With Spring weather around the corner, students may protest showing up to class to take a quiz or a test when it is possible to deliver assessments online at the students’ convenience. But before giving into the impulse of online testing, consider the advantages and disadvantages. While very fitting for meeting some learning goals, assessing learning through Blackboard’s automated testing tools might not be the best option in many cases.

Let’s start with the bad news in online testing:

  • Unlike collaborative, project-based online assessments, multiple choice or essay tests online can feel even more impersonal than they do in the classroom which may contribute to an online student’s sense of isolation.
  • While it is tempting to use the multiple choice quizzes provided by the textbook publisher, these types of assessments lack creativity and may not be suitable to the specific needs of your learners.
  • Creating online tests in Blackboard can be very tedious and time-consuming. It is not as easy as simply uploading the Microsoft Word version of your test. Instead, instructors have to copy and paste each question’s text and each individual answer’s text into Blackboard, mark the correct answers, and customize feedback and setting options.
  • Some students will not be accustomed to taking quizzes and tests online, and they may need some hand-holding early in the semester before they feel comfortable with the technology.
  • Cheating on an online test is as simple as opening up another window and searching Google or asking a classmate for the correct answers. Furthermore, cheating on online multiple choice tests is near impossible for the instructor to prevent or catch.
  • Though the technology that makes online tests possible is a great thing, it can also cause problems. If you do online testing, have a back-up plan for students who have technical difficulties and be ready to field some frantic emails from students who have poor internet connections or faulty computers.

Despite the drawbacks listed above, there are some definite advantages to online testing:

  • Although creating online tests is labor-intensive, once a test is developed in Blackboard, it is relatively easy to transfer it and repeat it in other Blackboard courses.
  • Blackboard allows for a high degree of customization in the feedback students get in response to each answer that they submit. As an instructor, you could leverage this tool as another way to engage with students about course content.
  • Online tests are asynchronous and can be accessed on a variety of devices. If students buy the Blackboard mobile app, they can even take a test from their smartphone. The flexibility offered by online testing can be a great solution for learners with busy schedules or when unexpected class cancellations occur.
  • While it is hard to prevent cheating, Blackboard tests do offer many settings for instructors to randomize questions, impose test taking time limits, and restrict attempts. However, make sure to explain all the settings to students before they begin taking the test.
  • Testing in an online environment can be a lot more interactive than traditional paper and pen tests. Instructors can embed multimedia in test questions to provide more engaging assessments. For example, students may be asked to identify a particular area of an image by directly clicking on it instead of having to answer in written form.
  • In all likelihood, students are already using online tools as study aids for their courses. Instructors can better serve students by providing them with custom made study aids like online practice tests, rather than entrusting students to rely on outside resources that may not be valid sources of information.
  • For objective question types like multiple-choice, Blackboard will automatically grade student responses, saving time for the instructor and providing more immediate feedback to students.
  • Online tests can be more accessible to students with disabilities who have assistive technologies built into their computers than hand written tests are.

Given the advantages and disadvantages of online testing, here are some practical tips for applying this tool.

  • Be sure to introduce online tests (and any other new learning technologies in general) to students early in the semester to reduce technical issues and build desired study habits.
  • Using online tests as ungraded practice tests or low stake assignments will provide a useful self-check tool for students and greatly reduce concerns about cheating.
  • Another way to avoid the cheating issue is to design online tests to be open book assessments with a time limit.
  • Online tests can address student demands for exam study guides. Provide students with an online practice test a few days before a traditional exam. Just be sure the practice test is similar to the real thing.
  • If students are struggling with a particular concept and a need for formative assessment occurs, apply online quizzes as a just in time assessment to help identify areas where extra practice is needed.
  • Try using online pre- and post- tests as a way to measure student learning over the course of a curricular unit. This approach is especially useful for competency-based learning models that focus on mastery of skills over time spent learning.

If you have any questions or would like assistance with the testing tool in Blackboard or any other learning technologies, please contact the instructional design team at IDteam@lasalle.edu and visit our blog at http://tech.lasalle.edu .

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