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Online Testing Tips


Online testing may seem problematic… How can cheating be prevented? How do you stop students from using books and other materials to answer questions? Here are some tips to make online assessment work:

  1. Bring a new mindset to online assessment.
    1. Traditional approaches to testing do not always work well online. A new mindset is needed. Of course this is not bad; most education experts agree that rote memory testing is not the best measure of learning in any environment.
    2. In online courses, treat every test as if it were "open book." Use questions that challenge students even if they use resources when forming their answers. This practice is more like our real life tests anyway.
    3. Treat online testing as a means, not an end. Assessments should not only measure learning, but serve as part of the learning process.

  1. Publicize content, format, rules, and honor codes to students in advance.
    1. Students are less prone to cheating if they understand what to expect on tests. Ensure that they are appropriately prepared.
    2. Post the question formats, test length, and time limitations well in advance. Post study guides that students can use to prepare. In addition, announce rules for the test, especially limitations on the resources students can use.
    3. Finally, post or link to the college policies so that students are aware of the implications of cheating.

  1. Ask questions that require application of knowledge.
    The most important way to overcome online cheating (and realistically assess student understanding) is to use application level questions. Essays, case studies, and other complex question types can be challenging to answer even if you are looking at the book.

  1. Only use memory-testing questions to facilitate student progress.
    There is room for some rote memory questions in online courses. These questions confirm student understanding and establish common context for learning. Instructors can use memory questions to gauge the pace of the course and identify students who are lost.

  1. Learn the writing style of students before testing.
    A great deal of written communication passes between online students and the instructor. Pay attention to the writing style of students and save samples. Online instructors report that with a little awareness, it is easy to recognize work that is not the student's own.

  1. Use questions that require personal input from students.
    Require some personal opinions from students in answers. Ask students to provide examples from their own lives. These kinds of personal details are difficult to fake.

  1. Set a reasonable time limit for completion.
    Limiting the amount of time students can access a test makes any form of cheating difficult. Avoid being too restrictive, however do not allow too much time either.

  1. Use Respondus LockDown Browser
    Respondus LockDown Browser™ is a custom browser that locks down the testing environment within Blackboard. When students use Respondus LockDown Browser they are unable to print, copy, go to another URL, or access other applications. When an assessment is started, students are locked into it until they submit it for grading. (Supports Windows and Mac OS X 10.3.9+.)

    Respondus LockDown Browser Info

    Respondus LockDown Browser Install

    If security is critical, consider proctoring.
    A proctored exam is one that is supervised by an impartial individual (called a proctor) who monitors or oversees a student while he or she is taking an exam. The proctor ensures the security and integrity of the exam process. 
    Student should complete and return the
    Proctor Agreement Form at  least five (5) business days before the first scheduled exam.
    *Many students register for online classes because they cannot physically attend a class at specified times. Requiring them to test at a particular location and specific time precludes the very reason they signed up for the course. So please, use this approach with care.

  1. Don't worry too much.
    Finally, online educators emphasize that online testing is more problematic in theory than in practice. They report that the range of scores is similar for online students and classroom students. Test achievement by individual students is typically consistent with performance in other course assignments. Incidence of cheating is no more frequent than in face-to-face courses. Design online tests with care, prepare students fairly, and take a few reasonable anti-cheating precautions. Success is likely to follow!

Visit the Blackboard Test Creation Tips for additional information concerning avoiding testing problems in Blackboard.



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