Friday, January 13, 2012

Advice on on line classes? The tests?

Those of you who took on-line classes. How did the teachers give tests. Were they open for 24 hours? Did they say it was open book? Advice please?
Here are some of the responses I got back from my fellow teachers at Ohlone:

I teach online and hybrid classes and have lots of thoughts about online exams.  Whether you are concerned about content, format or security, there are ways to set up the test to maximize all three.
 with a single attempt and limited time allowed to complete the exam. 
With regard to security, unless you are having students take the online exam right in front of you there are some things that cannot be avoided.  Such as ensuring the person enrolled is the actual person taking the exam, and whether they access their text while taking it.
With the former I have no solution to offer. However, with regard to the latter I usually make an exam to be available for 48 hours, and allow open book, but give only one attempt and limit the time allowed to take the exam, with a forced close/submission. 
I also include short answer and/or essay questions requiring critical thinking and not a rote answer from the text.  So even if they have their book in front of them, the answers won't all be there.
As Kim Stiles noted, It is true that students can review exams if they have access to their grade.  But they cannot review them until the exams have been graded.  If the exams are set up with all closed-ended questions, the grading will be automatic and immediate, so students taking the exam earlier would be able to review and share the answers with others who have not yet taken the test. But students can also tell others about the questions on the exam after taking it and before review is available.
However,  if you include any questions that require manual grading, like short answer or essay, the grading is not automatic and students will not be able to review their exams until grading is complete.   If you put off grading the exams until after the exam period has been closed, the scenario described by Kim Stiles can be avoided.
Giving online exams can provide quality assessments of student learning  and be convenient for the instructor.  The trick is knowing the limits and working around them. 
I hope this information helps.
Good luck,

Please be aware that as long as students have access to their grades on their grade center in Blackboard they will have access to the test. All they do is click their grade in their grade center and they get to review the test "unlimited times" regardless of how you program or set up the exam.

In nursing, we give all our exams on-line and the exam content has to remain secure. Until this glitch gets fixed, I am not allowing students access to the Blackboard grade center. They get their grade immediately after the exam when we allow them to review the exam immediately after taking it in a proctored environment and then I block access to the exam for the class and that is it.

I would advise testing your exam settings- with a student through their view of all aspects of the course and what they can click on- before going live with an exam whose content you want to have secure. If they are doing exams at home, your test content is not secure anyway so you can ignore this email.


You can set a time limit for the test and then also have a period of time in which they an go in and take it.  For instance, you could give them 30 minutes for 25 questions and then give them a week in which to do it.  Once they open it they have only 30 min.  Also, you can randomize the order (which I recommend) and you can also make a pool and give student different questions.  I never state it is open book, but you just have to know it is.  If you limit the time, they may have trouble if they had never read the material.  If the point is to just have them look at particular material, then don't bother with a time limit.  Anyhow, I thought I would chime in.
My experience is to make them available for 24 hours but limit the time the student has to finish the exam once they begin. Blackboard supports this. You can also randomize the questions and randomize the multiple choice answers ( don't use "all the above" or "none of the above"). It is best to use as many essay or short answer questions as possible. Hiding the results of the exam until all exams are complete reduces collaboration.

Online exams are obviously not the same as monitored exams. This does not mean that an online exam can't be just as effective in validating a students  level of understanding. Usually the exams in online courses comprise less of the overall grade than for in-class courses but if properly constructed, they can effectively assist in determining a students level of understanding. 


I'm just setting up my first tests on Blackboard.  You can set a test to be available for a certain amount of time (such as 24 hours or a week period).  You can also set the test to be taken in one sitting, or so the student can return and do it in parts. 

Personally, my quizzes are set for 30 minutes in one sitting, but available all week.  This accounts for students who may have conflicting schedules.  The clock starts when the student initiates the test and is set to save all answers when the time expires.  It's closed book, on the honor system.  

Rarely allow them from home. Online testing from within the classroom atmosphere. Use the lockdown browser to minimize net searches. Usually build questions in a format that open book would not help.

First, I upload the test bank from the instructor's resource site into a POOL. Then I create tests using the Pool of questions. This way, you do not have to type the entire test.

After creating the test, you have to make it available to students and choose all of your options. I make the test available for a certain time (say 7 days). You can have students submit the test and NOT have the answers show until ALL students have finished it. I ALWAYS time the test and FORCE COMPLETION. In addition, I always RANDOMIZE the questions so that students cannot work together. In addition, I TELL students that the test has software that will make the test CRASH if they use the Internet or click away from the site (this is not true--I tried to embed the code, but the test crashed with it. So now, I just put the warning message--kind of like a fake BAY ALARM sign).


Dfferent ways. Sometimes they are just quizzes designed to reinforce the subject matter. These generally are not timed and are open for a week or weeks.

Big tests, such as Midterm, final, are timed, and are available only for the amount of time it takes to give the test. "Adaptive Release" can be used to accommodate the various schedules of different students. Or you can insist that they all take it at the same time, though this works against the online thing.
I always do the tests on a Sunday.  I tell the students that in my syllabus and email them before the semester even starts.  That way they can plan their schedule.  (I map out my online schedule in advance so the test days are posted.)