Best Practices for Online Testing with Blackboard Learn

Before Creating Online Tests

While many aspects of Blackboard’s online testing are intuitive, the importance of test grades in most classes and the variety of situations students may encounter make it important to understand the available options and their implications. The CELT Online Learning Innovation Hub encourages you to:

  • Test Options: Learn about the test and survey options available in Blackboard.
  • Question Types: Familiarize yourself with the various options that apply to each question type that you plan to use in your test. For example, some question types allow you to randomize answers, and some provide for possible partial credit for selected answers. Understanding the available options and their implications for grading the questions will help avoid confusion and issues for you and your students.
  • star17x17 Tips to Reduce the Impact of Cheating in Online Assessment (Northern Illinois University)
  • Help Students: Include “Quiz and Test-Taking Best Practices” in your syllabus, a link in your course, and/or test instructions to serve as a reminder to them how to avoid typical technical problems.
  • Pedagogical Implications: Consider the pedagogical implications of using each setting in test and feedback options. To introduce these concepts we will use the information icon information icon in this guide.
  • Resources to Help You:

    • Official Blackboard Help: Blackboard has an extensive help library with step-by-step instructions, concise descriptions, and videos that will help your teaching practice. Please note: Our current BbLearn version is SP 9.1 2014.
    • ISU Specific Components: Become aware of specific ISU tools and components used in Blackboard.
    • Inside a BbLearn Course Environment:  While you are in edit mode you may learn a helpful hint if you hover your mouse over this icon information icon for helpful hints or click on the “More Help” links next description of a tool.

Building Your Online Test

  • Be Aware of Formatting Issues in Question Text: When creating questions, copying text from Word documents or other formatted sources can create problems when “unseen” formatting codes are carried over with the visible text. Such codes can interfere with the proper display of questions and answers when students take the test. If text needs to be copied into tests, use a text editor as an intermediate step or consider using Respondus test authoring software.
  • Take the Test Yourself as a Student: After you create an online test and have selected deployment options, take the test yourself as a student. information icon This serves three important purposes:
    • Scrutinize the questions you missed to ensure that the correct answers are indicated.
    • Confirm that all your questions display properly in browsers. This is especially important if you copy and paste text into your test questions and/or answers, embed images or special characters in the test editor, or use an equation editor in composing the test. If possible, take your entire test using more than one of the supported browsers.
    • Preview what and how the system will show results and feedback to students after completing their test.
  • Create a Practice Test for Your Students: To help your students identify and solve technical issues before actual online tests begin, prepare a practice online test. Make the practice test as similar as possible in the settings and types of questions you will use in graded tests. information icon Include questions about the online testing environment itself to reinforce student best practices. You could make it a requirement for your students to take the practice test in the same location and circumstances they plan to take the graded tests. Have them report any problems or issues that they encounter while taking the practice test to you.
  • In-Class Online Tests: If you have your students take your test in the classroom with you, it is possible that some students may have technical issues with their computer at that time. If it is not possible to provide alternate computers in the room, you will want to print a few copies of the test as a “Plan B” so they can still take the test at that time. Follow the instructions in the Printing a Blackboard Test from Respondus document.
  • Consider Using Respondus Lockdown Browser: If you are concerned about students possibly using other programs on their computers while taking your test, such as another web browser or chat windows, or if you want to prevent students from copying and pasting into your test or printing/saving a copy of the test, about the Respondus Lockdown Browser which can “lock down” the students’ other options while taking an online test.
  • Use Proctored Testing: through the ISU Online Testing Center.

Test Options: Recommended Settings

When you deploy a test or survey to a content area, you set the availability and the show results / feedback to students options. To make changes to the options, access its contextual menu and click Edit the Test Options. The following provides a summary of the Test Options in the order of their appearance: Test Information, Test Availability, Test Availability Exceptions, Due Date, Self-Assessment Options, Show Test Results and Feedback to Students, and Test Presentation. information icon It is important for you to take the time to determine which options are best for your course management and your students’ learning. Therefore, before you click submit it is vital to your success.

Test Information

  • Name
  • Choose color of the link
  • Content Link Description
  • Open test in new window: Unless you need to have the students see their test in a new, separate browser window, select the No radio button for Open in New Window. information icon If you select the Yes radio button for this option, inform your students that they should disable all pop-up blockers on their browser before starting the test.

Test Availability

  • Make the link available: Note that regardless of any release dates or timer settings you select, you must select the Yes radio button for Make the link available. This is what makes the link for the test available to students. information icon Students will not be able to take the test UNLESS this is selected.
  • Add a new announcement for the test: This will inform students through the announcement tool that the test is available; however, it does not send out an email automatically. information icon Provides students with ONE reminder that the test is available.
  • Multiple attempts: Students will only have ONE attempt to take the test UNLESS this option is selected. If multiple attempts is selected you may limit the number of attempts or allow unlimited attempts. This option provides various strategies for scoring attempts through the dropdown menu. information icon Consider allowing multiple attempts especially for low stakes assessments. Although you cannot control the timing between attempts – you are providing students with multiple opportunities to practice with each attempt.
  • Force Completion: If you select Force Completion, students must complete the test or survey when they launch it. Students may only access the test or survey ONE TIME. If a student inadvertently exits or is timed out of a test s/he cannot return to complete the test. This feature DOES NOT serve as a good substitute for an enforced timer (Set Timer option). information icon Unchecking force completion will reduce your course management load because students will have less access issues.
  • Set Timer: Set expected completion time. Selecting this option also records completion time for this test. Students will see the timer option before they begin the test. information icon 60-90 minutes is the recommended time for a test.
  • Auto-Submit: The default is always off. It will ONLY submit when time expires. OFF means the student is given the option to continue after time expires. ON means the test will save and submit automatically when time expires. information icon If you set the timer, turn on Auto-Submit to automatically save and submit a test or survey when time expires. Without enabling auto-submit, students have the option to continue after time expires.
  • Display After & Display Until: This is the only way to control what day/time the test link will be visible to students. This is ONLY if you select the Yes radio button for Make the link available.
  • Password: You may establish up to a 15-character password for a test. information icon Passwords allow you to restrict access to the test.

Test Availability Exceptions

Due Date

  • This option is ONLY a reminder for the students and displays whether or not it is a late submission. information icon This action creates an event within the course calendar.

Self-Assessment Options

  • Hide results for this test completely from the instructor and the Grade: this option will HIDE the student responses and score PERMANENTLY from the instructor. information icon This is an option if you want to provide students self-practice opportunities.

Show Test Results and Feedback to Students

This section allows you to control how test information is released to students. You can set up to two rules to show results and feedback. Each rule specifies when and what to show students; such as scores, answers, and feedback for each question. information icon You are encouraged to use a demo student to test your configurations.

Score by Question:By default this option is selected. This option will show the actual score earned for each test question along with the question. There is no option to show ONLY the scores without revealing the questions. This is a default option for tests only. information icon UNCHECK the box if you DO NOT want to show the individual question scores along with each individual question.


IMPORTANT: Students will ALWAYS SEE their OVERALL test scores on their review test submission page.  You cannot change that option from this page. If you do not want them to see their scores yet, access the Grade Center column’s contextual menu and hide the column from students. However, when you hide a test column from students, they see nothing about the test in My Grades. When they access the test in the content area, they receive a message stating when they submitted the test. No scores appear.

Iowa State Instructor Tip: Pay close attention to the “Test Results and Feedback” section [View PDF]


Test Presentation

  • You have the option to have test questions presented to students All at Once or One at a Time. information icon Our recommendation is to select the One at a Time option. This option requires the student to save each answer as they move from one question to the next. This can help a student avoid losing their work if their test session is interrupted.