Online Testing for Instructors (Best Practices)

Considerations around Using Digitally Proctored Online Testing

Below are things to consider about using digitally proctored online testing:

  • Reduces paper cost for printing exams or purchasing bubble sheets. 
  • Increases testing efficiencies by offering some automation for grading and collections of assessment statistics.
  • Supports the facilitation of consistent feedback to students.
  • Allows for digital proctoring (Example: using Respondus LockDown Browser [LDB]).
  • Allows for the option between asynchronous and synchronous testing.
  • Has features to support academic integrity and reduce motivations in cheating in online testing.
  • Encourages the mastery of building online tests which do differ from paper exams. A learning curve for instructors should be expected.
A Few Best Practices/Recommendations

Recommendation: If you use question types that have a clear correct answer (for example, multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, etc.), Blackboard will grade the test questions for you and include predetermined feedback you have entered.

Explanation: The LMS is built for online testing which pedagogically differs from paper and pencil testing due to the tools available. The concepts of assessing learners on learning objectives remains. When using online testing, you can offer additional setting features that are not available with paper and pencil testing. Results can be immediate if you design the test with an immediate feedback option. Predetermined feedback can also be offered for questions and automatically provided for students.

Recommendation: Allow multiple attempts for a test and/or don't count the test as part of the student's final grade.

Explanation: This pedagogical approach allows students to use the test for self-assessment purposes, allowing them to determine (based on the test results) which materials they need to study further.

Recommendation: Provide feedback for correct and incorrect answers (or even for individual responses) so students can receive feedback after they submit their quiz/test/exam, which promotes student learning.

Explanation: Providing feedback for questions can allow students an opportunity to take a test multiple times and learn from the feedback received. This takes time to prepare and develop, but it is worth it for the independent learning gained. Test banks and question sets can be used for randomizing questions could be very useful for tests with multiple attempts. This way you have several questions covering the same learning objective which prevents peers from receiving the same question.

Recommendation: Don't give long tests via Blackboard. Although there is no exact rule here, if your test will take longer than an hour for students to complete, you might want to consider dividing the test into two (or more) parts, with each part created as a separate test.

Explanation: The longer the test, the greater the possibility for session time-outs and network interruptions. With outages and interruptions, students are unable to submit their tests when completed and testing responses can be lost. 

Recommendation: Students should save each of their answers while working on the test.

Explanation: It is recommended that students save the test every 10 to 15 minutes, so they can return to a recent point in a test should a technical error cause them to interrupt the test.

Student Motivations for Cheating

One way to reduce cheating is to better understand why students cheat. Every student has a different motivation for cheating, and instructors need to try to reduce motivations rather than prevent the act of cheating itself. Students working from remote locations could use two computers at once (one for taking the exam, the other for accessing other applications). Students could use digital cameras to capture the screen content, send text messages on mobile phones or wearable technology, or simply refer to notes kept on any number of media (desktop background images, wearable technology, mobile devices, invisible ink, etc.).

One suggestion for addressing cheating:

  • Use specifically designed tech tools and educate your students. Some instructors use Respondus LockDown Browser, but that doesn't address student motivations for cheating. Learn more about why students cheat, by reading James Lang’s work on Cheating Lessons.
How to Develop Online Exams with a Higher Degree of Confidence for Effectively Assessing Student Learning

Advanced assessment design can be employed to further reduce the risk of cheating and ensure that students know the course material. Each approach below provides another hurdle to overcome in the process of assessment. Even one or two of these suggestions can provide sufficient security for most assessments:

  1. Write questions that can't be searched. By writing authentic assessment questions, students can then be informed that the answers cannot be searched using the Internet for assistance. The students will have to know the material and derive the answers on their own.

  2. Use Large Test Banks and Question Sets. Create a large bank of questions from which to select questions for each test. Many textbooks supply test banks as a foundation for developing your own test bank. Using question sets ensures that students in close proximity to one another are unlikely to get the exact same questions, which reduces the ability to share work.

  3. Use Proctors. Having students take an exam in a room being monitored by a proctor is a major deterrent to most forms of cheating. Enhance this method by having the proctor check the identification of the student prior to the start the exam, or using a “test password” (see next item). For distance courses, proctored locations can be established in other cities, even other countries. Because of the time and expense required for a proctored setting, proctors are sometimes used only with high-stake assessments (e.g., midterms, finals).

  4. Set Assessment Passwords (Blackboard of Respondus advanced setting). An assessment password prevents students from accessing the exam until a password has been supplied. Assessment passwords can be typed by the proctors themselves (for added security) or shared with students at the start of the assessment. If you use Respondus LockDown Browser, it will create an auto-generated password. You can, however, add another password for the students or proctor to enter before taking the exam. You can enter the second password in the Respondus LockDown Browser Dashboard (more information about this found later in this document).

  5. Don't allow multiple attempts (Bb setting). By only allowing one attempt for an assessment, students can't review questions in the assessment, look up the answers later , and then retake the assessment.

  6. Limit initial feedback to "Score Only" (Bb setting). Selecting “Score Only” for the initial Feedback Mode will prevent students from viewing, printing or copying questions after they have completed the exam. Once all students have completed the exam, the Feedback Mode can be changed so that more detailed feedback can be seen by the student. It also protects questions for future terms.

  7. Use Answer Randomization (Bb setting). When you create a question, use this setting to randomize answer choices to multiple choice, multiple answer, and matching questions.

  8. Randomize Questions (Bb setting). Question randomization is a good deterrent for assessments in a classroom setting. Some versions of Blackboard allow you to select question randomization for an entire assessment with a single check box. An alternative approach is to create a “question set” or “random block” which will also display grouped questions in random order.

  9. Question Sets and Random Blocks (Bb Settings). “Question sets” and “Random Blocks” are pools of questions that generally assess similar content. During an assessment, questions are randomly drawn from the pool so that each student sees a different set of questions. For example, the first question in an exam might be drawn from a pool of 5 questions, making the odds only 1 in 5 that students will see the same question. They are also good for working with case study questions. The case study should be entered on each question so students don't need to scroll to access the case for each question.

  10. Calculated Questions (Bb Question Type). Calculated questions, typically used in math and science courses, include variables in the question wording. The values for these variables are randomly generated, so students encountering the same question must give unique answers.

  1. Time Limits (Bb Setting). By limiting the time a student can spend on an assessment, students can be discouraged from consulting other sources since they won't have time.

  2. Availability Dates and Times (Bb Setting). This setting restricts the availability of the assessment to a specific date/time range.

  3. Forced Completion (Bb Setting). If you select Force Completion, students must complete the test or survey when they launch it. Students may only access the test or survey ONE TIME. The Save function is available for students to save the questions as they work through them, but they aren't able to exit and re-enter the test or survey. In the instructions, Force Completion is noted and explained to students. If you don't enable Force Completion, students may save their progress, navigate away, and return to complete the test or survey. NOTE: If students accidentally close their browsers, leave the test or survey page, or lose power or their Internet connections, they can't continue as it will end their ONE TIME access. They must contact the instructor and ask for a new attempt.

Due to the restricted nature of the Forced Completion option, instructors may want to reserve the Force Completion option. Students can be required to take a test on campus and with a proctor. If issues occur, the proctor can reset the test during the testing period.  If a test is reset, the students will start from the beginning of the test once again.

  1. Deliver Questions One at a Time (Bb Setting). By having exam questions delivered one at a time, it makes it more difficult for students to capture the exam contents using a digital camera (e.g., 50 questions requires 50 pictures). This also causes the website to refresh more often. NOTE: If students are using questionable Internet connections, this could cause additional technical errors and could also keep their browsers from timing out for very long tests.

  2. Create a Code of Conduct. Have students sign an honesty statement that summarizes the expectations and requirements for academic honesty before allowing the exam to be released. This requires you use the Adaptive Release “Review” option on the exam and have it refer to a code of conduct document you upload. Students will be required to “Mark Reviewed” before the exam link is available.

  3. Mix Online Exams with Other Methods of Assessment (a.k.a. Authentic Assessment). Combine objective tests with other methods of assessment, such as group projects and writing assignments. Essay questions also make it difficult for students to cheat on a traditional assessment, knowing that the instructor may recognize an answer copied from another student.

  4. Learn More about Tests, Surveys and Pools. Blackboard help has many resources to help you create Tests, Pools, and Surveys.

Preparing for Online Testing
  • It is important to be well versed in the possible settings available for both tests and test questions. To learn more, visit the information about Tests, Pools, and Surveys..
  • Test length may vary and allow options as well as extra credit, but heed the previous warning about long tests as they could timeout due to Internet interruptions. 
  • The Audience can vary from Individuals to groups or teams. Using Availability Exceptions or Adaptive Release, tests can be provided to different audiences with different due dates and testing times, especially helpful for students who require accommodations.
  • Randomize Questions may be selected but be cautious of questions that are linked together. Make sure they are paired first, if needed, before randomizing question order.
Backup Plans (...and Printing How-to)

Faculty may want to consider bringing a printed copy of the test or answer key in case there is a technological issue. 

There are two options to print information from the Learning Management System,

  1. Option 1: Formatting does not matter, backup copy only.
  • Test questions only:
    • Click on the title of the test to show it in preview mode. Click Begin. Right click on the frame where the test questions exist and click Print.
  • Test questions and answers:
    • Edit Test > Right click on the frame where the test questions exist and click Print.
  1. Option 2: Formatting matters.
  • Contact someone with Respondus 4.0 (the LMS specialist can provide a contact) and request a file saved of your exam. This is fairly affordable solution if you need to purchase a copy for your department. You will need to provide the Course ID, the name of the test, and what type of printout you require. You can request any of the following layouts:
    • Questions and answer choices for student use.
      • (Do you need answer blanks?)
    • Questions and answer choices marked with asterisk for answer key.
      • Do you need feedback included?
    • A simple answer key without questions.
Facilitating or Proctoring an Online Test
Grading and Providing Feedback

If an error occurs, you may go to the grade book in Blackboard to clear the attempt. Find the student’s score for that exam. Right click on View Grade Details and then Clear Attempt. This will complete the delete the attempt and the student would begin from the start.

Guides on Tests, Pools, and Surveys

If you need further assistance with designing digital tests to meet course outcomes, please submit a Blackboard Consultation and/or Training request.


Article ID: 70028
Fri 1/11/19 10:31 AM
Thu 12/2/21 1:59 PM