Assignments and assessments

The information on this page was prepared in Spring 2020 for the transition to emergency remote teaching. In preparation for Fall 2020, Duke Learning Innovation has developed a new resource, Flexible Teaching, which features a series of guides for course design, delivery, and materials. Please refer to as you prepare for your fall course(s).

Academic integrity

  • If you choose to conduct an exam, open book exams may make the most sense for many courses. 
  • Set clear expectations with students about what is and is not permitted, and reinforce expectations about academic integrity.  
  • Enable the Honor Pledge option on your Sakai Tests & Quizzes and Assignments.
  • Options for promoting integrity using Sakai Tests and Quizzes:
    • Randomize question order (and possible answers, if multiple choice)
    • Opt to show only a few questions at a time (instead of all at once)
    • Create a timed assessment
    • Limit the number of possible attempts
    • Be strategic with when students are able to view the correct answers (ideally, correct answers will only display once all students in the course have finished the test or quiz)
    • Use large question pools and have Sakai pull a specific number of random questions from each pool to include in the test or quiz.
    • Hide correct answers and scores until the quiz or test is closed.
  • For other forms of assessment, we recommend the following approaches to enhance academic integrity:
    • Design project-based assessments (group or individual) that integrate several measures for performance, comprehension, and mastery
    • Have students answer from their own perspective/experience in papers and essay questions
    • Encourage students to choose their own topic(when appropriate) for projects and/or papers
    • Incorporate problem-solving questions with multiple right answers and/or approaches
    • Design assessments that place more value in showing your work than providing the right answer


In most cases, for posting student grades you will be using the Sakai Gradebook. In the grade book itself, you can create items (columns) for manual grading, or grade book items can automatically be created for you by Sakai Assignments, Sakai Tests & Quizzes, or Gradescope. We recommend Sakai Assignments and Test & Quizzes be configured to automatically send grades to the Sakai Gradebook.

The Sakai Gradebook is relatively easy to use, but is often a source of confusion or stress because of its importance relative to the other tools in an online course. Here are a few tips to make the most of using the Sakai Gradebook:

  • If you’re planning to set up categories and weighting in your grade book, do that first, as it can be difficult to change the category of an existing grade book item. 
  • Hide the total grade column if you’re only using Gradebook for some of your course’s assignments, so that students don’t see an inaccurate course grade. 
  • The Gradebook can be as complicated or as simple as you need it to be, so don’t worry about adding weighting and categories if you don’t feel comfortable setting that up. 
  • If you do not feel comfortable setting up weighting in Sakai, we recommend hiding the final grade column from students until the end of the term to avoid potential confusion.

Tools for assignments and assessments

Sakai Tests and Quizzes

If you typically give quantitative or short-answer exams, Sakai Tests and Quizzes could be a good option. Varied question types are allowed, along with options for question pools (so each student may see a different sub-set of questions), randomizing question and answer order, timed submissions, etc. 

Sakai Assignments

Students submit their file via an assignment link, and you can download and grade online (using MS Word or a pdf editor could be two common methods). Papers can be given back to the students using the Assignment tool as well. We recommend the Assignment tool rather than Dropbox for works which are going to be graded, because Assignments creates a gradebook column and because it automatically shows you which students have submitted their assignment and which haven’t. 

Sakai Dropbox

If you usually have students submit drafts prior to grading, one option could be the Sakai Dropbox tool. Each student can have a private folder where s/he can submit a draft that only you can see, and you could return a commented copy to them in the Dropbox as well. Sakai Dropbox is not recommended for collecting work to be graded (use Assignments tool for that).

Duke Box

Box is Duke’s file sharing service. Instructors can share a Box folder with a course roster and students can upload and download files to that folder.


Gradescope, while designed more for short-answer types of assignments/tests, could also work to grade longer works online. Students upload their assignment via Gradescope, where you can access and grade it. Students can see their graded work in Gradescope when you are done. Gradescope is an excellent tool for streamlining grading and making it more consistent. Gradescope is also a great option for collecting and grading programming assignments, as it includes an auto-grader function.