Blackboard Tests - Tips for Instructors

Creating and giving Blackboard tests can be convenient and timesaving, both for yourself and your students. These tips will help you understand many available options and their implications. This guide outlines some best practices to consider when giving a Blackboard Test.

Best Practices Tips for Instructors

You can use tests and surveys to measure student knowledge, gauge progress, and gather information from students. Blackboard provides a number of options that can restrict the ways in which students are able to take a test and reduce the incidence of cheating. These tips are available to assist in minimizing testing problems for your students.

 

Giving a long test? Break it up! Consider breaking a two-hour exam into smaller tests taken in sequence. This makes the test seem more approachable because it is in “bite-sized chunks,” and it helps students avoid running into network and computer issues.

 

Essay Questions? If your test has one or more essay questions, use the Assignment tool in Blackboard. Essay questions force students away from the test for an extended time while they compose their answer, increasing the risk of a time-out problem. With an Assignment, students can submit their essay file(s) when they are ready. Though you lose the ability to enforce a time limit, you can batch download student Assignment submissions and use Bb Annotate for in-line grading to markup and comment on submissions. 

 

Before building a Test, make Question Pools. If you're concerned about cheating, sure you can randomize the order of the questions per student and even randomize the order in which answer choices appear. A more helpful option is to have a large Question Pool available to choose questions from. Questions in pools can be categorized by topic, difficulty, or chapter and you can deploy a randomly chosen subset of questions from those pools for each student.

 

Question Categories. Questions can be categorized by topic, difficulty, or chapter. Building this metadata with the question may be used when selecting questions for tests, and for analysis once the test has been taken. Item analysis can be used to improve questions for future tests, discuss test results, provide basis for remedial work and improve classroom instruction.

 

Random answer order. When deploying the test, you can display the questions to each student in random order. You may also choose to show the possible answers per question randomly. When it comes time for the class to review the test, be sure to focus on the question title and correct answer rather than the exact letter/number choice because it will be different for each student. 

 

Display all the questions at once. In the Test Options, you can choose to have all questions displayed on the same page or to present one question at a time with which you can allow or disallow students from going back to questions they already answered. If you display them all at once, though, there are fewer clicks for students, and it is easier for them to refer back to questions and re-check answers before submitting. Also, there is less chance of clicking in the wrong place and exiting the test before completion.

 

Allow Backtracking. If backtracking Is not allowed, students are likely to click the browser Back button, resulting in an error. This helps students refer back to questions and re-check answers before submitting

 

Do Not use test option to Open in New Window. If your students have their browser set to block pop-up windows, setting this to Yes could prevent the test from launching in their browser because the new window will be blocked by the pop-up blocker.

 

Do not use Force Completion! It may seem like a good strategy to ensure students complete the test and do not cheat by keeping it open. You do want to to have your students complete the test in one sitting. However, Force Completion can cause more problems than it solves. With Force Completion on, students who lose internet connection, mistakenly close their browser, or hit the Back button in error can't re-enter and continue the test. At that point you begin to receive calls and emails from students asking to get back in the test. You will need to allow them to re-enter and start over. 

 

Timer with Auto Submit. An option for students to complete a test within a time limit is using a Timer with Auto-Submit on. This which allows students to re-enter a test should they lose connectivity, but automatically submits it when the timer expires. 

 

Auto-Submit Caution. If you add a Timer to a Test, you can then turn on Auto-Submit so that a student’s answers are submitted as soon as the timer expires. The Timer becomes a real time limit, but a question of caution: As with Force Completion, the student correspondence and requests for more time may be overwhelming. It may yet be a helpful tool, though a recommended alternative is to include up a point deduction course policy for going overtime. 

 

Respondus Lockdown Browser. Locking down a student’s browser prior to and while taking a test prevents the student from opening other applications/browsers. Once the test is submitted the student is, again, able to use other applications/browsers. More information is available on requiring Respondus Lockdown Browser for your test at Respondus LockDown Browser.

 

YuJa Proctored Exam. If you feel more comfortable with requiring proctoring to help ensure secure testing, YuJa is available. YuJa proctoring provides a recording of the individual student taking the test. The recording can be review by the instructor if there are questions about the student’s completed test. YuJa proctoring does not include a live proctor and is similar to using YuJa to record a lecture. More information is available to set up a test at YuJa - Enabling Exam Proctoring .

 

Use Test Availability Exceptions: Do you have a large class with diverse needs? You may have one or more students approved for extended test-taking time or students observing a religious holiday who need to take a test late. Test Availability Exceptions allow you to set differing Test Options for specific students. 

 

Give feedback when and how you want to. Blackboard offers a two-triggered approach to giving test feedback to your students. For example, upon their submission, you may choose for students to see their score per question, all the possible answers choices, the correct answers, their submitted answers, auto-feedback text from you, all of the above just once, or somewhere in between. Then, you can set up a secondary trigger to show more of the above options on a specific date or once you grade all submissions. 

 

Check your Test for mistakes before making it available to students! Preview the test as a student before your students take it. It is not the best practice to have to change test questions after a few students have opened the test. If you need to make changes, wait until all students have taken the test, then inform your students, make the changes, and use the “Update and Regrade” feature in the test page which regrades the test, taking into consideration the changes you made. 

 

Assign “low stakes” practice tests several times during the course. Each semester, offer your students low-stakes tests. This helps students to become comfortable in the testing environment and adds formative value to developing study habits. One a couple of the tests use similar settings that you would use in a real test to check whether your students can submit the test for your review successfully. It can take the form of pre-tests for existing knowledge quiz at the beginning of the semester, knowledge checks, and practice exams! 

 

Clear Expectations: Prepare students. Ensure that students have ample notice and clear instructions for the test. Inform them of the test settings and policies such as whether the test is timed, possible penalties for working after time expires (if you are not using Auto-Submit), how many attempts they have, or whether questions will be automatically or manually graded. 

 

How to Handle Technical Issues: Communicate how you will address technical interruptions in student's test-taking to ensure that if an issue comes up, you can handle it swiftly and fairly. Include your contact information, including specifics of how and when to contact you. Also include the IT Help Desk contact.

 

Access log. Once a student takes your Test, you can see an Access Log of when they saved answers to specific questions and the approximate time spent on each question. It can prove useful, for example, if a student lost connectivity for a period of time and then reports that to you as a reason for a retake or extension. It may also be useful for you to see what questions took the longest for a particular student, especially when you wish to suggest remediation for a topic or two. 

 

Item Analysis. In addition to the Access Log, you can analyze the test questions themselves after students take the test. From either a Test or Pool, you can run an Item Analysis report which shows statistics on student's performance overall and on individual questions. This information can help you equitably re-grade a test or improve test questions for future classes. 

 

Additional resources
Blackboard Help: Create Tests and Surveys

Blackboard Tests - Test-Taking Tips for Students