How do I use a Blackboard Test for an online exam?

The instructions below apply specifically to setting up and using a Blackboard Test for an online exam. Updated for Semester Two 2021/2. 

General considerations

  • Blackboard Tests can be considered for online exams consisting of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) or other close-ended question types (e.g.  true/false, either/or, matching, multiple answer, ordering or jumbled sentence).
  • Blackboard Tests are not recommended where online exams consist of questions where students are expected to type or input a free-text response (such as Essay or Short Answer) as the exam may time out following a period of inactivity while the student types their answer. There is a further risk that students might attempt to submit the exam after completing the first question to ensure it is successfully saved before attempting a subsequent question and in this situation they won't be able to continue with the same exam.
  • Similarly, avoid using question types such as Fill-in-the-Blank or Fill-in-Multiple Blanks as they will need manually reviewing following the exam to identify any unforeseen answers or common misspellings which would normally be marked as correct.
  • For these non-MCQ type exams, it is recommended that you use a standard Blackboard Assignment submission point and have the students download the exam paper, complete the exam offline and submit their responses back to the submission point. Follow the guidance for online exams via Blackboard Assignments.

Special considerations translating questions for digital delivery

Multiple choice questions previously completed on paper do not always immediately translate for digital delivery. If you are are creating a Test in Blackboard based on an existing paper-based multiple choice exam, ensure that:

  • You do not choose to shuffle answer choices for questions that include ‘All of the above’ or ‘None of the above’, as these will not make sense when presented to students.
  • Where students are answering a set of questions based on the same information or data, this information is provided in each question. This is particularly important where you choose to present questions one at a time.
  • Question numbers and answer numbers are removed. Blackboard will automatically add this information when the exam is displayed to students.
  • You simply don’t copy and paste question and answer text from Word. Formatting that may copy across along with the text may affect the display of question and answer items. Ideally type your questions directly into Blackboard or if you do copy questions from Word, paste them into Notepad first to remove any formatting and then copy into Blackboard from Notepad. Alternatively, you can write questions offline in a text file and upload it into Tests or Question Pools.
  • Where questions consist of multiple parts or more than one answer may be correct, you need to consider whether students will receive partial credit for partially correct answers or whether they need to get each part correct in order to receive the points available for that question. Where partial credit is awarded, ensure that a whole number is given to each part to prevent decimal scores being awarded.
  • Additional guidance considerations for specific question types is available in the Good Practice Guide for Blackboard Question Types

Create your test following these instructions:

Step 1: You can start creating a Test in your module site by either going to: 

  • Control Panel > Site Tools > Tests, Surveys and Pools > Tests > Build Test
  • Or the Assessments area > Create Assessment > Tests > Create
  • Alternatively, you can write questions offline in a text file and upload it into Tests or Question Pools. If you wish to explore this option, please contact email DigitalLearning@shu.ac.uk for guidance.

Step 2: On the Test Information page enter a Name and Instructions for students taking the exam:

  • It must be clear in the name that this is the exam for the module.
  • Avoid lengthy instructions within the exam. This is particularly important if you choose to present the questions one at a time as the instructions will repeat at the beginning of each question. Provide instructions separately in advance of the exam to aid student preparation. Below are recommended instructions that you can use or customise for your course
    • This exam starts at 9:30am.The working time for this exam is x hours and x minutes. You must stop working and start submitting your exam no later than xx:xx am/pm. Have you set an alarm to warn you when to stop working? If not, do so now!
    • The submission must be successfully completed by xx:xx am/pm. Attempts submitted after this time will be late and will not be marked.
    • This is the Blackboard Test for the exam. By submitting, you are certifying that this is your own work.
    • It is YOUR responsibility to read all instructions carefully and ensure that your exam is successfully completed and submitted on time. We recommend using Google Chrome when submitting your work. Do not use the Microsoft Edge browser.
    • A member of the module team is available online at {enter Collaborate or Zoom link} for the first 15 minutes of this exam to respond to queries.
    • If you experience difficulties which are having a significant impact on your ability to complete your exam or submit your work on time, please follow this guidance.

In addition, make it clear:

  • How to contact you during the 15 minute reading time at the start of the exam.
  • Who students should report technical or other issues during the exam. 

Step 3: Click Submit.

Step 4: On the Test Canvas:

  • Click Create Question and choose a question type. Create the question and click Submit. (Do not copy and paste question and answer text directly from Word. Formatting that may copy across along with the text may affect the display of question and answer items. Ideally type your questions directly into Blackboard or if you do copy questions from Word, paste them into Notepad first to remove any formatting and then copy into Blackboard from Notepad).
  • Continuing creating questions by either clicking the Create Question button or clicking the ‘plus’ symbol that appears above or below existing questions to position the new questions where you would like them to appear in the Test.
  • When all questions have been added, click OK.

Step 5: Add the Test to the Assessment content area, either:

  • If you started creating a Test by going directly to the Assessment area, the Add Test page automatically appears and next to Add an Existing Test pre-selects the test you just created. Simply click Submit.
  • If you started creating a Test by going to the Tests, Surveys and Pools area of Control Panel, now go to the Assessments area > Create Assessment and next to Add an Existing Testselect the name of the Test and click Submit.

Step 6: The Test is created and linked on the page, and you now see the Test Options page to set the following deployment options:

  • Make Available to Students: Ensure that the test is set to Available. Actual availability will be automatically controlled by the Display After and Display Until options (below).
  • Add a new announcement for this test: Rather than use this option that will simply inform students that a ‘new test’ is available, it is recommended that you manually create an Announcement with a link to the exam that is released to students at the same time as the exam. In addition, it is advised that a separate message along with instructions about the exam are posted to students in advance of the exam
  • Number of Attempts: Ensure that students have Unlimited attempts. This is not intended to allow students to repeatedly make revisions and resubmit work while the exam is available, but enables students to re-attempt the submission if they experience problems during the submission process or they make an error.
  • Force Completion: Do not set Force Completion option. If students leave the exam for whatever reason, they will not be able to continue the same exam page and will have to start the exam again.
  • Set Timer: Do not set the timer, even though you might specify the length of time that the students should take to complete the exam. Where a timer is used, students starting the exam late may be mislead by the timer that they have the full duration or the working time of the exam. Students starting late are not entitled to the full duration of the exam and must stop working on the exam at the end of the working time, and make sure that the submission of their exam is complete by the end of the submission time. Please note that any Blackboard Tests submitted within the submission time will require manually reviewing before the mark for the exam appears in Grade Centre.
  • Display After/Display Until: Tick both options and use the calendar and clock icons to set the time from which the exam starts and the time that the exam must no longer been seen by students. All exams are scheduled with a standard start time of 09:30 (UK time) and must be set to be released at this time (not sooner), and exams must be available until 16:46 (UK time). This is to accommodate the seven-hour learning contract adjustment (plus the 15 minutes and 59 seconds submission time) and to accommodate students who are studying overseas in different time zones. Please note that a student can keep the exam open and visible beyond the availability set and successfully submit their work. (You will need to set these options after trying out the exam).
  • Password: Do not set a password. All students will be able to access the exam at the same time once it becomes available. There is no reason to add a further level of integrity, the exception being during the time that you and a colleague might try out the exam to ensure that it is working as expected. If you do set a password for this reason, remember to remove it before the exam is made available to students to prevent any delay in accessing the exam.
  • Test Availability Exceptions: You can ignore this option as all students with extra time will be catered for within expected duration of the exam.
  • Self-assessment Options: Ensure that the score for the exam is included in Grade Centre Calculations.
  • Due Date: use the calendar and clock icons to set the Due Date and Due Time for the exam. The Due Time must be set as the end of the working time for the exam (not the end of the submission time or the availability of the exam). The Due Date does not limit the availability or visibility of the exam: this is controlled by Display Until (set earlier). Do not select the option Do not allow students to start the Test if the due date has passed as students with the seven-hour learning contract adjustment may be permitted to start their exam later in the day.
  • Show Test Results and Feedback: Ensure that all options are hidden. Students must not see a score or any other feedback on submission of the exam, as they could use the information to their advantage to retake the exam again or to share with other students . You can make this information available once all students have completed the exam. (N.B. In addition, make the grade column for the exam unavailable).
  • Test Presentation: You have the choice of presenting questions All at Once or One at a Time. It can be helpful for students to easily see all questions on a single page so that they choose the order in which they answer the questions and it makes it simpler when reviewing their answers prior to submission. However, if you do choose to present questions one at a time, you must not Prohibit Backtracking, as this will prevent students from returning to previous questions whether they have answered them or not. It is also important to note that  images in questions presented one at a time will no longer display if students are still taking the exam when the availability of the exam passes. In this situation, you may need to extend the availability of the exam or manually control its availability until student attempts in progress are completed.
  • Randomise Questions: Randomising questions is not recommended. Questions on the same topic will be dispersed throughout the exam, and questions that are dependent on previous questions will not appear in the correct order.

Step 7: Click Submit.

Step 8: Drag the Test to the top of the Assessments page. This will ensure the exam is the first item students see when they enter the Assessments area when the exam becomes available.

Before the exam

Don’t forget to try it out! Enrol a colleague as a student and ask them to take the exam. Remember to password protect the exam before you try it out, and remove the password before the exam is made available to students.

After the exam

Check the Grade Centre to ensure all students have submitted. Any attempts left in progress can be submitted if you are satisfied those students have completed the work.

Edit the Test Options and choose what feedback you would like to make available to students on their exams, and follow the guidance for releasing marks for Blackboard Tests.

The normal Extenuating Circumstances Policy and Procedure applies for students who fail to attempt the exam.

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