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Remote Teaching - Pivots, Pitfalls, Productivity

Updated article originally published August 17, 2020.

Crowdmark founder, James Colliander, moderated a discussion featuring an elite panel of educators. Panelists shared how they managed abruptly shifting to online assessment during the pandemic, and how Crowdmark helped in the transition. Excellent insights were shared on topics including security and cheating, grading participation, time management and keeping your sanity while teaching remotely.

Our panelists, Laura Pavelka from McGill University’s Department of Chemistry, Cindy Fu from York University’s Department of Statistics, and Jennifer Murdock from the University of Toronto’s Department of Economics, offered valuable perspective for educators heading into the next semester of online teaching. Here is a playlist of six videos that capture panelists’ thoughts on participation, academic integrity, TAs, and assessing student outcomes:

Panel Q&A

Some critical questions were also raised by attendees during the discussion. Here are some thoughts Crowdmark has on these common challenges and situations.

How has the shift to online teaching affected instances of cheating, and student grades?

With the COVID-19 crisis, the move to fully online instruction happened so fast that there was not enough time to reflect on how to make it most effective. Students and educators were forced into a new normal that made it easier and more rewarding for some students to find ways around traditional assessment methods, even when expectations to the contrary were made clear. At the same time, however, educators and administrators became more vigilant about students circumventing the assessment format, so a large number of these students were and continue to be exposed with the help of the Crowdmark team.

While the lasting effects of these issues with academic integrity remain unclear, moving forward we have the opportunity to build up new ways of assessing student learning that make it harder and less rewarding for students to seek answers elsewhere.

What is Crowdmark’s advice to educators who are concerned about academic integrity while assessing students online?

The continuing necessity of online education has provided educators with an incredible opportunity to reflect on why and how we assess student learning. While traditional assessment formats may invite unwanted collaboration or students searching outside sources for answers, assessments that focus on students’ individual learning and voice may discourage these behaviors. Increasing the frequency of assessments as well as varying formats and weighting is another strategy that is being employed to make cheating less rewarding for the student.

Crowdmark also tracks IP addresses for student submissions. This means if copies of assessments or students’ work are found to be distributed on outside sources, we are able to crossmatch IP addresses with student profiles at an instructor’s request.

Can proctoring be considered when assessing students remotely in Crowdmark?

Crowdmark is compatible with some versions of proctoring software, however even using those there are residual security concerns with the way students upload work to Crowdmark. We’ve been working on how Crowdmark can help with this, and we’ll have more information soon.

What is Crowdmark’s advice on grading participation?

At Crowdmark we believe that assessment should be used for learning. Assessment helps students identify gaps in their learning and helps instructors recognize gaps in their instruction. Ultimately, assessment is a source of ongoing dialogue between teachers and students that can drive learning.

It is also possible to track participation with Crowdmark. In an in-class scenario, you’d potentially track attendance, hand raising, etc. Online, great options include class-wide discussions (using LMS or collaboration software such as Google polls), group submissions, or setting a number of smaller assignments as optional.

Does Crowdmark have an easy way to allow for different starting times for an assessment?

Currently there are a couple options for this. We have a Timed Assessment feature that allows you to set an asynchronous exam where a student has (for example) 2 hours within a day or a week to take an exam. To set a synchronous exam with different start times, you would use sections and multiple versions of an assessment. Lastly, you can adjust students’ individual due dates, assessment time windows and late penalties in the student’s Activity Log.

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