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Blackboard Test Basics


Now that everyone has a few weeks of online instruction under their belt, it might be time to post an online quiz or test.

If you’ve never given an online quiz or test, it may seem a little daunting. And trust me, there really are tons of settings and options to consider. I’m going to try to hit the basics here, and of course if you still have questions, feel free to give me a call or drop in during my office hours.

Use Respondus Campus-wide

(No, I’m not talking about the Respondus tools that are used to deter cheating.)

It’s funny because it’s almost like we treat Respondus Campus-wide like it’s part of this secret club and you need to pass initiation before anyone will talk to you about it. I promise, that’s not the case though.

Respondus Campus-wide is software that works on PC only and allows you to save tons and tons of time building out tests to export to Blackboard. Anyone with a PC can download the software — just follow the instructions on the Technology Support tab once you’re logged into Blackboard.

Here's a screenshot to show you how to navigate to the Respondus Campus-wide download instruc... Here's a screenshot to show you how to navigate to the Respondus Campus-wide download instructions.

If you’ve created your test questions in a Word file, for example, you’ll need to save as plain text or rich text and then import into Respondus Campus-wide. I’ve posted a few handouts with formatting instructions in the CSE Teaching Remotely course that all faculty should be enrolled in. 

If your test uses images, that’s fine too. You will just add those one at a time in Respondus (and trust me, it still saves a ton of time compared to building your test in Blackboard). In case you haven’t picked up on it, I highly recommend using Respondus Campus-wide if you are creating a test that has 10+ questions.

Use Pools and Question Sets, When Appropriate

Understandably, you may not have a lot of time this semester for creating pools of test questions. But if you happen to already have pools of questions that you regularly use for exams, importing them into Blackboard is a great idea. You can import pools of questions using Respondus Campus-wide.

The benefit of using pools is that it can deter cheating by providing variety in the test questions displayed for students. For instance, you may be creating a 30-question test from a pool of 100 possible questions.

When you're building a test in Blackboard, here's the navigation dropdown menu you use to... When you're building a test in Blackboard, here's the navigation dropdown menu you use to create a question set.To keep your test fair and to ensure that students are receiving an equal number of questions for each learning objective, I recommend using multiple pools and question sets for each test. For example, maybe Pool A only has questions that cover Learning Objective 3. If you use a question set, you can tell Blackboard that you want 5 questions from a 15-question pool to ensure that Learning Objective 3 is properly assessed.

The only downside of creating a test from a pool is that you’ll have limited metrics after the test to review for effectiveness. (Because not everybody tests on the same questions.) But we’ll talk more about test metrics later.

Don’t Use Availability Settings and Test Scheduling

Refer to the circled areas in this screenshot to see where the test availability and test schedul... Refer to the circled areas in this screenshot to see where the test availability and test scheduling information is located when you are editing the Test Options.Blackboard gives you the options to both set the availability on a test and schedule when a test becomes available to you students. Please don’t try to use both on the same test — you’ll find that the test never becomes available to students.

If you make a test unavailable, that setting is going to trump any scheduling plans that you make. So if you want an exam to only be available for a specific window of time, use the tools to schedule the test but do not set the test to unavailable.

Familiarize Yourself With the Test Options

There are lots of details to think through with online exams that you probably haven’t considered if you’re used to giving face-to-face exams. Here are some of the main questions to ask yourself:

  • How much time do you want to allot for completing the exam?
  • How many attempts should each student receive?
  • How would you like the questions to display: one at a time or all at once with scrolling functionality?
  • Do you want the questions randomized or ordered?
  • Do you want students to be able to see the correct answers after the exam? If so, at what point in time do you want them to see the correct answers?

Add Test Exceptions

Perhaps you have a student with a documented disability that requires you to provide them with additional time to complete an exam. It’s easy to make that designation in Blackboard. Just go to the Test Exceptions section and identify the student and his or her accommodation. 

This screenshot shows you where to identify students with accommodations within the Test Options ... This screenshot shows you where to identify students with accommodations within the Test Options page.

Reset a Test

Inevitably, if you are giving online exams, you will likely have at least one student who contacts you because they lost power or their Internet connection in the middle of an exam. If you think their claims are legit, you can reset their test so they can start again. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Go to the Grade Center column where that student’s test shows the “In Progress” icon and click the little arrow next to it. Select “View Grade Details” from the options. (See screenshot below for reference.)
  2. On the Grade Details page, select “Clear Attempt.”
  3. Click “OK.”

Analyze Test Data

After your exam availability window has ended, you can access test metrics to help you gauge the students’ overall performance and the strength of your assessment.

To access the data, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the place in your course where you have deployed your test and open the little arrow next to it. Select the option labeled “Item Analysis.” 
  2. Make sure the test in question is displayed in the select menu and click “Run.” You should see a new report appear on the page that you can now access.

Here's a screenshot example of some of the Blackboard test data that may be available to you. Here's a screenshot example of some of the Blackboard test data that may be available to you.

And that wraps up our Blackboard test basics. If you have additional questions about anything mentioned above, please contact me and we can further discuss.


Jayna Phinney
Jayna Phinney

Jayna Phinney is the Instructional Technology Specialist for the ASU College of Science and Engineering. Contact her at jayna.phinney@angelo.edu or 325-486-6264.

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  • Do you want to write your own blog post or submit an idea for a future post? Contact Jayna Phinney at jayna.phinney@angelo.edu or 325-486-6264. 

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