Understanding Test Settings

Being the end of the semester, it’s major testing season. Folk who may or may not use Blackboard all the time, often use Blackboard for testing to free up classroom time.

I had the conversation this morning with someone who was frustrated by the problems they were having with Blackboard testing — something always goes wrong and I will never do this again.

I did have to counter that I teach online and my course contains 16 tests (10 of which can be taken up to 3 times, so that’s really 36 tests) and I never see technical problems with tests. (Well, except when I fat finger the answers, but that’s a different problem!)

The difference is in the test settings, and these settings in particular.

Test Settings

When you do both “Force Completion” and “Set Timer” you are setting your students up for technical problems.

The most problems come from Force Completion. When you select this setting, the student must complete the entire quiz without interruption. The teeniest interruption (whether the student’s fault or ours or the power company) means that the test is submitted — whether the student was finished or not.

Many folk (not me, but I know how to stop it), have Microsoft Updates turned on to update automatically. It’s the default setting and your thought is that it keeps you up to date. Well, it also cheerfully will reboot your computer — without your control — when it’s ready to install those updates. If it happens in the middle of a test, well, oh, darn! But that’s a simple example of what can go ‘wrong’ when working on a computer. Power issues, network connectivity… the list of things can can ‘blip’ and cause the disconnect are endless.

When you add the Forced Completion to the Timer, when (not if) things go wrong, you have a major problem on your hand. If you set only the Timer, when there are problems, the student can re-start their computer, move to another computer (especially if they are working on campus), try another browser, even call the help desk (who really can’t help much but can walk the student through clearing cache, which sometimes does help), all within the time you’ve set.

The next time you’re setting up a test, think long and hard about whether you need that Forced Completion setting turned on. Try your test without it; I suspect you’ll have fewer problems with your online tests.

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