Assess in Blackboard with Tests & Quizzes

Blackboard Test Tool Overview
The Blackboard Test Tool is used for a wide range of assessments and has a dynamic menu of options that allows you to produce anything from high-stakes final exams to low-stakes, study-guide quizzes that students can take multiple times.

A convenience offered by the Test tool is that question types such as multiple choice, multiple answer, true/false, or matching can be graded automatically. However, essay or short-answer questions must be graded by the instructor or TA.

Tips and Best Practices for Testing in Blackboard

1: Import your questions from Word with a “converter tool”

If you’ve been copying and pasting your questions from a Word document, one-by-one into the Blackboard Test Tool, we’re happy to tell you that there’s a faster way! Using a free web-based tool for converting test questions from Word is definitely more efficient, especially if you have an eye for detail.

Read Importing Test Questions from a Word File on the UVM Knowledge Base to learn more.

2: Build your test so each student has a different version

Creating differences in each student’s test will help prevent students from glancing at a neighbor’s screen and copying correct answers. A couple of simple ways to create variations are:

  • If the order of your test questions doesn’t matter, you can shuffle them by choosing “Randomize Questions” on the Test Options page.
  • If the order of your multiple choice answers doesn’t matter, you can choose to randomize them at the question level.

But using Question Sets is the most powerful method.
Question Sets are a feature in the Test Tool that allow you to select sets of questions from which you can pull out a randomly-selected, smaller subset that will be different for each individual student’s test. In addition, you can use criteria (such as questions affiliated with particular book chapters or questions tagged with difficulty levels or question types) to break the test into thematic segments. See UVM’s Knowledge Base.

3: Get creative with question types

Sure, multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions are effective, but there are some less commonly used question types (that Blackboard will also auto-grade) to add some variety and flexibility.

  1. With a Hot Spot question, you insert an image (such as a diagram, a graph, a chart, a picture) and ask students to click on the area on the image that corresponds to the correct answer.
  2. Matching questions can ask students to match theorists with theories, terms with definitions, causes with effects, or scenarios with best responses.
  3. Ordering questions help evaluate students’ understanding of sequenced information. This could be placing events on a timeline, choosing the steps of an experiment, or sequencing the necessary conceptual information for solving a calculation.

4: Know which Test Options to choose

When you deploy a test—that is, make it available to students—you are presented with a long page of options that can be baffling unless you know exactly what they all mean.

This screenshot of the Test Options page shows the CTL recommendations including the place to grant extra time or other exceptions.

5: Share Blackboard Test-taking Tips with students

Encourage your students to read this list before taking their tests. If they follow all the steps, it will go a LONG WAY in preventing technical problems!

6: Troubleshoot when a student has a tech problem with a test

This page on the UVM Knowledge Base covers what to do if:

  • A student needs extra time—or other exceptions—for a test
  • Students are disconnected from a test and can’t get back in
  • A student’s test is still “in progress” when the period is over
  • A test question needs to be edited after students have taken the test
  • You need to see how a student has interacted with the test by looking at the access log

7: Tricks for grading and giving feedback

  • If you have a test—or even one question on a test—that is not automatically graded, but requires manual grading, you can choose to
    1. Grade it by question: You can grade all the students’ responses to a single question before moving on to the next question. To find this option in the Grade Center click the menu button in the header of the Test column and choose “Grade by Question.”
    2. Grade anonymously: To find this option in the Grade Center click the menu button in the header of the Test column and choose “Grade with User Names Hidden.”
  • If there is particular feedback that you’re apt give to students for a wrong (or right) answer you can automate this by entering that feedback when building the question itself. This only works with the automatically-graded question types. This is especially useful when giving quizzes designed to gauge and reinforce students’ understanding of foundational concepts.

8: Make sure your students know where to find feedback

Sometime students don’t know how to see the feedback you’ve left on a test or even how to find their grades. This short video covers these questions for both tests and assignments. Your students can find this video on the Student Help tab at the top of Blackboard.

9: Analyze test results using Item Analysis

Item analysis of a test can help you decide if the questions you created were understood by the students and if they appropriately measured understanding of course material. To learn how to access a test’s Item Analysis see this video.

Encouraging Academic Integrity

Academic integrity in remote and online classes

Three valuable resources:

Academic integrity and Blackboard Tests

There are concrete steps you can take both—both technical and pedagogical—to help deter academic integrity violations whether proctoring a Blackboard test in-person or having students take a Blackboard test at home.

Pedagogical practices that can reduce cheating

  • Research suggests that instances of cheating can be reduced if the student is asked if they will comply with academic honesty policies before taking tests. The CTL offers a 1-question Blackboard test that links to UVM’s Code of Academic Integrity (PDF) and asks if the student agrees to download, read, and abide by it. This test file and instructions to import it into Blackboard are on UVM Knowledge Base.
  • If you write questions that pertain to recent events or the current context, it will be difficult to answer using online tools.
  • If students have to explain their reasoning, logic, process, or analysis, it is more difficult for them to collaborate. Consider pairing a multiple choice question with a short answer question asking them to explain their thinking.
  • Multiple choice questions that encourage analysis and higher order thinking will be more difficult to find online.
  • Allow students to take a test more than once, focusing on mastery rather than performance. If using a large pool of questions, the second attempt will not precisely match the first attempt.

Technical Recommendations and Options:

  • Test Options in Blackboard that encourage academic honesty:
    • Set the test timer with reasonable constraints to encourage preparation and study.
    • For in-person proctoring, set a password (that you provide verbally at the start of the exam to unlock the test) and have students use Respondus Lockdown Browser (described in the page section below), restricting access to other software on the laptop.
    • Randomize the order of questions for each student.
    • Randomize the order of answers for multiple choice and multiple answer questions.
    • Hold back on releasing scores to students until a time when all students have completed the test.
    • When displaying grades to students, consider not allowing them to see the questions and answers or what they got right or wrong (to deter copying exam into external exam sharing websites). This choice is made in the Test Options page.
  • Develop “Pools” (or question banks) and use them to create randomized Question Sets so each student gets a unique version of the exam. Textbook publishers sometimes offer test banks that are ready to import into Blackboard. You can also import questions from your own tests (in Word documents) or write new questions directly into a pool. (If you do use questions generated by a publisher, you can edit them by changing a few variables or re-ordering words to reduce the likelihood of finding answers on the internet.)

Tools for Exam Security: Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor

Respondus Lockdown Browser

The Respondus LockDown Browser is a special browser that prevents a student from accessing other applications and websites while taking the test. When you deploy a test, you can choose to make this feature a requirement. Students should be instructed to download and install it well in advance, and given an opportunity to practice it with a low-stakes quiz before using it for an exam.

It should be noted that, in a remote environment (students at home), the Lockdown Browser is not an effective cheating deterrent because other devices are readily available. This is why it is most often paired with Respondus Monitor, described in the section below.

Respondus Monitor

NOTE: Monitor can only be used if students were notified in the syllabus at the beginning of the course.

Respondus Monitor uses the student’s webcam to record their exam session. It then processes the video after the exam and creates a report for the instructor that flags behaviors it detects as unusual, e.g., the presence of another person or leaving the camera’s range of view altogether. The reports links to specific moments in each student’s video that it marks as warranting a closer