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Alternate Uses for Blackboard Tests

I think we’re all aware of the capability to create and deploy tests in Blackboard, but have you ever thought about using the test builder for items that aren’t tests? Here are a few ideas you may want to incorporate into your own courses.

In-class Presentation Evaluations

If your class includes group presentations and you want to allow the students to evaluate each other, you may consider creating a presentation evaluation using Blackboard tests.

We did that this fall in Dr. Paul Swets’ GS 1181 course so that students could evaluate their peers in real time from their phones using the Blackboard mobile app.

Here's a screenshot of what the group evaluation looked like on a mobile device. Here's a screenshot of what the group evaluation looked like on a mobile device. Students weren’t required to use the evaluations on Blackboard (they were also given the option of using paper evaluations), but many liked the mobile interface and found it easy to use. Considering the audience was first-time freshmen, providing two means for completing the evaluations seemed like a good idea, but you may be able to just require Blackboard evaluations if you are teaching a course with upperclassmen.

The nice thing about doing it this way was that Dr. Swets could easily look at the data from the evaluations and see how the majority of students rated each group. It allowed him to quickly compare the student evaluations with his own presentation evaluations.

I tried a couple of different options while working on the initial setup and can offer a few helpful hints. The first is that while it may seem more appropriate to use a Blackboard survey for the evaluations, surveys are not included in the Blackboard mobile app, so the result was not user friendly. The Blackboard test worked much better, but the only trick was that we had to set all the questions to zero points possible.

The second item of note is related to the group setup. We created duplicate evaluations and named them according to each group in the class.

The evaluations were individual assignments because we wanted all students to have the ability to evaluate their peers, but we created an exception for the group that was presenting (we didn’t want them evaluating themselves). We set the exception so that the evaluation for the group in question didn’t become available until after the term was over. This way, we didn’t have to worry about students evaluating their own work and influencing their presentation grade in that capacity.

Alternately, you could use Qualtrics to create your peer evaluation forms and post the link in Blackboard. Since Qualtrics isn’t integrated into Blackboard, it doesn’t give quite the seamless user interface as the Blackboard test, but you may like the data analysis capabilities better. Just remember that you won’t have the final evaluation data stored in your course for archiving and data retention purposes like you would with Blackboard.

Lab Worksheets

Here's a screenshot of a lab worksheet question created with a Blackboard test. Here's a screenshot of a lab worksheet question created with a Blackboard test. Dr. Heather Lehto used Blackboard tests to create lab worksheets in her online Earth Science course this past fall, and I loved the idea.

Developing the lab worksheets this way allowed her to vary the questions and thus provide the students with immediate feedback on some of the questions. It also allowed her to use her grading time more efficiently because she could focus exclusively on the essay and short answer questions.

Using Blackboard also allowed her to make the worksheet more interactive. She was able to use some matching, ordering and hot spot questions to add some variation.

If you decide to go this route with worksheets, keep in mind that Blackboard does a few things by default for tests. Under the instructions area, there’s a Force Completion area that will say something about “this test.” It will also add the test icon, which you can turn off.

And if you organize your grade book using categories, be aware that Blackboard will automatically categorize tests, but you can change that.

A helpful hint is to write some really good instructional text so students will understand the worksheet is not a test, just in case they notice any of that default test text and start to freak out.

Self Tests

Confession: I don’t actually know any of our faculty who do this, but I think it’s a great idea.

You can use Blackboard tests to develop self tests for students and just zero it out so it’s not worth any points and doesn’t count toward their grade.

This is a great way to help students prepare for exams and ease some of that test anxiety. You can even set the self tests to offer unlimited attempts.

Another benefit of self-tests is that instructors can easily review the data and get a good idea about the concepts and topics that students are struggling with. If you do plan to collect data like this, however, you’ll need to avoid pulling questions from a pool and avoid randomizing the questions. Blackboard can’t provide usable data if you do those things.

Other Uses?

Do you use Blackboard tests for other activities in your classes? I would love to hear about it.

Jayna Phinney
Jayna Phinney

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



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