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COVID-19: Message to Faculty - Final Exams At A Distance

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University of Denver

Planning for Coronavirus (COVID-19)

News  •

Dear colleagues,

As our campus responds to a global health crisis, I know we are all working hard to make necessary pedagogical shifts to meet evolving instructional and institutional needs. Our fundamental mission is to educate our students, and we are committed to preserving their educational access, opportunity, and success, regardless of circumstances. I am committed to providing help to all faculty to prepare for remote exams next week and remote learning needs moving forward. I thank all of you in advance for your compassion for others and patience in navigating a complex situation.

For classes on the quarter system, the first step is to convert all our final exams and projects to work that is completed remotely. This email will focus on this first step. I will provide additional resources for spring classes, labs, and law school classes offered in the semester system in subsequent communication.

Exams at a Distance

Instructors have significant flexibility as to how to complete their courses, and it is essential that they clearly communicate their plans to their students immediately. As a university, our goal is to make sure that students’ academic work is fairly recognized and that course disruption does not disadvantage students’ current or future academic progress.  

When courses include a final, instructors must identify a final exam option that students can complete and submit online.

Steps You Should Take Now

  1. Create a plan for how you will administer a virtual final exam/project. This could include an open-book/take-home exam, using Canvas to administer a timed/locked down exam, or an alternate assignment.
  2. Communicate your plan with students via email and on Canvas. Be transparent, and request that they share specific concerns or needs with you via email 48-hours in advance. 
  3. Share the 24-hour Canvas Support Hotline for Students within your email: 1-855-712-9770.
  4. A global crisis of this scale is unprecedented in many students’ life time. Please read through DU’s procedures for responding to students in distress:
  5. Send a reminder email at least two hours before the final exam.
  6. Share instructions for minimizing distraction during online testing: find a private space, close the door, ask roommates for space, silence notifications, block distracting websites, mute computer microphone, and silence cell phones.
  7. Let students know when and how they can expect their final exam/project grades. 

Final Exam Options to Consider

  • Alternative online assignment: Provide a set of prompts for students to write a critical reflection on what they learned in your class. Ask that their answers be submitted via Canvas or email. 
  • Online closed or open-book alternative assessment or assignment:
    • This includes turning multiple-choice exams into a short answer format on Qualtrics, replacing the exam with a graded alternative assignment that can be emailed or uploaded to Canvas. 
  • Online optional assessment or assignment:
    • Give students the choice to (a) accept their current grade; or (b) complete a final assessment or assignment for a chance to possibly improve their grade, this is especially important for students who may be struggling in your course.
  • Online, unproctored exam (i.e., open book, open notes) promote additional learning by allowing students to cite from texts and include excerpts in their answers. Consider using Qualtrics or Canvas quizzes. To build your exam in qualtrics, login at
  • Final Presentations
    • Use a Zoom session and ask students to share their screens. Students can simultaneously present and share any slides or visuals at the same time. Ask others to mute their computer microphones to minimize feedback noise. Log into the room ahead of time to be sure it is functional. You can schedule a zoom meeting in advance and invite attendees.
  • Addressing Testing Accommodations
    • Don’t forget to prepare for students who have documented accommodations. Some issues to consider
      • You can set up additional time for exams in Canvas.
      • Students are still able to go to DSP to take their exam since the University is still open. Further guidance forthcoming for additional accommodation support.

Online Teaching Moving Forward

I would like to share an update on available resources as you prepare for teaching online for the first two weeks of the quarter:

  1. OTL Resources
  2. By Friday all faculty will receive an invitation to join a class entitled Canvas Teaching Online: Designing and Teaching for Impact in Online Courses via email. This self-paced course provides modules on getting started with Canvas, effectively designing an online course, online assessment, using online resources, and maintaining a presence, among others. 
  3. March 13th Canvas Drop-in Session
  4. March 13th Canvas Basics Webinar
  5. An in-person Canvas intro session is being offered in NSM, space is limited but other departments may attend. 
  6. Another in-person session with CAHSS, space is limited but other departments may attend. 
  7. Look for additional emails from the OTL as we confirm more training dates and drop-ins.

The University of Denver is composed of the most intelligent, caring, and hard-working people I have ever known. On behalf of the students, staff and administration thank you for the extra effort. The health and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff continues to be our number one priority and we appreciate your partnership in this ever-evolving situation. Please stay safe and healthy during this difficult situation. 

Should you have questions, please contact the Provost’s Office at


Best regards,


Corinne Lengsfeld

Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor