Test Best Practices in Blackboard

What can you do to reduce the problems your students can experience taking Blackboard tests? Lots, both from an instructor perspective and from a student perspective.


      1. Provide students with the opportunity to practice and get familiar with the Blackboard test system or to get comfortable with their knowledge of the content.
        • Have a practice test for checking settings that is set to unlimited attempts and no credit allows students to check their browsers before starting a test.
        • Create practice tests to reduce testing anxiety before an in class exam. Blackboard has a test option to allow practice tests that don’t show the results in the Grade Center. Students can take a practice test without fear that an instructor “will see their poor results.” Setting the practice test for unlimited attempts allows the students to take the test multiple times to gain confidence and identify content areas requiring additional review.
      2. When using Blackboard tests for credit, do not set the test options to be too restrictive. Rather that preventing cheating, this option can create an opportunity for gaining extra time. Do not use forced completion or auto-submit. Both options will cause headaches for you and your students! The forced completion option gives students a single attempt that they must complete in a single session. If anything happens to interrupt a test session (a browser freezing), the student can’t complete the test. The only option is for the instructor to clear the attempt, deleting any saved answers and having the student start again. Instead set a reasonable time limit. The clock starts as soon as the student opens the test and continues to run even if the student navigates away from the test. If a student has a problem, they can re-enter and resume where they left off. If you require students to notify you of any problems, you can take that into account if they go over the time limit by a small amount.
      3. Don’t get tripped up by the time of day. Blackboard considers midnight as the start of the day. When setting the start and end times for a test and you want the time to be midnight – select either 11:59 PM or 12:01 AM to be sure the exam starts or ends when you think it should. Using times on either side of midnight means you don’t have to remember how Blackboard defines it.
      4. Use pools to generate random blocks of questions to create unique tests for each student to reduce the chance of cheating.


If your instructor provides a practice tests, take it before each scheduled test to make sure your browser settings will allow you to access and complete tests in Blackboard. Browser updates and plugins can affect the performance of the testing system. Since browsers are updated regularly and users add plugins to gain functions something in your set-up may have changed between tests.

See the StudentTest Best Practice Handout for a checklist.

Blackboard System Maintenance – March 22, 2015 2 – 6 AM

On Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 between the hours of 2 and 6 AM EDT, Blackboard will be performing maintenance on our system that will require system downtime. During this time users should refrain from using Blackboard.

Respondus and Online Test Banks for Respondus

Although relatively few instructors at Wentworth use Blackboard for testing, many do create quizzes or practice tests in Blackboard. If you’ve ever created a test or quiz in Blackboard you know how much time it takes to enter the questions. There are a couple of options to make this easier. Some publishers create test banks and save them in a format that can be imported to Blackboard. Some publishers go the platform agnostic route and create generic questions sets that can be formatted using Respondus for input into multiple LMS’s.

Respondus 4.0, the version we license, comes with access to the Respondus Test Bank Network which allows you to search by title and author for texts you’ve adopted for your course for which there are test banks.

To access the Network, go to http://www.respondus.com/products/testbank/search.php

From this site you can request access to the test bank for your text. Once your adoption of the text is verified you will be sent an e-mail containing the codes needed to link the Respondus application to the selected test bank. Watch a demonstration on how to make the link between Respondus and the test bank at: http://www.respondus.com/products/testbank/demos.shtml.

In addition to the Test Bank Network you can use Respondus to create test or quiz questions in Word and import them into Blackboard. If you don’t use Respondus yet and want to use it, contact LIT by e-mail at lit@wit.edu or by phone at (617)989-5428 and we’ll make an appointment to help you get started.

Turnitin Service Maintenance – March 7, 2015

Turnitin services may be unavailable during a scheduled maintenance period on Saturday, March 7, 2015, from 10 AM to 2 PM U.S. Eastern Time (see other time zones: http://go.turnitin.com/e/45292/o29x6yg/3f48x/278351733).

Instructors may want to consider modifying due dates to accommodate the time the system is unavailable.

Find content for your Blackboard course site FAST – Mashups and other tools

Trying to make up snow days? (Five days of missed classes since January 23!) Instead of trying to create recordings for the missed days, consider finding appropriate resources using some of the “mashup” tools in Blackboard, YouTube, Lynda Learning, Atomic Learning, Slideshare, Flickr, and VoiceThread. You may even have content in some of these repositories that you want to reuse or repurpose.

Screenshot of Build content menu with Mashups indicated.

Mashup options in Blackboard content creation tools.

YouTube, for example, has a number good channels that can provide appropriate video content for your courses. Check out the Periodic Table of Videos for an example of engaging chemistry video content. Of course YouTube has a lot of junk as well. One advantage of using the Blackboard mashup is that it embeds the video in the Blackboard interface rather than redirecting students to the YouTube website decreasing the likelihood that students will be distracted by the amusing pet videos or or “related” but possibly inaccurate videos. You, the instructor, can also frame the context for the video content to describe how the content fits into the course and builds on other concepts already learned.

Two mashup tools of particular note are Lynda.com and Atomic Learning. Both companies provide video tutorials on a number of topics. Of particular interest are their tutorials on software products that are loaded on Wentworth laptops. If your disciplines use specialized software why not leverage the resources available by linking to this content in Blackboard and use your time to create content that is unique to your course?

VoiceThread is an interactive presentation tool that allows you to incorporate images, video and audio into a linear presentation that students can comment on directly in the presentation. If you’ve used this tool, you may already have some good content that you can repurpose.

Other sources of video content that you can leverage by linking to the websites. (Create an external link to direct students to these resources):

PBS (http://www.pbs.org)

iTunes U - Use the iTunes app, scroll to the bottom of the opening screen and select iTunesU from the list at the bottom. (To download: http://www.apple.com/itunes/)

Open Courseware - Google “Open Courseware” for a list of institutions that have content available (http://www.oeconsortium.org/ has a search tool allowing you to search across institutions). Open Courseware is more than video content, often courses have no videos, but includes other resources that may be useful in rounding out an online class session.

Ted Talks – There are over 1900 talks that range from very short (less than 6 minutes) to longer videos (over 18 minutes). All are engaging presentations on a variety of topics (including engineering, computers,  alternative energy, architecture, biomechanics, physics, math, and economics).

Additional activities: Once you’ve found some engaging and appropriate content, pair that content with some activities. Have students discuss a video with classmates on a discussion board. Assign a problem set for students to work based on topics covered in the video. Create a quiz to test understanding and provide feedback on what they can do to address areas on misconception. Have students identify muddiest points in each video and create your own video to address those points or discuss those in a face-to-face class.

Reason 21 for using Blackboard – make up snow days!

Today’s snow showers reminded me that I wanted to post about another reason for using Blackboard.

If you need reasons for using Blackboard we presented 20 reasons for using Blackboard during Wentworth Opening Week. Tuesday’s storm added another reason to use Blackboard – snow days!

If you are looking to make up lost class time consider using Blackboard to deliver some content to your students – think lecture content you can find on sites such as YouTube and Ted Talks, interactive slideshows you can create on VoiceThread, or even lecture recordings you can create with Echo360 Personal Capture.

Once you have content provided to your students add an assignment or activity that requires your students to interact with the content such as a discussion forum, problem set, or quiz to encourage students to engage with the content you’ve shifted to Blackboard.

If you want to use Blackboard to make up this week’s snow days and need help, stop by our office in Annex Central 205 and we’ll be glad to help you.

Copy or Import Course Content

Spring courses start this week and if you haven’t started adding content to your Blackboard site you may want to consider copying or importing a past semester’s content. Both options will allow you to batch process content and add it to the current term’s Blackboard site, the difference is in the process and details.

Copying a course is relatively easy and we have documentation for that process. Basically, enter the course that has the content you want to copy, select what you want to copy, click submit and wait for Blackboard to e-mail you that the copy process has completed. The linked instructions recommend clicking select all for what to copy. Using the select all option is OK if you have a completely empty shell. If a template has been applied, you will want to select the individual items and make sure that the Settings section is deselected – specifically the navigation settings. If the navigation settings option is selected, you may have duplicated menu items, causing confusion and creating a clean up task.

Exporting and importing a course is also easy but it’s a two step process. Use this process when you want to maintain a clean master copy of a course – you can export a Blackboard Site and store it on your computer or a network drive for archival purposes – or if you need to copy a course from a colleague to have consistent content across sections. (Your colleague will have to export the course and share the export file with you – or contact LIT for assistance). Again, we have documentation for the export and import process. Overall, both steps are similar to a course copy. When exporting, you select what to export, just like the course copy. When importing, you select what to import, again the same as a course copy.

These are just two options to add content to your Blackboard course site. Other options exist and will be discussed in my next post.

As always, if you need additional assistance contact the LIT team at lit@wit.edu.

Clean up My Courses

Finals and grading are done for another term, but you have a bunch of old courses listed on Blackboard. It’s time for a bit of end of term clean up for your My Courses module. Because we now categorize courses by term you can sort your courses by term (which was the topic of an earlier post) and select which terms and even which specific courses to show in the My Courses module.

If you don’t want to see courses from last fall you can make them disappear (and reappear if you find you need them).

To choose which courses appear on the My Courses module click on the settings icon for the module (it looks like a gear at the upper right corner of the module).

Settings button location for My Courses module.

My Courses module with settings icon indicated.

On the Personalize My Courses page, deselect the courses you don’t want to see listed:

Deselect a course by unchecking all the check boxes next to the course name.

Edit course list with deselected course highlighted.

Once you’ve deselected the courses you want to remove from My Courses, click the submit button to activate the change. If you want to re-enable the courses, reverse this process.

Blackboard access to courses restored.

Blackboard has resolved the earlier problem and Blackboard courses are now available at this time.

Blackboard course access issues

We are currently experiencing problems accessing Blackboard courses. Users are able to login to Blackboard but when they click on a link to any course in the My Courses module, they receive a screen reading “ERR”.

We have contacted Blackboard and they are working on the problem.