Online Exams

Dear Faculty,

In response to Cornell’s move to online finals the information below may be useful.  

First, send a quick email or announcement to students that the exam is now online and that additional information will be coming soon.  

To set up your exam on Canvas, the notes below describe one approach you could take. (Thanks to Dmitry Savransky for sharing this.)  Some additional information and hints are provided by CTI at Online Exam Decision Guide: CTI Learning Technologies Resource Library (

  1. Create an Assignment (under your Canvas page's Assignments area) by clicking the +Assignment Button
  2. Give it a name (i.e., Final Exam) and some description (your specific instructions) and then append your existing exam into the description as a document (in the toolbar, that's the little document symbol - click it and select Upload Documents)
  3. Set a number of points (say 100)
  4. Pick an assignment group (you can create a  new one for this exam only, or just leave in general assignments)
  5. Submission Type should be set to 'Online', with only 'File Uploads' checked.  You may also restrict upload filetypes (I like to only allow for PDF uploads, so I click 'Restrict Upload File Types' and type PDF in the text box that appears). 
  6. Allowed Attempts: this defaults to unlimited, but should probably be just 1 for exams. Up to you. 
  7. Make sure nothing is checked in the 'Group Assignment', 'Peer Reviews', 'Moderated Grading', and 'Anonymous Grading'.
  8. Make the assignment due at the end of your scheduled Final period and available during the exam period only.  So, for example, if your exam is scheduled from 7 to 10 pm on Monday, you would want both 'Due' and 'Until' to be 'Dec 13, 2021, 10:00 PM' and the 'Available From' to be: 'Dec 13, 2021, 07:00 PM'.  I would recommend extending your nominal exam time by at least 30 minutes to allow for scanning and uploading of solutions.  
  9. Click 'Save & Publish" and you're done. 
  10. Most importantly, you need to clearly communicate to students what the expectations are for self-administering the exam (i.e., closed vs. open book/note) and what they should expect (i.e., the assignment appears in Canvas, they have a fixed amount of time to do it, they can only upload specific things, etc.).  Very important:  who and how should they contact someone if they run into problems with the exam or have questions.


11. Also don't forget about any students with extra time accommodations.  They may require assignment overrides, or just a separate exam assignment with different due times that's just for them. If you would like to assign something to only a subset of your class, it's possible but unfortunately tedious in Canvas.  You basically remove the 'Everyone' from the 'Assign To' box and replace it with only the names of the students you want the assignment going to.  Fine for a handful of names, but very cumbersome for a large chunk of a big class.  

In a large class, for students with accommodations, it might be easiest to create a separate assignment for them with their own time constraints.  Give their exam a version number so you can connect them to the correct version.  Set up the needed versions for various times.  Then email the students for each version to ignore the main version and to take the assignment with their specific version number.  Send this assignment only to that small group of students and tell them to take that version, NOT the main assignment exam, in order to get their accommodation.

Additional Help:
Faculty can consult with CTI using their Online Drop-In Sessions | Center for Teaching Innovation (