As the semester comes to an end, finals are on everyone’s mind—students and instructors alike. Whether that means a final project, exam, or both, finals can be a little scary. Instructors want to assess students’ comprehension and mastery of material taught over the course of the semester. Students just want to get it over with. So, how can instructors make finals less dreadful and more helpful? Here is a list of ideas for final project ideas and presentation software that might make things a little more bearable (and maybe even exciting).
Alternatives to Exams
Multiple choice exams are a common final exam format for a reason: they are easy to create, disseminate, and grade. A lot of times though, they just show how well students can memorize facts or use testing strategies. While these skills have their place, in this world of easily accessible information, simply testing the remembrance of facts can seem pointless to students who feel like they could just look something up if they need to know it. Instead, consider some of the following alternatives to traditional final exams that can help students apply and interact with the material.
1. Set the performance objective and let the students pick how it is presented.
For example, if you teach history, you could assign a time period or event as the topic. Then, you could make some criteria (such as the number of resources to be used, events or people to be covered, or key terms to be defined) and then let the students decide how to present that information (alone or in groups). Students could create a short story, a skit, a video, a presentation, or an app—whatever they are interested in. This format allows students to be creative, present information in a way that appeals to them, and teach others.
2. Have students turn the course material into a brand on social media.
Social media is everywhere today, so why not use it? Students could pick a person or a topic they learned about and then make a Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok account for the subject. You could assign a certain number of posts to be created or other guidelines. This format makes the subject more interactive and puts students’ social media passion to use. It can also help them prepare for a career in marketing or advertising.
3. Let students create a video reflection essay.
For some students, putting their thoughts on paper can be difficult. A video reflection essay can help those students express their thoughts in a more natural way. You can create guidelines such as length, number of topics covered, or addition of other media (like infographics or other images). This format can also help students that would normally be too nervous to present in front of the class since they can create the video without an audience.
4. Let students design and run their own experiment.
Some courses (like science or engineering) lend themselves better to experiments rather than tests. Letting students design their own experiments allows them to put into practice the concepts of a course. This could even be a semester-long project with the final presenting the results. However, if time is a factor, students can just create the experimental design. This format helps students apply knowledge rather than simply memorize it.
5. Ask students to create an annotated portfolio of sources regarding a topic or the entire course.
There is so much information available to us today through the internet. By creating a portfolio of information, students can engage with that information and learn to sort reliable sources from unreliable sources. This format allows students to aggregate sources and distill the information into digestible pieces.
6. Allow students to get creative.
Ask students to create a video, game, website, infographic, podcast, quiz, or story that focuses on the course in general or a different topic. Then, when presented together, students have a multimedia library of a variety of topics for the course. Students learn so much more when they teach each other. Allowing the students to get creative can be a way to engage them and even make them excited about the material.
We don’t see too many posters or dioramas in secondary education these days. Most students prefer to use technology to create and present projects, so here are some useful programs to help with different types of projects.
There are plenty of presentation programs out there. Just a few are PowerPoint, Google Slides, and Prezi. PowerPoint has become almost synonymous with presentations and can create a professional visual. Google Slides has the benefit of being free, allowing real-time collaboration, and preserving a log of who worked on what. Prezi Is a unique presentation tool that forgoes the traditional slide model in favor of an interactive canvas to organize your information and thoughts.
Good news! You no longer need to have a whole video editing suite to make a quality video presentation. There are programs and free-content libraries available to help you create a video. Websites like Powtoon and Animoto have templates and instructions on how to create a great video presentation. Other websites, like Canva and Easelly, can help students create visuals to add to their videos, or they can use free image websites like Unsplash, Pixabay, or Pexels.
Ultimately, there are lots of ways to change up the end of the semester and help students end the class with something that demonstrates how to apply knowledge instead of memorizing it. They may even come away with a new skill or passion!