Test Integrity Online

One of the questions all instructors have when going online is, "How can I make sure my students don't cheat on my tests?"  Instead of focusing on "cheating" since that is a behavior we cannot directly control, Instructional Design and Access focuses instead on the concept of "test integrity."  Test integrity is something that instructors can control directly. You can improve test intetrity in our Blackboard environment in the following ways:

  • Work Toward "Authentic Assessment": The concept of Authentic Assessment comes from the late 1980s and early 1990s and is particularly associated with the work of Grant Wiggins. The goal of authentic assessment is to create an assessment of learning that requires students to apply concepts to real-world examples. This short discussion from Indiana University, Bloomington's Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning goes into more detail. Authentic assessments are more difficult for students to cheat on because their assessment experience is more personal to their own learning.
  • Differentiate Between Formative and Summative Assessment Opportunities: There is a difference between tests/quizzes that provide data about how a student is developing in your class ("formative" assessments) tests/quizzes that provide data about what information a student has mastered in your course ("summative" assessments). Formative assessments are often most effective when they can be redone until the student has reached mastery for a particular concept. If you create a series of "low stakes" quizzes that students can retake until they master the knowledge or skills covered by the quiz, you do not need to use proctoring for these quizzes. You may still consider proctoring for summative assessment events such as midterms and final exams.
  • Use your Blackboard Test Settings to Discourage Cheating: Blackboard has many test settings that can make it much more difficult for students to cheat, but not all settings are intuitive. For more on Blackboard test creation, review this video and the following:
    • Never use "Force Completion" in Blackboard: This setting is linked to serious and repeated technical problems with testing and repeated complaint emails from students. Usually, a professor who thinks they want "Force Completion" actually wants to use "Auto-Submit" and a timer, as discussed below.
    • Setting a Timer for Your Test: You can set a timer of any length for your tests. A timer will show a countdown for your students as they take the test.  With this option you have the ability to force a test to auto-submit at the end of the timed period, or to allow the student to continue the test but have the test flagged for lateness in your grading panel. The Blackboard timer is a "real world" timer and will continue its countdown even if students leave the test: 30 minutes is 30 minutes from the start of the test launch, for example, regardless whether the student leaves the test or stays in.
    • Setting Timer Exceptions for Accommodations: If you set a timer, you may need to set up exceptions for students receiving accommodations
    • Using Auto-Submit with Timer: Auto-submit does exactly what it sounds like, it submits a test at the end of a timed period. Because the Blackboard timer counts down from the moment the test launches, even if a student opens the test and goes away or logs out for a period of time, auto-submit will submit their test at the end of the allowed time.  Auto-submit is a better option than "Force Completion," which causes frequent technical difficulties and should not be used.
    • Require a Password for Your Test:  If you would like to password protect your Blackboard test, you should do that in the Blackboard test settings. NOTE: This step is required if you plan on using the services of ProctorU, but it should not be used if you are using Respondus. It may be required if you are using the services of a Zoom proctor.
    • Randomizing Answers: When you write your test questions, you have the option to randomize your answers. Unfortunately, this can only be done at the "question level" and not globally for a whole test.  But randomizing answers is a great way to ensure that no one student's test looks like another's.
    • Randomizing Questions: When you deploy your test, you are given the option to randomize your test questions. This is an especially powerful tool in combination with randomizing answers, and combined with a test timer, showing one question at at time, and prohibiting backtracking, it goes a very long way toward a high degree of test integrity.
    • Using a Test Pool: If you have time (or a large test bank) a very good option to combine with quesiton randomization is a test pool. A test pool is a large group of questions that you can draw from to create each individual test. Blackboard can be told how many questions, and what type should be taken from your question pool for your tests.  This video will show you how to create a test pool in Blackboard.
    • Limiting the "Open" Window for a Test: When you set up your test, you are able to designate how long your students can see the link to the test. You can make this window as short or long as you want. In fact, some professors make the window very short to force all students to launch the exam at nearly the same time. Give time to consider how long your test window should be open.  Typical classes leave test windows open about a week.
    • Show Questions One at a Time: If you show questions one at a time you can interrupt a group of students' ability to share questions/answers while they take the test.
    • Prohibit Backtracking: Combining "prohibit backtracking" with "show one question at a time" significantly increases test integrity.
    • Control What and When is Reported Back to Students: When a student submits a test that is made up entirely of objective questions, the computer will score it automatically, but you do not have to release that score immediately. By changing release settings you can fully control what students see, and when they see it, after they complete their test.
    • The most restrictive possible test in Blackboard would have these characteristics and settings:
      • It would draw from a large test pool.
      • It would randomize answers and order.
      • It would show one question at a time and prohibit backtracking.
      • It would be a timed test with auto-submit on.
      • It would have a very short access window.
      • It would show results only on a specific date or after all attempts had been graded and would only show the score per question and not the answers or submitted responses.