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12 Effective Practices for Delivering Blackboard Tests

Get ready for final exams with these test prep tips

April 26, 2021 12:38 PM

Online tests and assignments are an effective and convenient way to assess students in the virtual environment. Throughout the semester, faculty can leverage many different options and settings for digital assessments. Here are a dozen tips to improve your test administration and assignment collection as the semester reaches its conclusion. 

1. Avoid Force Complete on Original Tests

This legacy setting on Original tests prevents students from accessing the test environment if they prematurely leave. Unfortunately, if students lose internet access, have technical difficulties, double-click a link, they can be kicked out of the exam, requiring that you add a new attempt or reset the attempt altogether. Instead of using force complete, set your exam to Auto Submit, which will allow students back into the test and collect the student’s submission at the end of the allotted time whether or not the student is finished.

2. Practice Before Proctoring

Before you use Respondus Lockdown Browser (alone or with live proctoring or with Monitor enabled), create a no-points practice quiz with unlimited attempts so students can experience the testing environment and configure their computers before they take an exam. If you do not have a practice quiz, be sure to allow plenty of extra time for students to set up. This is especially important if students need to update their lockdown browser.

3. Describe Test Expectations

Let students know how many questions and what kind of questions they will have on the test. Post the test limit, whether the test will auto-submit when time is up, and if there is more than one attempt. Include start and end times. Link to relevant FAQs on test taking tips or using Respondus Lockdown Browser, if enabled.

4. Communicate Your Handling of Technical Difficulties

Tell students how you will address any potential technical issues during a test. Be fair and swift, especially if your test timer is limited. Consider whether you will respond to individual emails or post an announcement. Some technical issues may be deferred until business hours the next day so please consider how you will handle these types of questions. Know which vendors offer 24/7 support (e.g., Respondus) so you can refer students to those resources.

5. Stagger Access to the Test

Avoid having too many students access your test at the same time. You can set a wide window when students can start the test, but create a timer so once the test starts, students only have a fixed amount of time to complete it. You can also apply Adaptive Release (Original) or Conditional Release (Ultra) rules to restrict access to specific groups of students.

6. Set Question Display for the Right Situation

Showing all questions on one page can be great for short tests during a short amount of time. However, for longer tests (25+ questions or taking more than 1 hour), consider that students may benefit from displaying one question at a time. Additionally, Blackboard can time out if the test is too long: See #7 next on our list!

7. Break Up Large Tests

Blackboard will time out after three hours of general inactivity. Instead of delivering one long 2-hour test, provide four 30-minute tests. Chunking the test eases impact on Blackboard and student network connections while also providing opportunities for those screen and stretching breaks. Adaptive Release (Original) or Conditional Release (Ultra) rules can also be leveraged to open the next part of an assessment based on specific criteria such as a minimum grade or date/time. 

8. Allow Backtracking on Original Tests

Students like to check their answers or skip questions if they are uncertain about an answer. If you don’t allow students to backtrack, they will attempt to use the back arrow on the browser and inadvertently cause an issue with the test or lock themselves out. 

9. Dip Into the Pool

Leverage question pools to generate randomized and unique tests for students. Random blocks (Original) and Question pools (Ultra) allow you to choose a defined number of questions (5) out of a larger collection of questions (50) and randomly distribute those questions to students so each one sees a different set. Learn how CHEM 101 and CHEM 102 used nearly 1500 questions to create a robust assessment series

10. Set Access Codes on Ultra Tests to Prevent Late Submissions

Instead of hiding an Ultra test with a date restriction, use an access code after the test period ends. This allows students to see their grades and feedback and prevents any late submissions. 

11. Remind Students to Check Technology

Students should use the latest version of Chrome or Firefox when taking a Blackboard test, and they should check for browser updates regularly. To optimize performance, all other applications should be closed unless you allow access during the test. Students should verify that cookies are enabled for Blackboard, Collaborate, and related third-party tools. Respondus Lockdown Browser has its own requirements, including manual update of its application, and restrictions as well as settings for faculty if there are specific use cases for accessing websites, calculators, and spreadsheets.

12. Skip Timed Tests and Go Authentic

Last semester, students told us they appreciated flexible online test formats and alternative, authentic assessments. In Redesigning Assessments for Interaction and Engagement, a recorded presentation from Quality Matters, discover assessment types, examples, and strategies, including designing authentic assessments and using LMS tools, to support your assessment goals.

As always, if you have any questions, please consider the following options:

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