Week 5 – Tips for Tests in Blackboard – 2/9/15

Giving your tests using Blackboard is a great option whether you have a seated, hybrid or online class. Tests given in Blackboard allow for many question types that are self-grading, which can make your life much easier and save a lot of time. Plus you can get statistics on the questions and the results. This can help you to identify a possible bad question. As great as tests are in Blackboard, there are a couple of tips you want to keep in mind when setting up your test.

  1. Always time your tests – You do not want to allow students to work on a test for more than a reasonable amount of time. The amount of time will vary depending on the question types. In Blackboard, once the time expires, the test does not stop and will record the amount of time given versus the amount of time taken.
  2. Don’t make your tests too long – Having a test that is over an hour long is really unrealistic – even an hour long exam is stretching it. If you have a lot of material to cover, why not break it down into multiple exams? Maybe a 2 hour exam broken into 30 minute chunks. This will give the students an opportunity to take a break every so often without being penalized.
  3. Turn Force Completion off – This option is often misunderstood. Instead of using Force Completion, set up a time limit. The way the time limit works is that once a student begins the test, their time starts. If the student exits the test for any reason – voluntary or otherwise – the time continues. So if a student works on a test for 15 minutes, then leaves and goes to work for 8 hours and then returns and completes the test in 45 minutes, the timer will show that it took 9 hours for the student to take the test. It is a misconception that the time stops on the test when the student comes out of the test. The benefit of using this feature though is the student could be kicked out of a test involuntarily, but can then go right back in and continue where he left off. With the test submission issues in Blackboard, this is something to definitely take advantage of.
  4. Randomize your questions and answers – If you use a set of questions, make sure you check to randomize the questions, so that everyone does not receive the questions in the same order. Even if you are randomly pulling questions from a large pool, there is a good chance that students will run into the same questions. If you at least randomize the answers, the order for multiple choice questions will at least be different (if you do though, remember the “none of the above” answer will need to be modified to something like “none of the other answers are correct.” Also, if you have several questions referring to a single image, make sure the image is included in each relevant question.
  5. Narrow Test Availability – When you are determining your start and end dates for a test, narrow the amount of time you give for the test to be taken, if at all possible, try to include at least one weekend day since many students work and/or have other classes. No more than 2-3 days should be adequate for all. You could even reduce it to one day or a certain time frame, but be sure to announce that on the first day of the semester, so arrangements can be made as necessary by the students.
  6. Do Not Reveal Answers – Set up the test so when a student completes an attempt, the score is the only thing shown. Once your classes, or all classes using the test, have completed the test, go back in and reveal whatever else you’d like to show them (correct answers, their answers, feedback, etc.).
  7. Use Exceptions – If you have students who require extra time, make it easy on yourself and set that up in the test options before you start a test. If you end up with a student who needs to take the test a second time, or on a date other than the dates you’ve specified, you can use these Availability Exceptions to allow it for a particular student or students without having to set up another version of the test that will confuse your gradebook and the rest of your class.
  8. Update Tests Regularly – Do not use the same tests each semester. There is no reason to believe students from one semester won’t share a test from another semester. Remove the effect this could have by regularly updating tests. Even if you don’t completely overhaul all of your questions, at least integrate some new questions and rework some of the old ones.
  9. Help Students Be Successful – There are several things you can do to help your students be successful when taking tests online. Following are some tips:
    • Encourage your students not to use Internet Explorer
    • Encourage your students to use a Wired Internet Connection
    • Tell your students not to double click and be patient
    • Tell your students not to use the Browser Refresh or Back buttons while taking a test
    • Tell your students not to use the Return/Enter key while taking the test except when typing an answer to an essay question
    • If giving essay questions, have the student type directly into the text box within the test rather than going into Word and copying and pasting into the test. Word brings in a lot of extra code that can cause problems within the test.
    • Advise your students to keep the window with the test active and not go to or open other windows.
    • Advise students to let the page load completely before starting to answer questions.
    • Advise students not to leave the exam until they have completed it. Even if Force Completion is turned off, time set for the exam will continue even if the exam is closed out.
    • Advise students when they finish an exam to click Submit only once.
  10. Grade by Question, not by Student – When the time comes to grade essay questions, take advantage of the option in the Grade Center at the top of the test column to Grade by Question.