Beyond the




Teachers: Here's How to Test In a Remote Learning Environment

A young child learns match on a laptop screen.

Navigating the remote learning environment is challenging. Administering tests in it, even more so—and it can make life difficult for everyone involved.

Under normal circumstances, teachers must work hard to prevent cheating, maintain academic rigor, and adhere to ever-evolving state standards. Now, add the unique challenges of the remote learning environment to the mix. The level of uncertainty surrounding in-class assessments and state tests has left some students worried about their futures.

But there are things that teachers can do to create a safe and secure online testing environment.

Further Reading: Ed Tech Review: Create Engaging Quizzes for Students with These 3 Free Online Tools

Communicate Clearly

Clear communication eliminates many of the potential problems inherent in online testing.

When outlining testing requirements, be sure to:

  • Clearly establish expectations for the exam
  • Clearly explain what material students will be tested on
  • Outline what's permissible and what isn't during the assessment
  • Review the code of conduct and cheating policies right before the exam


Provide this information in a written, downloadable format for review. Putting this information in writing reinforces the parameters and covers your bases if there's ever a dispute involving parents or administrators.

Aim for Integrity

Another way to reduce disputes: establishing an honest testing environment. It's easier for students to cheat when they're not in the same room as their teacher. But there are strategies for promoting honest work.

  • Have students turn their cameras on before testing.
  • Have students clear their desks.
  • Set time limits on questions.
  • Use question banks or multiple testing templates so students can't share information.

Sure, this approach is more complicated. But it's a great way to set high expectations around honesty and ethics in your classroom.

Consider Alternative Assessments

Assessing student knowledge without administering formal exams might help increase engagement—especially because many students are experiencing pandemic fatigue, Johns Hopkins University says.

In some subjects, it might not be possible to skip assessments. But if you have the flexibility, consider using alternative assessment forms such as:

  • Essays and written responses
  • Critical thinking
  • Collaborative assignments and group work
  • Open-ended projects that incorporate audio or video

Teachers are already used to adjusting on the fly and thinking outside the box—and the pandemic has forced them to further develop this skill. See if there's a way you can avoid testing—at least for now.

Administer More Tests

This tip might seem counterintuitive, but giving more tests could help you make the best of the remote learning environment. By administering multiple assessments, you lower the stakes for students.

Multiple tests give students multiple chances to prove their understanding, and aggregating the scores gives teachers a clearer understanding to the student's grasp of the subject. And knowing that there's another test around the corner might give a student a reason to not cheat on one.

You could also consider administering practice tests and dropping the lowest test score from the grade book.

Keep Tabs on State Tests

One big frustration for teachers and students alike: the constantly shifting state testing landscape.

Teachers don't know how tests will be administered. Students worry that online testing won't accurately assess their knowledge, which would affect their chances of getting into their dream colleges.

Reassure your class that everyone is on a level playing field right now. These are unprecedented times, but school districts, state education departments, and universities are working hard to make testing safe and fair.

Keep tabs on what's going on in your state, and communicate to your students when you have information worth sharing. Any information could help alleviate anxieties and concerns, especially among your high-performing students.

Brainstorm with Other Teachers

The remote learning environment has left a lot of professionals isolated, stressed out, and confused.

It's more important than ever to collaborate with your colleagues. Brainstorm ideas and learn from the people around you. You can easily adapt what's working in another teacher's remote learning environment into your practice.

Further Reading: SAT and ACT Test Prep: Help Your Students Succeed on the Exams

If you're a new teacher—or if you're truly floundering—ask for help. Send an email to your boss or raise your hand at the next staff meeting. Yes, everyone's putting in a lot of hours right now, but educators know the importance of accurate assessment. Someone will surely help you.

Remember: there's strength in numbers. You don't have to do this alone.