Quizzes, Tests, and Alternative Forms of Assessment

When it comes time to remotely assess student learning using fully-online technology, there are a number of important considerations to make, ranging from pedagogical to technological. The following sections offer some key suggestions on how to begin navigating these considerations if you prefer or are required to use TESTS and QUIZZES in your classes.

Important Note: Tests and quizzes need not be the only way to assess student learning in your course. First, consider these alternative models of assessment from the materials developed in and around our previous Hybrid Seminars. Second, consider that active and authentic ASSIGNMENTS can also serve as an effective and pedagogically sound alternative to tests and quizzes. See a brief description of some such alternative assignments, along with related resources, listed at the bottom of this page. And see also these examples of online assignments from elsewhere on our Teach Hybrid site.

Build assessments around learning goals

It is important to be mindful of the learning goals you have for your students when the time comes to build your fully-online assessments. Having a strong sense of the main points, concepts, and/or skills you want your students to master will help you to focus on building questions that align with your priorities. Being mindful towards course learning goals should not be different whether your assessment is administered in person or fully online. However, when faced for the first time with the challenge of creating a fully-online assessment, sometimes it can be easy to forget the importance of prioritizing learning goals!

See also this content related to learning goals in course design on Baruch’s Center for Teaching & Learning website. The Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute at Baruch also offers this useful information on establishing learning goals.

Blackboard Help with Tests & Quizzes

Building and administering assessments (e.g., tests, quizzes) can be done and customized fairly easily on Blackboard. Click on this link to learn how to create and deploy tests, quizzes and surveys on Blackboard.

When building an assessment on Blackboard you can: 

  • Select different question types for your assessment, ranging from multiple choice items to essay items. You can read more about this below under, “What question type(s) are best to use?”
  • Easily tailor/edit your questions. For example, you might want to add website links and/or images to give assessment items more critical context, and so that students feel better engaged in the test-taking process.
  • Randomize question order so that students working right next to each other will not be able to work so easily on the same thing together at the same time.
  • Add a rubric to any particular question you deploy so that as students complete that item, they can see the evaluation system you are using for grading it.
  • Provide feedback to students on their response submissions, whether that feedback is summative (e.g., accuracy feedback based on a rubric), or formative (e.g., corrective feedback aimed at prompting students to take further action to shape their learning).

Some additional considerations…

  • Time Frame: You can add an overall time frame to the test so that it is only available for completion during a particular period. For example, you can make your assessment available for students on Thursday from 4:15pm to 7:15pm or you can make it available from Friday at 12 midnight until Monday morning at 9am. 
    • One upside to having a shorter time frame (e.g., a single evening as opposed to a full weekend) is that it minimizes chances students will be dishonest (i.e., cheat) by screenshotting test items and sending them around to other students.
    • One downside of a shorter time frame is that students may not have availability OR accessibility during that particular window of time. Issues here may be forestalled here, at least to some extent, by announcing the test time frame(s) well in advance so that students can plan their schedule accordingly.
  • Timer: You can consider adding a timer to the test, so that once students start the test anytime within the aforementioned time frame, they would only have (say) 2 hours to complete it. (NOTE: However, be mindful here of those students of yours who need special accommodations – e.g., double-time for completing exams.)
  • Number of attempts: You can consider allowing students to have only a single attempt, or multiple attempts at completing the assessment.

Click here to learn more about the various options at your disposal for customizing your test, quiz or survey on Blackboard.

See also the following reference by Cluskey et al. (2011), which offers some support and further explanation of the important OECPs (Open-Exam Control Procedures) listed above (e.g., limiting exam time, limiting student access to the exam, changing test characteristics).

Cluskey, G., Ehlen, C., Raiborn, M., “Thwarting Online Cheating Without Proctor Supervision,” Journal of Academic and Business Ethics, vol. 4, Jan. 2011.

To be, or not to be: open-book?

When designing assessment materials for fully-online courses it is often quite reasonable (and pedagogically sound!) to permit students USE of their textbook and/or other course-related materials during test-taking. Some reasons for this include…

  • To allow students to “test themselves” (say, with a multiple choice test that an instructor first builds) as they begin to develop an initial understanding of foundational or key textbook concepts in a new content area. The Blackboard Help site includes how to:
  • To prompt students to “apply textbook content” (say, through completing short answer or short essay questions) as they offer personal examples or real-world implications of an important concept, OR they explain the pros/cons, costs/benefits or validity/invalidity of some practice, approach, model or theory. The Blackboard Help site includes how to:

Note, however, that it is also reasonable to consider NOT permitting use of a textbook or some other such course resource during test-taking procedures. While there is no foolproof means for ensuring that students will fully comply here, one way to encourage them to abide by such a guideline is to ask them to write their own short agreement toward this end and submit it to you in advance of the assessment (e.g., “I pledge to not make any use of my textbook as I complete any part of this test.” Signed: student’s first and last name).

Finally, regardless of whether you permit textbook use or not, it is always advisable to provide students with a statement about your expectations of their test-taking conduct when it comes to academic integrity and honesty. (Note that securing a “student agreement” here is also quite useful.) This is often best accompanied by a statement specifying the steps you will take as the instructor to assess their work for plagiarism (e.g., making use of online software, such as safeAssign; see this link here for how the safeAssign software works on Blackboard). Please also visit this important page made available by the Office of the Associate Provost at Baruch College detailing examples of the kind of language you can use in crafting statements about academic integrity and honesty, including those that can be incorporated into your syllabus.

What question type(s) are best to use?

The choice for which question type(s) to employ in your quiz or test will depend to a large extent on what the purpose is of your assessment (e.g., testing ability to understand basic concepts; testing ability to use formulas and make calculations; testing ability to create a valid argument). 

There are a myriad of assessment question types that are available via the Blackboard course management system, and they are listed just below. For a description of HOW and WHY you might employ each type, please read more about Question Types on the Blackboard Help site.

  1. Calculated Formula Questions
  2. Calculated Numeric Questions
  3. Either/Or Questions
  4. Essay Questions
  5. File Response Questions
  6. Fill in Multiple Blanks Questions
  7. Fill in the Blanks Questions
  8. Hot Spot Questions
  9. Jumbled Sentence Questions
  10. Matching Questions
  11. Multiple Answer Questions
  12. Multiple Choice Questions
  13. Opinion Scale and Likert Questions
  14. Ordering Questions
  15. Quiz Bowl Questions
  16. Short Answer Questions
  17. True/False Questions

Quicklinks to Tutorials

When designing assessment materials for fully-online courses it is often quite reasonable (and pedagogically sound!) to permit students USE of their textbook and/or other course-related materials during test-taking. Some reasons for this include…

Some ideas for assignments to use as alternatives to testing

When it comes to assessing student learning, there are a number of reasonable and effective alternatives to tests and quizzes. Consider this short list of sites below where you can find many such pedagogically sound alternatives.

  1. Feel free to peruse the CTL’s TeachHybrid’s repository of hybrid assignments, which you can borrow from or may get inspired by in creating your own.
  2. Check out this list of innovative hybrid assignments from CUNY faculty across various disciplines. Participants from our past Hybrid Seminars contributed these, and we thank them for their work. Note that some of these may not be a good fit for fully-online classes, but they can be retooled with a bit of imagination.
  3. Below are some specific suggestions that we have adapted from the examples listed on the Center for Teaching and Learning website at the University of California – Berkeley…
    • Topic (or textbook chapter) “summary” or “briefing” paper…
      • Students can select a single topic from among any number that you provide (e.g., a main section in a textbook chapter; a novel theory; a current issue). They would then compile a one-to-two page written document that aims to summarize the background on that topic while also weaving in a “briefing” that offers (for instance): historical reasons for development of that content; pros / cons surrounding the topic; implications and applications; recommendations for solutions or future directions. Such an assignment focuses students’ attention on not only demonstrating mastery of this content, but also synthesizing this information in a concise and constructive way.
    • Annotation of a themed set of content…
      • Consider asking students to develop a thematic and organized annotation of several key pieces of works, writings, readings, research, and/or sources of information. They can choose the theme they prefer (e.g., a certain genre of works covered in a course section; a particular political movement being addressed in class; an unpopular theoretical perspective) and then select relevant content, order it in a meaningful and goal-directed way, and offer one-paragraph summaries of this purposeful content. Or you can consider “flipping” such an assignment by giving students any number of related and pre-determined key pieces of course content, and then ask them to annotate them in a way that is meaningful to them, developing their own theme and explaining it along the way. Such an assignment asks students to think longitudinally about course content, getting them to draw purposeful and important associations across different key aspects of your course.
    • Reflective (or expressive) journal entries…
      • Asking students to express their thoughts, feelings, and/or opinions in a reflective piece or journal entry (single or repeated) might afford them a unique opportunity to think about how the concepts they are learning about apply meaningfully to their own lives and/or communities. Adopting use of such an assignment might especially be useful if your course is applied or experiential in nature. Giving students such an assignment might best be accompanied by instructions asking them to carefully tie in course-specific knowledge with their personalized expressions, so as to ensure that their submission remains in line with the learning goals you have set for them.
    • Would-be op-ed piece…
      • Consider challenging your students to weigh two (or all) sides of a key issue in your course – and to do so in a real-world manner with an Op-Ed piece. Asking students to take on such a challenge requires that they first demonstrate mastery of related content, and then think about how best to write the piece for public consumption (or some other preferred, directed audience). Such an assignment enables students to learn and exhibit what they know in an impactful way – and to have some journalistic fun while they’re at it!
  4. This CTL assessment guide outlines several types of assessment models (two pages per model), their pros and cons, along with examples and additional resources. To get started, preview the title and description of each assessment model type to find the one or ones that best match your needs and preferences. Then look at the “Examples” for a real-world take on how such a model might be able to take shape for you in your course. The guide then walks you through various resources and additional considerations for that kind of assessment technique.