Effective Practice: Assessment

As more of a course moves online, students should take more responsibility for their own learning as well as the learning climate for the course itself. Consider the following tools and techniques to help students become more responsible in your face-to-face (F2F) and online classes:


Respondus LockDown Browser (RLDB)  is a custom browser that locks down the testing environment within Blackboard. Students are unable to copy, print, access other applications, or visit other websites during an online exam. RLDB supports instructors’ use of Blackboard’s test tool for proctored exams that would otherwise require the use of hard copy Scantrons.

When Respondus Monitor is also enabled for a test, students are required to use a webcam and microphone with RLDB After the exam is complete, an instructor can review details of the assessment, even the recorded videos. Advanced algorithms for facial detection, motion, and lighting analyze the student and examination environment as well as data from the computing device (keyboard activity, mouse movements, hardware changes, etc.) to identify patterns and anomalies associated with cheating.

This tool requires students to download a separate application on their computers. RLDB and Monitor are compatible with both Original and Ultra courses.


If you want to make sure students are prepared for class and group work, consider Team Based Learning (TBL) and its Readiness Assurance Process (RAP) that includes the following:

  1. An individual quiz over assigned readings;
  2. A team quiz over the same material using immediate feedback “scratch off” cards;
  3. An open book “appeals” phase for incorrect “team answers” only.
  4. Corrective instruction (mini lecture) by the instructor based on a real-time understanding of what students didn’t understand.

Audience or student response systems (aka “Clickers”) are typically used in a face-to-face environment. But since they are associated with a Blackboard course, you can upload the student response scores to the course gradebook. This gives you a hybrid tool and technique that could be used in the following ways:

  • As the individual recording device for the Team Based Learning RAP step #1 above (no need to manually grade during or after class)
  • As an active F2F attendance record that is maintained online without much effort by the instructor (just ask clicker questions during class)
  • Used with Blackboard’s “Adaptive Release” you could limit review of online notes, screencasts or lectures to students who have participated in clicker quizzes in class. Thus, online materials are literally for “re-view” (not discovery) of material covered in class.

Instructors rightly worry about security of quizzes and exams in an online-only course, because it’s difficult to guarantee the person completing these assessments is the student registered for the course. But in a hybrid course, you can reserve F2F time for these “high stakes” assessments, and help students get ready for them through online practice quizzes. Consider the following:

  • Nationally, students report the two most valuable aspects of a course management system are: 1) checking grades and 2) practicing mastery of skills and concepts they will be tested on.
  • Developing an online quiz pool may be the most time-intensive, up-front hybrid course development effort, but once it’s done, students can learn at their own pace and based on deficiencies you and they discover.
  • he new myUMBC Check My Blackboard Activity links may provide “cheap feedback” instructors don’t have to work hard to provide.
  • If you do nothing else, consider a “syllabus” or “academic integrity” quiz after the first class that students must take (pass?) before they can turn in any other work for academic credit. This will tell you early on who’s engaged (technically or academically) and who you’ll be supporting (or encouraging to drop).

If you’re tired of being the first living soul who ever lays eyes on a student paper, make peer review of drafts a requirement before they can turn in a final draft–and assess their ability to critique each other. A few ideas to consider if you’re teaching a hybrid course:

  • You MUST commit to a rubric or check list of criteria that is not only used to grade the final assignment, but also to guide (and assess) the student’s review of a peer’s draft.
  • Consider anonymous reviews using the discussion board by giving each student a random number they must put in the subject line of their review and using the “anonymous” setting you enable on the discussion board (e.g., 34653 peer review of Joe Blow).
  • If anonymity isn’t desired or necessary, consider letting the students give a brief (2-3 minute) audio peer review using Blackboard Collaborate or even a podcast. Students may feel a written review is too daunting and will opt instead at a superficial focus on grammar or mechanics. An audio review is more high level, focused on what makes sense (or not) in the student writer’s draft.
  • Require the students to respond to the peer’s review when they submit the final (what they accepted or rejected and why).