The Economics Network

Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

Part 1 – Materials to review in your own time (with no deadline)

The Covid-19 emergency has taught us that there are a wide range of assessment types that can be used effectively in economics, and that many people have been using these for some time. Of course, we have also learnt that there are many new challenges adapting to an online setting. It is important that we share ideas and learn from each other's experiences. This section is all about doing that.

1. What have we learned from the Covid-19 experiment and how does it help us design adaptable assessments in the future?

Covid-19, and the associated shutting down of university campuses, forced us all to reconsider our approach to teaching and assessment with most moving to some form of online approach. Many were faced with an enforced move away from exams that take place in a room where students are watched over and did not have access to materials. More generally there was concern about how to rewrite suitable assessments and how to maintain academic integrity.

Results from our survey of lecturers show how much adaptation has taken place and continues to take place.

People have learnt a lot about online assessment in a short space of time and we have shown that adaptation is possible. It also became clear that we already have a wealth of experience with a variety of assessment types in the discipline that we can build on. This document showcases that breath of experience with assessment around the world and provides insights on how institutions and individuals adapted in a rapid response scenario.

Reflections on economics assessment from around the world
Go to this Sway

2. Top tips for designing adaptable assessments

Cloda Jenkins (UCL) has created an open source document with Top Tips on how to decide (a) What type of assessment is best for your module and (b) How to design this assessment to be adaptable so that it can be used online or on campus. This was open for editing by the community during the symposium and the final version is part of the Economics Network resources for Distance and Online Learning.

One tip that you might want to consider is using multistage assessments. Michael McCann (Nottingham Trent University) explains what this means and how it can be a useful assessment tool.  

3. Designing open book exam style assessments

For many, the biggest impact of the closure of campuses was the fact that exams, where students are together in a room with oversight and no materials to hand, had to be cancelled. Most institutions offered the option of changing exams into an alternative assessment type or running them online with a time limit. This is something that many must consider again for 2020/21 and potentially for future years. Here, you can find ideas on the design of open book exam questions of different types.

Stefania Paredes-Fuentes (Warwick University) provides insights on the move to timed online exams, reflecting on her experience with two modules.

Dimitra Petropolou (LSE) explains how she approached the redesign of her second-year microeconomics exam and illustrates the changes by sharing old and new style questions.

Maria Kozlovskaya (Aston University) explains her approach to using short answer questions in online assessment in a Masters course that introduces economics to non-economists.

With large cohorts, quizzes including multiple-choice exams, are often popular. Many had already switched to running these on computers but still often in invigilated campus rooms or had paper-based quizzes as part of the assessment. Moving online requires some redesign of processes and questions but lessons can still be learned from how the quizzes were designed in the past.

Kay Sambell (Edinburgh Napier University) and Sally Brown have created the COVID collection including the following:

Riccardo Soliani (University of Genoa) describes a dialogic approach to assess a History of Economic Thought course that he has been using at a distance.

4. Designing dissertations and take-home essays

Dissertations and essays will continue to be used extensively for economics assessment. Where teaching and assessment is online some changes may need to be provided to the approach to supervision, essay question design and marking criteria. However, the general best practice pedagogy for this type of assessment remains relevant [EN link?] and it is helpful to get ideas from colleagues already designing innovative and adaptable approaches.  

In this video, Ramin Nassehi (UCL) talks to students in his Economic History module (Term 1 2019/20) about how they prepared themselves for the essay assessment. The student insight is helpful for lecturers considering the design and support offered around essay assessments. It also illustrates an innovative method of getting feedback from students on their assessments.

Fabio Aricò and Matthew Aldrich (UEA) share their experience working with dissertation and capstone research projects. The dissertation module for Year 3 Undergraduate students was launched three years ago. The module is a successful model of skill-development and peer-learning. There is an option for students to engage with businesses and charities in their research. Dr Matthew Aldrich, convenor of the Economics Dissertation module, wrote two case studies exploring the features of this learning environment. One was shared as part of the Economics Network project on Employability Skills in Economics Degrees in 2019. The second is more recent and explains how the module was adapted for a post-Covid world. In this short video, Prof Fabio Aricò, who also teaches on this module, introduces the two case studies, with particular attention to the arrangements made to adjust to remote teaching. If you wish to receive further information about curriculum and assessment design for this module, please contact Matthew Aldrich ( or Fabio Aricò (, also on Twitter (@FabioArico).

5. Designing empirical projects

The Economics Network 2019 project on Employability Skills in Economics Degrees noted that employers were looking for graduates with experience working with data and that many economics departments had developed empirical projects in the degree to enable these skills to be developed. These empirical projects require some adaptation if teaching and assessing online.

Dimensions of assessment
Steve Cook, Swansea University

This video discusses and draws together a number of issues, articles, reports and research that can be used to shape the creation of assessment materials for econometric and "quantitative" modules. Issues considered include: employability concerns (see Jenkins, 2019); authentic assessment (e.g. Villarroel et al. 2018); alternative forms of research-incorporated teaching (Healey and Jenkins, 2005); the self-efficacy, "anxiety toward quants" and general assessment (Guest, 2019) literatures; and published reports on the quantitative skills of graduates. The possible nature of a research-driven form of assessment designed to hopefully address all of the above issues is discussed.

Peter Dawson (UEA) explains in this video how he designs a project for his second year econometrics course and has kindly shared the documents he uses with students (assignment instructions, project checklist, preliminary proposal, final proposal). You can access the Understanding Society Dataset mentioned in the video and the Norwich Economic Paper referred to.

Michael McCann (Nottingham Trent University) describes his use of data-based projects for assessment in this video. He has also provided examples of the assessment tasks and references and further reading.

6. Designing video projects, assessed presentations and viva voce assessments

In an online world, there is an opportunity to take advantage of multimedia and encourage students to create outputs that are in video or podcast form. This is something that Silvia dal Bianco (UCL) has already done (pre-Covid) and she shares tips on how to support students with video projects. You can also find out more about multimedia assessments in this discussion between Silvia and Dimitra Petropolou (LSE) at an EconTEAching seminar in May 2020. Parama Chaudhury (UCL) also explains, in the Sway presentation on Reflections on Economics Assessment Around the World (Section 1 of Part 1) how she had to quickly move a classroom-based group presentation online in March 2020 and ideas she has for adapting this presentation assessment in the future.

In a learning environment where we are mainly expected to design open-book assessment and diversify assessment formats, oral assessment represents an effective addition to our toolbox. In the short video below Prof Fabio Aricò introduces the concept of ‘Evaluative Conversation’ or ‘Viva Voce Assessment’. He contextualises the use of viva voce assessment, providing an example from his experience implementing vivas in a History of Economic Thought module.

Slides from the video are available. You can download and consult a richer set of slides with additional guidelines on how to design viva voce assessment. If you are interested in experimenting with this form of assessment, you can also consult Fabio’s Case Study for the Economics Network: “Employability Skills: History of Economic Thought at the University of East Anglia” and/or watch a more detailed presentation Fabio delivered for #EconTEAching at the Centre for Teaching and Learning Economics (CTaLE) at UCL. There is also a blog on Fabio’s presentation written by Silvia Dal Bianco at CTaLE. You can download and consult a richer set of slides with additional guidelines on how to design viva voce assessment. If you wish to discuss this assessment design with Fabio and receive further advice, please contact him via email ( or Twitter (@FabioArico).

7. Designing group work

The move to online teaching, with some students only working remotely potentially in another time zone from their university, raises concerns about how to ensure students feel part of the student and department community. One option that is often suggested is to create communities by encouraging students to work together in groups, in the virtual classroom, asynchronously on work that does not count for assessment and potentially as part of the assessment.

In this video, members of the team from UCL’s Centre for Teaching Learning Economics (CTaLE) discuss various approaches that they have adopted to group work over several years and how they are making changes for online assessment. Carlos Cortinhas (Exeter University) shares his plans to introduce a Group Work assignment for an Economic Principles module and shares his assignment instructions.

8. Managing concerns about academic integrity

When we had to suddenly move to assessments online many of us turned to guidance produced, at short notice, by Stefania Paredes-Fuentes (Warwick University) and Tim Burnett (Aston University). Steffie also shared her ideas and thoughts at an April EconTEAching seminar in April 2020. They, and everyone else, have learnt a lot since the Spring. You can read updated ideas and practical suggestions from Tim Burnett (Aston University). Of course, you should also make sure to be up to date with your own institution’s rules, regulations and processes in this area.

Next: Part 2 – Asynchronous activities to work on September 8th to 16th 2020

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