Alternative Assessment Options

The following guidance is to support alternative approaches to assessment which the University are advising at this time (Second Semester 2019-20).  In completing the assessment of modules, exams should be avoided if learning outcomes have already been satisfied through continuous assessment components or if they can be satisfied by other means.   

Where exams are necessary to satisfy the learning outcomes for a module, these will be arranged by the School, either: 

  1. As a scheduled online assessment of duration equal to the original module exam duration plus one hour 
  2. An online open book assignment of duration 24 hours 
  3. Coursework-type assignments submitted online (with slightly longer duration)

See links to key University reference documents, including Supplementary Regulations which have now been invoked under Statute V in response to the impact of COVID-19 on assessments. 

Training Schedule

It is imperative that Assignment are setup in the correct way to avoid potential pitfalls. Recommended approaches are detailed below and will be covered in tailored virtual training session's w/c 30 March 2020. Your school office will have selected dates for school-based sessions but if your school date doesn't suit, we are also running the following central sessions which are available for all staff.

Tues 02 Jun - 14:00 - 15:00

Understanding the Canvas Gradebook Export

Top 9 Key Consideration for use of Canvas

When considering the above options, the recommendation would be that the method of assessment that requires the least amount of technology should be preferred over more technology reliant alternatives. In the current context, the less complex the assessment is, the better able students will be to adjust and succeed. 

Some key considerations to bear in mind when planning alternative assessment in Canvas: 

  1. Keep it Simplefrom instructions to submissions, simplify the process. 
  2. Stick with Low-Tech - Don’t over rely on complex technology. Do not expect the tech to run as if there wasn’t a global emergency.  
  3. Devices - Students may not have the hardware required. Consider how students will access and summit their assignments. A mobile phone may be the only device they have access to.  
  4. Turnitin - Schools are advised that they do not request students to submit online exams through Turnitin.  There are many potential issues if this method of submission is chosen, including the potential for incorrect Turnitin setup and obvious load on the system. The emphasis here is on avoiding a scenario where the student themselves have to submit. This advice applies to alternative assessment options 1 and 2 (as described at top of page) and less so for continuous assessment coursework with longer duration, which was originally set up to use Turnitin.
  5. Anonymous Grading: In this current situation, Schools are advised not to proceed with anonymity for alternative assessments in Canvas.
  6. Use Assignments rather than Quizzes: the use of any real time quizzing system should be avoided as it relies on students having bandwidth and equipment to submit in a short timeframe, which really puts concentrated pressure on the system. 
  7. Accessibility – Assessment approaches must allow all students to have the opportunity to engage fully and perform on an equal basis with their peers and designing for accessibility is important when creating online assessments. Students have been advised to contact their Disability Officer, once they receive details of the alternative assessment, if they think they may require a reasonable adjustment.  The Disability Services team can be contacted at: 
  8. Consider all eventualities -  Schools should stagger start times of exams across the Faculty, to smooth online assessment peaks in the system. Make sure you do a test run so that students become familiar with the process.  Have a Plan B in place for submission, e.g. use of email to upload/submit files. 
  9. Sign up for Training – Check details directly below for online virtual training sessions over the coming days. More detailed guidance and video instructions will also be added to the page over the coming days.  

Steps to Prepare

Make sure the Grade Posting Policy is set to ‘Manual’

The Grade Posting Policy is set to ‘Automatic’ by default. If this is not changed to ‘Manual’ then any grades that are input into Canvas will be released to students immediately. 

View detailed guidance on how to Set the Grade Posting Policy to Manual.

Go to settings and click ‘Hide running total from students’.

Canvas automatically provides the student with a running total based on assessment taken to date. To avoid potential confusion and anxiety in the current situation we advise hiding this total.

View detailed guidance on how to Hide Running Totals from students.

Go to settings, then select navigation where you can drag and drop items to hide from students.

Users should ensure they restrict students access to the files area, as well as editing the permissions for Alternative Assessment files, including setting the state of the file (published or unpublished), or schedule availability dates for the files. This ensures the file cannot be viewable by students in advance of the scheduled assessment. 

View detailed guidance on how to manage Course navigation and restrict files and folders to students in Canvas. 

Create a separate ‘Assignment Group’ for the alternative assessment.

In order to distinguish the alternative assessment from previously established assessments it is advisable to create an assignment group that contains only that assessment.

View detailed guidance on how to Create an Assignment Group.

Set Up and Administration of Assignments

Make the instructions clear and unambiguous.

Keep the instructions as simple as you possibly can for your students.

View our guidance on how to keep instructions clear for students.

Follow the detailed set up explained in our guidance material.

There are some key decisions that you will need to make when setting up your assignment so please take time to read the guidance and view the video below for an outline of considerations that will be important.

View detailed guidance and considerations on assignment set up

Check the ‘available from’ and ‘available to’ times are set before publishing.

It is important that students can only view the assignment at the time you wish to release it so consider these settings when creating the assignment.

View detailed guidance on considerations around assignment availability dates

Marking Submissions

Make sure all markers have access to the Canvas course in advance.

Contact your school admin as soon as possible to grant access to those requiring it.

View guidance on how to ensure all markers have access to the relevant Canvas courses

Check that the Grade Posting Policy is set to ‘Manual’.

As outlined above, the Grade Posting Policy is set to ‘Automatic’ by default. If this is not changed to ‘Manual’ then any grades that are input into Canvas will be released to students immediately.

View guidance on how to check your Grade Posting Policy.

Mark the submissions / input grades in ‘Speedgrader’.

Submissions can be downloaded for marking or this can be done online through the Canvas Speedgrader. Marks can be input into Canvas then exported through the Gradebook function.

View guidance on using Canvas Speedgrader.

You might also find it useful to use this Canvas Assignment Checklist to support you in setting up your alternative assessment.

Need Help?

Canvas Tier1 Support


For all your Canvas Related Queries


The Canvas Tier 1 Team are available 24x7x365 for all Staff and Students. There are a number of contact methods available to you via the HELP menu option in Canvas. Tier1 support technical queries and provide advice on your ‘how do I...’ type questions. If for any reason you cannot log in to Canvas, Tier1 Support can also be reached outside of Canvas by email:

>> Go to HELP menu option in Canvas

Academic Affairs


For all guidance and information on the implementation of the Supplementary Regulations. 

The QAR Team in Academic Affairs will provide a range of regulatory support during this period. If you do have any queries, please use the email address and indicate which School you are representing in the Subject bar of the email. 


>>For more information, guidance can be found on the General Regulations SharePoint site

Centre for Educational Development (CED)


For all queries relating to remote teaching preparation

The VLE Pedagogy Support Team based in CED, are ready to assist with any of the options described on this page.  We can take you through the various steps involved in setting up your assignments in Canvas.  If you are not sure where to start, please get in touch. We can help with any query you may have with how Canvas can support alternative assignment options. Here to help!


Keep Teaching with Canvas

Staff at Queen’s can participate in remote teaching activities as a way to maintain academic continuity. Click here to view the Keep Teaching with Canvas guidance to help you to consider your options for teaching remotely.