We recommend using Blackboard sparingly for “high stakes” exams, such as midterms or finals, because of the many potential glitches and issues.  Some of these issues, and suggestions about how to address them, are listed below.  We recommend having a back-up plan and clear policies in place, should problems arise. NOTE: Most of the suggestions below assume that students are taking the exam at their own computers, rather than in a centralized, proctored location.

Technical Issues

  • Browser configuration: We recommend asking students to take practice tests on the machine they intend to use before the date of the exam to ensure that their browser is configured correctly. Students should run the Blackboard browser test to check for basic browser issues. Students should disable their pop-up blockers in order to take the exam (e.g., students will not receive a one minute warning for timed tests if their pop-up blocker is enabled). We recommend that students use the Firefox browser; while Internet Explorer does work, we have seen problems with the timer. Internet Explorer users must enable Active-X on their computers. Additional information about browser configuration can be found here.
  • Getting locked out of exams: Students may lose their work and get locked out of the exam if their internet connection times out, their computer crashes, or they accidentally close their browser window and forget to save their test. Below are some steps you can take to address this issue:
    • Do not choose the “force completion” option. If force completion is selected, students will not be able to resume their exams should they be interrupted due to a technical issue. Consider setting a time limit on a test with auto-submission turned on instead of  using force completion. (Read the Timed Exams section below for more details).
    • If you do use force completion and a student gets locked out of an exam, you will need to clear their attempt to allow them to begin the exam again. When you clear the attempt, the student will have to start the exam again. NOTE: In order to do this, you must be monitoring the exam and must provide a way for students to communicate with you during the exam (e.g., via email).
    • Consider selecting the “one at a time” option for presenting test questions. When this option is selected, students’ answers are automatically saved when they go to the next question. If a student gets locked out and must re-enter the exam, the work he/she has already completed will be saved.  Alternatively, if you choose not to present questions one at a time, remind students to save their responses to each exam question as they work.
    • Create multiple short tests instead of one long one to reduce the probability of time outs. Scores on the short tests can be combined into a single score.
  • Policy: Have a clear policy about how you will deal with technical issues and communicate this policy to students before the exam. For example, will you allow students to make up an exam if their internet access is not available? How will you grade an exam if a student goes beyond the alloted time for the exam because of technical issues? If a student cannot continue an exam due to a technical glitch will you allow them to retake the exam? If so will you use the same questions previously given or create a new exam?

Timed Exams

Blackboard gives you the option of setting a timer, which records the total amount of time spent taking the exam.

  • Setting a time limit: There are two options for setting a time limit for an exam. 
    • If you select the “Auto-Submit” option, student work will automatically be saved and submitted when the time limit is reached. 
    • If you do not select “Auto-Submit,” students can continue working after the time limit is reached and the timer will record the total amount of time taken to complete the exam.  If a student exceeds the time limit, his/her exam will not be automatically graded; instead you will see an exclamation point in the Grade Center and will need to grade the exam manually. If you use this option, we recommend that you have a clear policy about how you will handle exams that exceed the time limit.
  • On-screen timer: The on-screen timer, which appears at the top of the screen, records the total time taken for the exam.  If the “force completion” option was not selected and a student re-enters an exam, the timer will record the total time from when the student first entered the exam until the exam is submitted. The recorded time will include time when the student may not have been viewing the exam (e.g., if a student needs to reboot the computer, the timer will continue to run). The timer will be reset if an exam attempt is cleared by the instructor.

Academic Dishonesty

You can take steps to minimize the possibility of cheating; however, these steps are not foolproof.  Students may find other ways to share exam questions and answers, especially if they are taking the exam on their own computers, without a proctor.

  • Make the test unavailable after the exam period.
  • Set the test options to display “score only” during the exam period, so that students cannot see their own answers or the correct answers when they have finished taking the exam. You can change this option later if you would like students to be able to see the correct answers after the exam period is over. You may also choose to display the scores only after the exam period is over. NOTE: By default, students see test results from the My Grades tool found on the course navigation menu. If you don’t want students to see their test scores, change the test options or hide the grade column corresponding to the test from students’ view through the Grade Center. 
  • Check “randomize questions” under “Test Options” so that questions are displayed in different orders. 
  • Select the option to display the answers in random order for multiple choice questions.
  • Use the “Random Blocks” or “Question Sets” to create randomized tests, in which each student receives a different set of questions selected from a pool. NOTE: If you use this option, you will not be able to see “attempt statistics” for each question.

Make-up Exams

Make-up exams can be made available to a specific student or students by going to “Test Options” and creating a password for the exam that can be shared with students who need to take a make-up OR by using the Test Availability Exceptions under Test Options to make an exam available to specific students who need to be accommodated.

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