Flexible Teaching and Learning

Make Your Teaching Flexible!


The Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI) has compiled a list of suggestions for teaching and learning that incorporate flexibility and individual accommodation in the delivery and assessment of courses. The following list provides recommendations for building flexible learning options into courses. The CPI will assist Brock University instructors in designing courses with flexible learning options, delivering course content in alternative ways, and in developing contingency plans. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to Contact the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation

Putting course resources on a website or in Brock University’s Learning Management System (Isaak/Sakai) means that students can access course documents, complete assignments, take quizzes, and post on discussion forums electronically. Online modules can also be created with the easy-to-use Sakai Lessons took.  See our website at: https://brocku.ca/pedagogical-innovation/teaching-tools/issak-sakai/ for more information.


To prerecord video on a local computer for distribution online via the LMS or email, instructors may wish to use one of the following asynchronous video solutions:

      • Universal Capture: Personal for Video
      • Echo360 Video Streaming
        • Echo360 is our campus-wide video streaming platform. It will take multimedia in nearly every format (such as from Universal Capture above), embeds content in the LMS (and other places online), and returns robust statistics for video usage to instructors. It also has student response functionality for asking questions and polling students within a video, and can auto caption content on request. Visit Share video with students for information about streaming with Echo360.
      • PowerPoint
        • Microsoft PowerPoint has built in audio and timing recording functionality which allows instructors to narrate their own power points. Instructors can use the same slides they already use, record audio, and then distribute their slides with audio narration included to student via the LMS or email. See office.com for detailed instructions.

To conduct class meetings with small groups of undergraduate/graduate students or to hold office hours, instructors may wish to use one of the following video conferencing solutions:

  • Small to Medium Classes (Up to 250 users) – Microsoft Teams
    • Microsoft Teams is a 1 on 1 and group-based communication platform for both text and rich media communication. It can support up to 250 concurrent users per meeting. Its online video features (including video meetings and recording) are outlined at office.com.
    • We have compiled documentation to assist on our Sakai Help Wiki. Topics include managing members, scheduling Teams meetings, sharing your screen, and recording your meetings.
    • Microsoft has created a quick start tip-sheet for educators: Teams Quick Start and an online learning series in collaboration with Bow Valley College in Calgary at: Unleashing Collaborative Learning in Flexible Environments with Microsoft Teams
    • ITS also has documentation about the usage of MS Teams on their Sharepoint Site
    • If you’d like an automatically provisioned Team site with your student class roster please email edtech@brocku.ca and we can assist
  • Large Classes (Greater than 250 users) –  LifeSize
    • LifeSize is a secured campus-wide solution for video conferencing you can use for 1 on 1 meetings, office hours, or large online lecture delivery Information Technology Services websites. It can support up to 1000 users per meeting.

Depending on the type of assessment, it may be possible to keep the existing format in place with small tweaks to have students submit online.

For a paper-based assignment, you may be able to use the Isaak-Sakai Assignments tool to have student submit online instead of on paper: https://docu.brocku.ca/sakai/index.php/Add_an_Assignment

For face-to-face presentation-based assignment, you may be able to use the Isaak-Sakai Videos tool to have students create online videos instead of seminars:


Converting an existing formal paper-based exam into an online format can be a significant undertaking. We suggest taking a Re-weight > Re-design > Digitize approach.

Have your students demonstrated their ability to meet the learning outcomes of the course through other assessments they have already completed? If so, consider re-weighting the assessments in your course and eliminating the final exam. However, before doing so, consider how your students will be affected if you were to take all the existing assessments to date and use that to calculate the final grade. Are many students at risk of failing who would have been able to succeed by writing a final exam? If so, consider re-designing the exam (see next section).

If you have met all the learning outcomes and feel confident that the course assessment is sufficient you move forward with the re-weighting process. It is good pedagogy, especially in these stressful times, to provide students the ability to opt-out of this.

Here is suggested message to send to your students:

Due to the university’s response to COVID-19 and because the assessments you have completed to date have reached the essential learning outcomes for this course I am canceling the final exam. I will be re-weighting the final grade based on the assessments completed to date. If you have any concerns about this decision, please contact me by [SPECIFY A REASONABLE DATE] and I will create an alternate take-home exam for you.

If any students do prefer a take-home exam, refer to the next section on re-design.

You can utilize your course Gradebook in Sakai to calculate your final grades. Contact CPI for assistance with this process.

If you decide to redesign your exam into an alternate format to meet your course learning outcomes, begin by revisiting your course learning outcomes.  

Consider what learning outcomes students have met through course assessments already and what students still need to demonstrate knowledge of and/or ability to do. Whether you elect to provide students with an alternate assignment (rather than a final exam) or re-designing your exam into a take-home exam, focus on these outstanding components. 

Re-designing to an alternate assignment format

Providing students with an alternate assignment, rather than a final exam, can be a helpful way of achieving your remaining course learning outcomes. As well, assignments of this nature typically expect students to synthesize and apply the knowledge and skills they have learned from the course.

Some examples of assignments you may use as part of your re-design include:

  • Student video or audio presentations (which can be uploaded to the Sakai Assignments tool). Students can video tape themselves using their mobile device or webcam to simulate an in-class presentation or be given the option of creating a PowerPoint presentation which they record and narrate. Alternatively, students could record a podcast.
  • Reflection assignments. CPI has developed an online resource where you will find frameworks, examples of reflection questions, and assignments in multiple mediums. Visit The Role of Reflection website to learn more.
  • Culminating written papers

Re-designing your exam into a take-home/open-book exam

A take-home or open-book exam is designed in a way that allows students to use their class notes, textbooks, and study notes while completing the exam.   

Take-home/open-book exams can allow for you to design questions that require students to demonstrate their critical, analytical or higher-order thinking skills.   

If you are re-designing your final exam as a take-home/open-book exam the following may be helpful: 

  • Questions need to be constructed in a way that assesses more than knowledge recall, see the chart below which outlines Bloom’s Taxonomy levels and provides some guidance on question formats
  • Ensure that your questions are clearly worded with succinct and unambiguous directives for student responses. Be clear about what exactly you are expecting students to include in their answer.
  • Design questions that require students to do things with the information available to them, rather than just simply locating the correct information in their textbook or the course notes and either summarizing or restating it.
  • Consider case-study or problem-based questions that require students to synthesize knowledge they have learned throughout the course and apply it to a novel situation. You could also provide students with data, a passage, or a scenario and ask them to interpret or analyze it using concepts and skills they have developed in the course.
  • Develop a bank of questions and use the features in Sakai to randomize both the questions and the order that the questions appear in. This can help build in academic integrity measures into your assessment.
  • Consider how much time you will give students to complete the exam. Will you have students the questions in advance and require them to upload their answers to the Assignments tool in Sakai by a particular deadline (such as the originally scheduled exam date) or will you administer the questions through the Tests & Quizzes tool in Sakai and give students a set amount of time to complete the exam on a particular date and time? Remember that your students are likely taking four or five other courses in addition to yours, all of which have been recently reformatted which can cause additional stress for your students. Be as flexible as possible given the circumstances.
  • Once you have decided on the format of the exam, check in with students who have academic accommodations to discuss any arrangements that you can make to support them. Sakai has built in features that can extend the time allotted for an exam or assignment submission for particular students. You may also need to consider the offering the exam in an alternate format (e.g. oral/audio recorded). Contact CPI for assistance.Once you have designed your questions return to the course learning outcomes listed in your syllabus. Ensure that your questions address with the course learning outcomes that you have designated as not yet reached while considering re-weighting assessments – do your questions require students to demonstrate what they need to know and be able to do?
Type or Level of QuestionStudents are asked to …Example question formats
Knowing & Rememberingrecall knowledge of subject matter relevant to the discussion What, where, who, when …? How many …? List … Describe … Define …
Understandingdemonstrate understanding by constructing meaning from information In your own words … Explain how … What did X mean when …? Given an example of …
Applyingapply knowledge and understanding to a particular task of problem How would you use …? What examples can you find to …? How would you solve X using what you have learned? What would happen in …?
Analyzingexamine different concepts and make distinctions between them What are the parts or features of…? What are the competing arguments within…? Why is X different to Y? Compare and contrast… What is the relationship between A and B?
Evaluatingmake judgements about concepts or ideas What is most important/effective? Which method is best? Which is the strongest argument?
Creatingdevelop new ideas from what they know and understand How would you design a …? What alternatives are there to…? What changes would you make? What would happen if…? Suppose you could ___ what would you do? How would you evaluate? Can you formulate a theory for…?

From: Anderson, L. & Krathwohl, D. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman. 

Supporting students

Your students may not be familiar or have experience with take-home/open-book exams. Studying for these types of exams is different from traditional exams. Students may falsely assume that they can find all the answers in their textbook, in their notes, or online, which can lead to a disappointing performance. A-Z Learning Services has resources to help students prepare for take-home/open-book exams which can be found online. We encourage you to refer students to these resources and include a link in your Sakai site.

Additionally, the learning for a take-home/open-book exam, just like with a traditional exam, happens predominantly in the preparation and studying processes that students undertake to prepare. Consider assigning marks for students’ study notes, which incentivizes the studying and preparation process. Students can upload their study notes to the Sakai Assignments tool before the exam to demonstrate that they have engaged in this process.

High stakes online testing is challenging to do. Maintaining academic integrity within the process is hard to ensure.  

Considerations when altering your exam for the digital format are listed below: 

  • Including student’s study notes as part of the assessment by allowing them to upload their notes via the Sakai Assignment tool and including them in your evaluation of the online exam.  
  • Consider adding the A-Z Learning Academic Integrity module to your course and including it as a required component of your final exam. This can be integrated into your Sakai site and included in the final grade. 
  • Student Accessibility Services has provided tips for accessibility to help ensure that your online courses are accessible to all students
  • Creating online quizzes requires careful planning and multiple considerations. The Sakai quiz tool is equipped to handle randomized question pools to allow for multiple choice, True/False, and short-answer questions. 
  • Consider extracting some key questions to allow for short answer or short essay format that can be delivered through the Assignment tool.  

Mobilizing Partnerships to Assist:

There are many partners across the University which can also be leveraged at a time of university closure in order to provide supports for instructors. Two of the main examples include the Library and Experiential Education. The Library Services can assist in sourcing information and resources that instructors may require to create appropriate lectures and teaching materials for an online environment. Experiential Education Coordinators can work with faculty to redesign assignments to achieve learning objectives if students are no longer able to engage in their community-based placements. Student Accessibility Services has provided tips for accessibility to help ensure that your online courses are accessible to all students