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Blog on Better Assessments Through Blackboard

October 07, 2015

By Jennifer Albat (IDLT)

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and let your students take their quizzes or exams through Blackboard. Congratulations, and welcome to the dark side (cue the wicked laughing). I kid of course. You’re concerned about students sitting side-by-side working together, or even worse – taking pictures with their phone! These are valid concerns, some of which I hope to ease if you agree to keep reading.

There are some simplistic features within the test options that alleviate a few problems. For one, let the questions display one at a time rather than all at once. Will a student really take the time to individually photograph each question? If the test is timed, they will run out of time before they’ve had a chance to view each question. Another simple fix is randomizing the questions. If students are sitting together and viewing the exam at once, none of the students will be presented the same question if they are randomized.

Screenshot of test settings showing to select

One feature that we do not recommend is the Force Completion checkbox. This would be okay for a face-to-face exam, however if the students are taking the exam outside of class, at least one will undoubtedly use a wireless internet connection and get “kicked out” of the exam. The Force Completion will then submit their exam, eating up the 1 attempt they had at taking it. They will then have to contact you for a reset, and at this point you know they’ve seen some of the questions. Just leave that checkbox alone, and life will be better for everyone involved.


Be sure that your students know the “rules” of taking an exam online. Have them visit our knowledge base article, or go over them in class. Another good practice is to have the students take a trial quiz prior to a graded one to ensure their equipment is working properly.

As an instructional designer I cannot write a blog about better assessments and not bring up the “quality” of that assessment.  Remember that the reason for giving these exams and quizzes is to determine if the students are meeting the learning objectives of the course. Are the multiple choice questions doing more than making the student recall the information? Yes, I realize some introductory courses require learning terminology, but your goal in writing questions should be reaching that application level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Students should be able to apply what they have learned. If the questions are written in a way that requires the student to apply knowledge, then you know they have been able to do more than just regurgitate.

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