Blackboard Tests and Surveys
This document explains how to create and use tests and surveys in Blackboard. To jump directly to a section, select a link!
- Creating Tests and Surveys - differences between tests and surveys, creating assessments, available question types, partial and extra credit, randomizing questions, using question pools, importing and exporting assessments and questions, and creating assessments with Respondus
- Deploying and Grading - deploying assessments, grading tests, viewing aggregated survey results
- Best Practice: Tips for Creating Blackboard Tests - Recommendations, design tips, and information to give your students for a smoother testing experience.
- Technical and Security Concerns - Coming Soon!
About Tests, Surveys, and Pools
Blackboard offers two methods for measuring students' understanding of course material: tests and surveys. For the most part, tests and surveys are created and deployed in the same way. The main differences are that tests provide a graded assessment of a particular student's understanding, while surveys collect data anonymously from all members of the class.
Pools are sets of questions that can be added to any Test or Survey. Pools are useful for storing questions and reusing them in more than one Test or Survey, but they are an optional feature and are not required for basic test or survey creation.
- Getting Started with Tests and Surveys (PDF)
- About Creating and Deleting Tests and Surveys (written instructions)
Creating and Editing Tests or Surveys
Tests and Surveys can be created or "built" within a Blackboard course, or can be imported from another source. Once created, a test may be edited freely until students begin taking it, after which time certain areas of the test may be unavailable to edit. The editing screen where the test is built is called the Test or Survey "Canvas" and instructors can use the Question Settings controls to select which options they would like to have available when creating test questions, such as the ability to add metadata, adjust point values, define partial credit or extra credit responses, and add images, files, or external links to questions or answers.
Creating a test automatically generates a column in the Grade Book where results will appear, allowing instructors to evaluate student progress and provide individual feedback. Survey results also appear in the Grade Book, but instructors will only be able to see which students have completed the survey and the aggregated results. To protect respondents' anonymity, survey responses cannot be retroactively associated with the student who provided them.
- Creating Tests and Surveys (written instructions)
- Editing Tests (written instructions)
- Using the Test and Survey Canvas (written instructions)
- Changing Question Settings (written instructions)
- Creating Tests and Surveys (tutorial video)
Question Types and Metadata
Blackboard offers 17 different types of questions, providing instructors a broad range of ways to assess students' skills in a variety of subjects. Questions may be created from scratch or imported individually from another test, survey, or question pool, and can be presented in a fixed or randomized order.
Tests can include open-ended questions, such as Fill in the Blank, Short Answer, and Essay, as well as fixed answer questions, such as Matching, Multiple Choice, and True/False. There are also options that support mathematical equations and problem sets, marking locations on images, ordering items, expressing opinions with Likert scales, and uploading files.
As questions are created, metadata tags can be added to help identify or organize questions for future use. Available tag options include user-defined categories, topics, difficulty levels, and keywords.
Instructors should be aware that short answer, essay, and file response questions require manual grading. Other question types, including fill in the blank and problem sets, can be auto-graded, but may require instructor review for accuracy.
Instructors should also be aware that there are important distinctions between the multiple answer and multiple choice question types and between the short answer and fill in the blank question types. A quick review of Blackboard's question descriptions may be helpful for avoiding confusion.
- Question Types (written instructions)
- Adding Question Metadata (written instructions)
- Reusing Questions (written instructions)
- Creating Different Types of Questions (tutorial videos - scroll to see all question types)
- Enabling and Defining Metadata Tags (tutorial video)
- Adding Metadata and Finding Questions (tutorial video)
Partial Credit and Extra Credit
Instructors can choose to allow partial credit for incomplete responses to certain types of questions, including all open ended questions and many closed-ended questions. The way partial credit is awarded varies based on the question type and is explained in the question type descriptions.
Any question can be marked as extra credit, regardless of question type. If this option is selected, points are added to the score if the question is answered correctly, but no points are taken away if the questions are answered incorrectly.
Questions can be randomized by using Random Blocks or Question Sets. With Random Blocks, questions can only come from one pool and are selected based on the format of the questions, i.e. multiple choice, short answer, etc. With Question Sets, questions can be gathered from multiple sources and can be selected based on question format or metadata tags, such as category or level of difficulty. Both options allow questions to be randomly selected from a batch of questions and/or presented to test-takers in random order.
Instructors should note that Random Blocks cannot be used with Surveys.
- Creating and Editing a Random Block (written instructions)
- Creating Question Sets (written instructions)
- Create a Random Block and Add it to a Test (tutorial video)
Question Pools are an optional feature that may be useful for instructors who test frequently or who would like to reuse questions from semester to semester. Questions from pools can be used in both tests and surveys.
- Creating and Editing Pools (written instructions)
- Using the Pool Canvas (written instructions)
- Building a Test Question Pool (tutorial video)
Importing and Exporting Assessment Components
Instructors can import and export .zip packages containing entire tests, surveys, or question pools to move assessment items between Blackboard courses. Content developed by a third-party publisher or for another learning management system can be imported as well.
Blackboard can also import question sets created offline using a word processing or spreadsheet application as long as the uploaded file is in the correct tab-separated format.
- Importing Tests, Surveys, and Pools (written instructions)
- Exporting Tests, Surveys, and Pools (written instructions)
- Uploading Questions from a File (written instructions)
- Exporting and Importing Tests and Surveys (tutorial video)
- Uploading Test Questions from Microsoft Excel (tutorial video)
Respondus is third-party software that mirrors the options available in Blackboard for entering questions and setting up a test or survey. Because it can save considerable time, Respondus is a particularly useful tool, especially for instructors who will be creating more than 100 questions within an individual course. Respondus facilitates the process of entering questions into Blackboard for tests, surveys, or pools by allowing instructors to import questions from a properly formatted Word file. It also allows instructors to import test banks from leading textbook publishers.
Respondus only runs on the Windows computers that meet the minimum system requirements, but instructors who use Intel-based Macintoshes can run it using a virtualized Windows installation. Once assessments have been uploaded to Blackboard, students can use any computer that is Blackboard compatible to take them.
UK provides a site license for Respondus, so Blackboard instructors and teaching assistants can download it for free from the UK download server and then follow the installation instructions to activate it with a UK serial number.
Respondus 4 Campus - a Windows-based authoring tool that makes it easy to create and manage exams for Blackboard.
Respondus StudyMate - a Windows-based authoring tool that makes it easy to create and manage interactive content for Blackboard.
Respondus Lockdown Browser - 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.
In the campus-wide license agreement, you can download these Respondus products from UK Download. While at the download site, click on the "Product key required" link and the product key will be sent to you via email. Before downloading, please take note of the following system requirements:
- Operating System: Windows Vista, XP, ME, 2000, 98
- Memory: 32 MB RAM minimum
- Hard Disk Space: 10 MB of free hard disk space for program files
- Monitor: 800x600 minimum (1024x768 recommended)
- Respondus 4.0 Quickstart Guide (PDF)
- Respondus 4.0 User Guide (Word document)
- Respondus 4.0 Demonstration Movies (tutorial videos)
- Step-by-Step Instructions for UK Instructors (created by UK Distance Learning)
- Features Overview (written instructions)
- Newsletter How-to Articles (written instructions)
After a Test or a Survey has been created, the next step is to deploy it to users. This is a two step process: adding the Test or Survey to a Content Area and then making it available. Blackboard provides a number of options to allow instructors to customize deployment of a test or survey, including settings related to test availability, due date, visibility in the grade center, test feedback, and test presentation.
New for Fall 2011 - The Set Timer option now includes an auto-complete feature that will save and submit an assessment automatically when time expires. Previously, students were notified of time limits and their completion times were recorded, but instructors will now be able to choose whether to allow students the option to continue working past the specified time limit.
- Deploying Tests and Surveys (written instructions)
- Test and Survey Options (written instructions)
- Setting Test Options (tutorial video)
- Reading Survey Submissions (tutorial video)
Viewing and Grading Results
Once students have taken a test, their answers will appear the Grade Center. Instructors can navigate among users and attempts, view rubrics, grade anonymously, and view test information, including each question and response. Tests can be presented for grading by student or by question, and grade adjustments can be made by changing the number of points earned on auto-graded questions, or by modifying a student's total test score directly. Instructors can provide feedback comments that will be visible to each student individually, as well as keep private notes about students' progress.
Survey results also appear in the Grade Book, but instructors will only be able to see which students have completed the survey and the aggregated results. To protect respondents' anonymity, survey responses cannot be retroactively associated with the student who provided them.
For in-depth information about grading assessments, please see our Grade Center tutorial.
UKIT's Learning Systems Support (LSS) team recommends the following guidelines to help instructors create a positive test-taking experience in Blackboard (Bb) for their students. Taking these steps should minimize the most common problems encountered by students while taking a test.
Recommendations for Creating the Test
Create separate sections for different question types:
- Objective questions typically take less time for students to complete and are automatically graded by Blackboard.
- Multiple Answer
- Multiple Choice
- Subjective questions need to be graded by the instructor and take more time for students to complete (this may be the cause of some problems with students being kicked out of a test).
- Short Answer
- Fill in the Blank (These can be auto-graded, but need to be verified by the instructor)
Recommended Test Options
- Force completion - unchecked
- Set Timer - checked and time set
- We suggest breaking long tests into smaller sections (about 30 minutes per section)
- One at a Time - selected
- Prohibit Backtracking - checked
- Randomize Questions - checked (if desired)
Why do students get kicked out of a test?
Loss of connectivity is the primary cause.
Connecting to the University of Kentucky Blackboard system involves many different levels of connectivity. Before taking any test the students should follow the guidelines in the Before the Test section of Tips for Taking a Blackboard Test, attached below. These tips may reduce the chance of a student receiving a message saying 'submission in progress' or 'test already submitted' with no results displayed.
Design Tips for Creating Tests
LSS strongly recommends that Blackboard instructors do the following:
- Set major project and test deadlines for 5pm (rather than midnight or other late hours) on the due date, so that if a problem occurs, the UKIT Service Desk and, if necessary, specialized Blackboard technicians, have adequate time to troubleshoot the problem. (If you make that change of due date/time, please remember that it may call for an update to your syllabus.) The UKIT Service Desk phone number is 859-218-4357. Callers who are in a testing or timed situation should alert the representative early in the call.
- Do not use special characters like: # / * % & + - \ . etc. when naming your exam (or any other Blackboard file). These characters interfere with the Blackboard application and will cause problems.
- Avoid copy-pasting questions or answers directly from Microsoft Word.
- Consider using the site-licensed Respondus test creation program. Respondus is an excellent tool for the creation, modification, renaming and uploading of exams and assessments. You are also able save the original test content files on your own computer. The Respondus program can be downloaded to your computer from the download.uky.edu web site. NOTE: This program is only available for Windows computers at this time, but can be run on an Intel-based Mac using Windows virtualization software.
- Take the exam yourself after deploying the test, but before making it available to students, to make sure it meets your expectations and that there are no mistakes in the creation.
- DO NOT rename the exam once it is deployed.
- DO NOT make changes to questions (other than minor textual changes) once you have deployed the exam in a content area, including:
- Do not change the number of points for a question.
- Do not add or remove questions.
- Do not add or remove answers or feedback.
- Do not change creation settings.
- Do not change attached files.
- Heed all Blackboard warnings, particularly this one, which appears when you attempt to modify an exam after it is open to student access.
This action will modify a Test that has been taken. Only textual changes to existing fields are allowed, such as correcting typos or rewording a confusing question. Be aware that after making changes, existing attempts (tests that have been taken) will show the new text, not the original text, so students' answers should be reviewed with that in mind.
- If changes are needed, other than textual changes, create a new Test. Any changes other than textual changes to existing fields will invalidate existing Test attempts and could corrupt the entire Test and its Gradebook entries.
- Request your students save the answer to each question as they take the exam.
- Remind students that they must click the Submit button when the exam is complete for their exam to register as being taken.
- Post a notice in Blackboard to remind students of their best practices when taking exams in Blackboard (below is a list you may want to copy, or modify and then post to your courses).
- Keep test sections to 20 to 30 minutes. This is particularly important for essay questions, but can also be an issue with other types of questions if the students do not use the SAVE button.
- Break your quiz or exam into multiple assessments based on the type of questions.
- Objective questions (i.e., multiple choice, matching, True/False, etc.).
- Subjective questions (i.e., short answer and essay questions).
- Display one question per page and prohibit backtracking. Selecting this option allows the student to only see the current question and not get distracted by future questions. This option also helps to prevent cheating and serves as a reminder to save the questions frequently.
- Uncheck the Forced Completion option. If a student gets dropped from the test, they can immediately return to the question that was interrupted. (If the instructor forces completion, they will first have to clear the student's attempt so the student can re-enter the test.) If the students have been saving the answers as they worked through the test, the previously answered questions will not be lost.
- In some instances, allowing multiple attempts is a good choice, especially if questions are being randomly selected for presentation from a larger pool of questions. You can allow unlimited attempts or a specific number of attempts. The Grade Center will display all attempts. You can choose to grade the student's last attempt, first attempt, highest score, lowest score, or average of scores. Additionally, an override field is included so that you can manually enter a score. You may also choose to clear (or delete) the last, first, highest, lowest, or all attempts within a specified date range. This action may be performed by item (for all students at once) or by user (for a specific user).
- To time a test, use the setting: "If a time limit is set, the timer keeps ticking while the student is out of the test". (See the Setting a Time Limit on a Test section below for more information.)
Typically students complete objective questions quickly and then take more time to work on the subjective questions. In most cases, if a student is dropped from a test, it is during a subjective part of the test. If the test is designed as one whole, test answers for the answers for both the objective and subjective questions can be lost if the students have not being using the SAVE button. However, if the test is divided into two sections, it is less likely that answers to the objective questions will be lost and more likely that students will have a better chance of completing the subjective part without losing their connection to Blackboard.
Useful Hints for Administering Tests
- Inform students about the article Tips for Taking a Blackboard Test, linked below.
- Have students save each question response. This action will capture the response to each question in case the computer freezes or times out before clicking SUBMIT. In the event that the test is not submitted properly, the answers will be saved and the instructor will be able to access the student's original test with answers. Please note that if the test was not submitted properly, the grade book will show a lock; however, the instructor will still be able to view the student's responses.
- Have the student print out (or take a screen shot) and save the submission report. The report is displayed after a student has successfully submitted the assessment. It can be used as proof of submission (in case of a technical problem).
- To reduce last-minute technical issues, prepare a practice online test that is similar in the settings and types of questions you will use in graded tests. Create one and use in all your courses.
- When making a test available, instructors have the option of controlling how much information a student is given when the test is completed. If the instructor chooses all options available, each student will receive the answer to each question, marked either correct or incorrect and the correct answer if the student incorrect. While more information is useful to the student, you should realize that students could potentially pass information along to students who have not yet taken the test. The Steps to Modify Test Feedback Options section below provide a way to allow students to receive all the feedback but keep them from sharing the information inappropriately.
- Because it is possible, even after taking precautionary steps, for students to encounter browser or network connection problems when taking online tests, always have a backup plan for students to take the test (alternative date, paper copy of the test, etc).
Setting a Time Limit on a Test
Blackboard allows you to set a timer on a test. The elapsed time will appear at the top right of the screen and a one-minute warning will also be displayed. However, setting a time limit does not restrict students from going over the allotted time. If they do, their grade will show up as a "!" in the grade book rather than a grade and you will be able to see how much time they ran over the allotted time. You will not be able to see where the student was when the time ran out or how many questions he or she answered after the fact. The assessment will need to be graded manually.
Note: Browser options need to be set appropriately in order for the test timer to be displayed.
Steps to Modify Test Feedback Options
Various options may be selected and modified, depending on how you want the test results to display for the students once they have completed the test.
- Score: Displays only the exam score, not the individual questions and/or responses.
- Submitted Answers: Displays all of the questions and the answers given by the student. It will display whether the answers were correct or incorrect, but will not show correct answers for any questions missed by the student.
- Correct Answers: Displays all of the questions and answers given by the student along with the correct answer.
- Feedback: Displays any feedback that you have supplied for each question.
If you choose to show anything other than just the score, the students will see all of the test questions as soon as they complete the test. There is no way to prevent the copying, printing, or sharing of this information.
If you want to allow the students to see your feedback after everyone has taken the exam, you can go back into the Test Options and allow the other items to be displayed, i.e., Submitted Answers, Correct Answers, and/or Feedback. If all options are checked, students will be able to access the entire exam through View Grades by clicking on the exam score to open the exam. Note: Students will be able to print this document.
How to Modify Test Feedback Options:
- Initially, set up the exam Score in the Test Feedback section of the exam options.
- After the exam period ends, modify the test options and check the boxes for the type of feedback you want displayed. Click Submit to save the changes to the test options.