The Engineering Epic Finale - An Authentic Alternative Assessment Method for Final Exams

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings

Publication Date



Inspired by an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2015 titled “Final Exams or Epic Finales” (https://www.chronicle.com/article/Final-Exams-or-Epic-Finales/231871), three instructors of middle-level multidisciplinary engineering courses at Elizabethtown College, a small, private, regional liberal arts college, replaced their traditional final exams with self-described “epic finales” or final “celebrations of learning.” We seek to share our experiences from several years of implementation as many in the engineering education community consider alternative final exams coming out of COVID. We have implemented epic finales in Strength of Materials, Thermodynamics, Introduction to Environmental Engineering, and Civil Engineering Materials. Our experiences include in-person and virtual implementation. In this paper, we share our exercises, details of the semi-structured time block used, our grading approaches and rubrics, student and instructor reactions, challenges and opportunities identified, and guidance on the circumstances under which we recommend using this approach. Of note, student feedback indicating that students felt 'like a real engineer' and thought they would remember this exercise far better and for far longer than wiping their mind of the cramming before a typical exam. While the level of technical analysis during the exercise did not rise to the level of a typical final exam, in all courses, students had been tested on most of the content during partial exams. Instead, students had to display a higher level of 'real world' skills including problem-solving on an open-ended question, researching a new topic, synthesizing course content, modeling and making tractable a complex problem, self-regulated organization and group management, coordination and communication between groups of students, prioritization of which information they needed to solve the problem, and considerable time constraint. Our intention with this paper is provide instructors with our lessons learned over several years of implementation and the guidance to implement a practical, creative, and fun alternative 'epic finale,' under COVID circumstances and beyond.



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