Assessing Online

The Covid-19 pandemic will impact on examinations as well as ongoing assessed coursework. The University has published central guidance on reviewing assessment and considering alternative assessment approaches on the Elevate webpages. 

All departments and programme teaching teams should review the assessment for their programmes so that they have a plan in place for alternatives to face-to-face assessments. This guidance provides detailed advice on alternative assessment formats, informed by recommended approaches from across the sector.

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Digital Learning support during Covid-19

Providing Feedback on Assessment (Covid-19)

Choosing a tool for assessment

Considerations for students accessing technology

When working from home, students’ available technology and internet connections may vary considerably, as well as their digital skills. In addition, students based in China may have restrictions on tools and services they can access (as detailed here). This should always be taken into account when designing assessments.

Therefore, where possible, keep the technology involved as simple and accessible as possible.

General advice when choosing a tool for assessment

Institutional tools have central support and guidance, and the University has a policy on their data use, and the archiving of work. We also have relationships with suppliers if things go wrong. They usually have other benefits, such as single sign-on using University usernames and passwords. Examples include Blackboard, Turnitin, Kaltura and PebblePad.

Third party tools may be appropriate in some specific circumstances, but be mindful of their data policies and avoid mandating tools that require students to create accounts. Often, free versions of tools have limitations in terms of numbers and bandwidth that may not be immediately clear, or may show advertising, and online services can change license models or cease working without notice - this could include losing student work if it hasn’t been exported. You will also not be able to receive the same level of technical support from central teams.

Therefore, institutional tools are always recommended for assessment, unless there is a clear reason why a third party tool should be used. Any mention of third party tools below makes no guarantee about individual services or their use.

Open book exams


Open book exams, in which you set the questions or tasks virtually and ask the students to submit their responses electronically within a set period of time.

Students can submit their completed answers via a Blackboard Assignment or Turnitin, or via a test in Blackboard.


As with normal take-away papers, because students have access to materials, the design of questions may need to be reframed to move away from recall-based tasks to questions that require students to demonstrate how they use information rather than reiterate what they have learned.

It will be important, therefore, to provide guidance for students in the change in orientation of the task. It is also good practice to re-run any changes to question formats through the usual moderation processes.

Suggested institutional-supported technology

Blackboard Assignments

Turnitin (only for submission of a single text-based assignment, if an originality report is required)

Blackboard Tests

Recorded presentations


Ask students (individually or in groups) to submit a narrated presentation in electronic form which can then be tutor-marked and peer-reviewed.

PowerPoint offers a slide-by-slide voice-narration recording facility, and Kaltura enables students to create a screen recording of their presentation with an audio commentary.

Ask students to prepare a podcast on the topic to be submitted.


You will need to take account of the fact that, given the recorded presentation format, students can have multiple opportunities to prepare the item they are submitting, rather than having to cope with the one-off nature of a live presentation.

Presentations should be kept as short as possible to take home bandwidth issues into account on submission, and guides to suitable recording technology made available (for various operating systems and devices). It should be made clear marking is on content rather than expertise with technology, unless that is relevant for the subject area.

Suggested institutionally-supported technology

For producing / recording
Kaltura - Using Kaltura Capture via Blackboard Assignment Tool
Audacity - Free desktop audio recording software
PowerPoint - contains ability to record narrated presentations

For submission
Blackboard Assignment tool - for file submissions
Kaltura - for video/audio submissions

Online portfolios


Develop a portfolio using software such as Google Sites or PebblePad (if you have previous experience with this tool).

Students scan their logbook or submit their log book as a Word document.


For some students without ready internet access or lacking digital confidence the move to e-portfolios might be quite challenging, and they may need extra guidance. Likewise this may be a brand new system for assessors and tutors to learn in a short timeframe.

When implementing e-portfolios, in-depth tools like PebblePad may require a steeper learning curve for staff and students, and a simpler tool like Blackboard Journals and Google Sites may be more suitable in the short-term.

Suggested institutionally-supported technology

PebblePad - fully featured ePortfolio software. Very flexible with full assessment functionality, but higher learning curve for staff and students if required in short term.
Google Sites - easy website creation
Blackboard Journals - simple tool within Blackboard

Online viva voce exams


In light of the current COVID-19 outbreak, all viva voce examinations are currently being undertaken remotely using Blackboard Collaborate where possible. More information about the process is available from Research Services.

Online seminars and group discussion


Web-conferencing via Blackboard Collaborate (synchronous)

Online discussion via Blackboard Discussion Boards (asynchronous)


Staff as well as students may need support to learn how to use this approach if it isn’t currently part of their normal learning experiences.

Students will need a run-through of the technology before the assessment, so that their first experience of the technology is in a less stressful situation.

Suggested institutionally-supported technology

Blackboard Collaborate - live discussion, which can include screen-sharing, and can be recorded.

Blackboard Discussion Boards - text-based discussion, which can be graded in the Blackboard Grade Centre.

Online lab work


It may be possible to replicate some aspects of lab work through simulations in which students are presented with data sets and required to interpret them. Often this means focusing on interpretation of data rather than working in the lab to achieve the results personally

Simulations can also be used remotely so students can ‘see’ data produced elsewhere and be asked to comment/interpret.


If students can be provided with different data sets for personal interpretation, this can mitigate the risk of ‘over-sharing’ or personation.

Online peer assessment


Peers can email each other drafts for comments or use bespoke tools within the University’s VLE e.g. Blackboard Peer Assessment tool and Turnitin PeerMark.

Suggested institutionally-supported technology

Blackboard Peer Assessment tool

Turnitin PeerMark

Recorded dance and theatre performances


Individuals and groups can be asked to work off-site to prepare and submit videos of their work, alongside reflective commentaries/accounts.


Group performances may well be complex to organise off-site, and not meet physical distancing guidance.

Videos cannot replicate the authentic live performance element but may suffice in crisis times.

Students cannot be presumed to have adequate video recording technology at home. Keep assessments as short as possible to mitigate potential problems with home internet connections.

Suggested institutionally-supported technology

Kaltura (to submit video)

Online face-to-face feedback


Individual and generic group feedback can be delivered by tutors via audio or online means, using Kaltura Capture or Blackboard Collaborate.

Suggested institutionally-supported technology

Kaltura Capture (for recorded feedback)

Blackboard Collaborate (for live feedback)

Assessment support for disabled students

Some students may require further support with the change to online assessment. The Disability and Dyslexia Support Service (DDSS) and Elevate have produced this guidance to support these students.