking schemes should reflect the value placed on these higher order skills. 

  • Essays are the usual form in which these skills are elicited in a traditional exam and can be retained.  

  • Exam essays do not require bibliographies. 

  • Short Answer Questions (SAQs) that do not elicit higher order skills should not be used in this kind of exam. If their content needs to be covered this should be done either in a type 1.1 Exam (see above) or via additional Essay Questions. 

  • Applied scenarios requiring an extended written response from students must also be able to be downloaded by students with answers submitted in either a word document or a scan of handwriting as set out above. 

Open book assessments
  • These assessments are designed to be completed by students over a longer period of time during which they can access notes and teaching materials, undertake further enquiry, plan, develop and hone their responses.  

  • The tasks should be designed to enable students to exercise higher order skills (e.g. synthesis, critical evaluation, analysis, application, reflection and argument.) 

  • Tasks may involve scenarios and data sets and may have a number of parts. 

  • Depending on the size and weighting of the assessment, students should be given at least 72 hours to access, complete and submit the task.  

  • Responses to the task can be in different formats e.g. a written text, a recorded presentation (via Panopto) or a choice of either.  

  • As with ‘Exams’, students should be given the option of submitting a handwritten response and should receive guidance on how to do so. 

  • May be conducted online where they can provide evidence of LOs not evidenced in other assessments.  


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