Developing Tests and Surveys

Blackboard has many advanced features for managing tests and surveys online. You can build self-tests in to your course shell to help students check their understanding of key academic concepts at significant "teachable" moments in the course, deploy assessments from a "pool" of these interactions, and track the results with the grade center. A class survey, administered at the beginning of a course is a really excellent way to engage the students, stimulate discussion, assess prior knowledge, and help students define their personal goals. A few weeks into the course, it's a great way to identify how to improve the course in progress (rather than hearing about it after the course is over in the formal student evaluation). more...

Here is a sample self-test, in the "UT Scarborough General Demo" course online. The title reads "preview" because the individual is logged in with the "lecturer" role.

Screen shot of Blackboard 9.1 test deployment

Building/Importing A Test

If you would like to author a test, select Course Tools -> Tests, Surveys and Pools (below, left), then 'Tests' to access the Test Manager menu. The test manager allows you to create tests and manage how tests appear to students, both in self-testing situations and for quizzes, which are linked via the grade center. You can also import and export tests from different Blackboard courses (usually through your personal or departmental content collection - content tab). This realizes the concept of making assessments into reusable learning objects.
 Screen shot illustrating the location of the testing interface in Blackboard 9.1

Screen shot of Blackboard 9.1 - creating a test canvas using the test manager

Once the test canvas is created, you can add or reuse questions, import them from a question 'pool', or a saved .zip file.

Screen shot of Blackboard test entry


Question Selection

Consider in selecting from the question types how you intend the assessment to reflect the progressive complexity of the course material and the natural progression of learning. This natural progression is expressed with sharp clarity in the Seguin or Montessori "Three Period Lesson", and more popularly but with less clarity in "Bloom's Taxonomy".

The simplest type of challenge question is to recognize a concept singly and without having to name it, such as in a Hotspot question; the next simplest is to put a set of concepts into visual Order, rank or Match them. This type of question can be more abstract if term-signifiers are used since they are usually abstractions of physical concepts or simpler, well-understood words (definitions). But essentially the student is learning to recognize terms and relationships, before expressing the significant meaning or original conclusions.

Once the student has gone beyond recognizing a term and the general meaning, it is helpful to expand the sense of definition by way of an interesting variety of questions which might require selecting the right item from a group of similar items where some are wrong (distractors), as in true/false, either/or, multiple choice or matching, and then having to supply either a term for a blank, a short answer.

At the point of supplying longer answers, a student will be expressing definitions and doing significant analysis...and here the limitations of automatic test scoring become apparent since the nature of most knowledge domains is that the answer depends upon experience and a point of view. As educators we want to stimulate and reward the cognitive "slipping and sparking" that makes students reflective and individual learners in a domain community, rather than turning out students who can express the same answer down to exact wording, and might have trouble explaining a concept or applying it to a new situation.

Calculated Formula: Contains a formula with variables that change for each user. The variable range is created by specifying a minimum and maximum. Answer sets are randomly generated. The correct answer can be a specific value or a range of values. Partial credit may be granted for answers falling in a range.

Calculated Numeric: Asks the user to submit a numeric answer to a question. It resembles a fill-in-the-blank question where the correct answer is a number. The correct answer can be an exact number or a number within a set range of numbers. All answers must be numeric, not alphabetic.

Either/Or: Displays two answer options, such as True/False or Yes/No. There is no partial credit option for Either/Or questions. Make sure the question is phrased to clearly match a selected answer label.

Essay: This type requires students to enter a response in to a large text box.The text can be typed directly in the text box, or pasted in from another application. If text formatting is important, consider using a File Response question where Students attach formatted files, rather than pasting.

File Response: Student uploads file in response to question. File Response is a good option if students are to work on something before a test and submit it with a test, or if the formatting is important, or the file is intended to be annotated with feedback and suggestions.

Fill in Multiple Blanks: Students enter missing values in a text. Each missing value has a variable associated with it, and then a list of correct responses, as students may choose different words. Variables are uniquely named and placed within square brackets [ ]. Responses are not case sensitive.

Fill in the Blank: As in multiple blanks, but one blank per question. An exact match to the wording and spelling is required, so short, even one-word answers work best.

Hotspot: Click on the correct spot in an image file to indicate a correct response to a question. Great for formative evaluations or visual domain problems, where recognition of the correct concept occurs before knowing the name, before being able to define the term, and before applying it creatively within the domain.

Jumbled Sentence: Select the correct words from drop-down menus of up to 20 items to complete the sentence. The drop-down menus can include words which don't occur in the completed sentence.

Matching: Correctly pair items in one column with items in another column. The example above illustrates several key terms and definitions which students much 'match'. A great way to help students explore the relation between a group of concepts, which ultimately strengthens the understanding of individual definitions.

Multiple Choice: The old favourite. Vertical/horizontal orientation, roman numbers/numbers, partial credit and randomizing options.

Multiple Answer: Like multiple choice, except more than one answer can be correct. Up to 20 answers may be added, but one expert has suggested no additional testing benefit is created by increasing the number of possible responses. (you be the judge!)

Opinion Scale/Likert: Most often used in Surveys, these are designed to measure attitudes or reactions using on a numerical scale. Fundamentally the same as a multiple choice assessment but the responses are conveniently seeded as 'Strongly Agree', 'Agree', 'Neither Agree nor Disagree', 'Disagree' or 'Strongly Disagree'.

Ordering: Put a series of items in correct order. Great for domain information that can be most usefully expressed on a linear timeline, such as historical events, isotope decay, steps in meiosis.

Quiz Bowl: Fill in the blank, but the answer must be in the form of a question. Specify one or more interrogatives, e.g. 'Who is', 'Who are', 'Where is', 'Where are' and phrases that must be included in the answer. If you'd like to do this activity with a group (strongly encouraged), consider creating a Jeopardy Powerpoint from our template.

Short Answer: Is also like Fill in the Blank, but it permits a longer response. Since scoring occurs automatically, a sample response must be supplied so the student structures his/her answer correctly for analysis.

True/False: Like Either/Or but dead simple. No partial credit for responses, for obvious reasons!


Importing Quizzes and Surveys

In addition to test templates from other sources, survey templates can be imported into Blackboard as well. Here's the test file, "Mid Term Course Survey", which can easily be imported into your course to find out how the students think the course is going, and what should be improved.

Course Tools > Tests, Surveys and Pools > Surveys > Import Survey.  Once imported, you can change the introduction, add questions, or remove questions easily using Blackboard's survey editing tools. 



Resetting a Student Test

Occasionally, a student may be forcibly ejected while in the middle of an online test, due to a power failure or browser crash. When the student tries to re-enter the test, Blackboard will report that the quiz is finished and can't be re-entered. The solution is for a TA or instructor to clear the attempt, meaning go to the Grade Center and look for this icon:

Blackboard attempt in progress icon

  1. Locate the student whose grade needs to be reset. You should see an icon like the one above, where the student's grade should be. Click on this icon
  2. Click the View button
  3. You will now see the student's assessment. Click the Clear Attempt button to clear the student's quiz attempt. This student can now re-take the online test

If you are going to do online testing for sure to set up a way that tests can be cleared quickly.


Survey Manager

Surveys work in a similar way.

Screen shot of Blackboard 9.1 Survey Manager

To explore Blackboard 'tests, surveys and pools' further in a course, please contact Brian Sutherland or Adon Irani: [].