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Best Practices for Blackboard Assessment Taking - Students
Before Your Test
- Familiarize yourself with your Instructor’s test policy and the procedures you should take to prevent a technical error. You can start by reading the rest of this document!
- Instructors will not always accept technical issues as an excuse, especially if you have waited until the last minute to take the test, so be sure to know the policy of the Instructor whose assessment you are taking. Each Blackboard test may be set up differently by the Instructor:
- Some tests may be taken more than once, while others can only be taken once.
- Some tests may require that they be completed in one sitting (force completion), while some tests may allow you to complete one section and then return to finish additional sections. Most assessments will not allow you to pause and come back later, so always plan to finish your assessment in a single sitting!
- Some tests may be timed. While Blackboard will not stop the test after the allotted time has elapsed, it will record the time spent on the test; your Instructor may penalize you if more time was taken than allotted for the test.
- Some tests are all-at-once assessments, allowing you access to the entire test and moving freely between them (backtracking), while others show only one question at a time, and will not allow you to return to a previous question.
- Most assessments will only be available for a limited time; be aware of the dates and due dates for all of the assessments in the course and make sure you know well in advance how difficult it will be for you to finish them by the deadline. An ounce of preparation prevents a pound of panic!
- Set aside enough time to complete the test and to contact your Instructor if anything goes wrong. Don’t wait until the last minute, but don’t take an assessment until you are ready. Once you have entered the assessment it is considered an attempt, and most assessments only allow a single attempt; this is true even if you do not answer any of the questions.
- If there is a time limit on the assessment, the browser will notify you of your time limit left. You may wish to keep a stopwatch or other digital timing device with you in order to time yourself on individual questions and on the assessment as a whole.
- Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably and be free from distractions or interruptions.
- When you begin a test, click the OK button only once and wait for the page to load completely. Do not double-click! This can invalidate your test attempt!
Preparing your Internet Connection
- Whenever possible, use a Wired connection, rather than a Wireless or Cellular (3G/4G) connection, when taking assessments.
- Keep in mind that off-Campus connections are generally less reliable than connections through the Campus network, and you should never use a public Wireless connection as they can be very unreliable.
- Be sure to test your connection to Blackboard 10-15 minutes before the assessment begins so that you have time to address any potential issues. If you are not sure of the reliability of your computer or internet connection, use a Campus Lab or Library computer.
- If you must use a “dial-up modem” to connect to the Internet, turn off “call waiting” and if you use the same line for voice calls, make sure no one picks of the phone and disconnects you from the Internet.
- If your connection to the internet is shared by several users, such as in a home environment, try to take the assessment at a time that the other users are not using the internet connection for video-on-demand, live-streaming, torrenting, online gaming, or other high-bandwidth activities, as this may cause your assessment to load slowly or be interrupted.
Preparing your Computer
- Be sure the browser and operating system you will be using are supported by Blackboard. For the most up-to-date list, see Supported Browsers and Operating Systems.
- If possible, avoid using Internet Explorer 9 for the time being, as it may experience long load times during timed assessments.
- Typically Java is not necessary for much of Blackboard functionality. If your Instructor or Course requires it, make sure Java is updated and enabled on your computer; you can verify this at Java Tester.
- Turn off screensaver, sleep mode, and standby mode to prevent them from interrupting your internet session.
- Log out of and close all programs and applications running on the computer that are not needed for the assessment (such as a plain-text editor or graphing calculator), including the browser you plan to use.
- Consider rebooting your computer before beginning the test; this can free memory resources from applications that might have been running in the background.
Preparing your Browser
- Set your browser to “Always Allow Pop-ups” from Blackboard and be sure to disable pop-up blockers in your browser.
- Enable your browser’s status bar to make sure you can see the timer for a timed assessment.
- Before logging into Blackboard, clear your browser cache and cookies. (see Troubleshooting Browser Issues)
- Open only one Web browser window to use for Blackboard; make sure this Blackboard window is the size you want before you begin the test, as resizing it during the test may cause loss of work or invalidate your test attempt.
During Your Test
- Do… Use the “Save Answer” button at least once every 15 minutes on long tests, both in case of accidents and to make sure your session does not time out.
- Do… Use the “Save Answer” button during essay answers; while Blackboard will automatically attempt to save your answers to multiple-choice questions, it will not automatically save the answers you type in.
- Do… Click the “Begin,” “Continue,” “Save Answer,” “Next Question,” or “Submit” button once and wait for the server to finish processing your request; it may take a few moments for you to receive confirmation or move to the next question, but be patient- clicking more than once actually slows down the system and causes errors! Always wait for browser to be Done recording your answer before clicking the “Save,” “Next Question,” or “Submit” buttons.
- Do… Print out any materials you are allowed to use during the exam before taking it. Relying on digital or online materials on the same computer you are taking the assessment on could result in accidentally losing your assessment through confusion or distraction.
- Do… Read the Test Instructions your Instructor has provided at the top of the test. These will include important information such as the time limit, window, and length of the assessment and whether backtracking (returning to previous questions) has been enabled. Take your time in answering questions, even if you have exceeded the time limit on the assessment.
- Do… Use the in-Blackboard buttons to navigate to the Previous or Next questions; the former will only be available if backtracking has been enabled.
- Do… Be aware that Blackboard does not save your essay answers as you type them. If your Instructor allows, type your answers to essay questions first in a plain-text editor, such as Notepad or Vim, and then transfer it to the test window to avoid losing your work if you lose your Internet connection.
- Don’t… Wait longer than 15 minutes without saving or proceeding through your assessment as your session may time-out, resulting in the loss of all your work since the last save point and possibly invalidating your attempt. Typing or selecting answers to questions will not prevent your session from timing-out; the timer on your session is only reset when you click the “Save Answer” or “Next Question” buttons.
- Don’t… Use the mouse-scroll wheel or the Tab key to navigate, as this may cause answers to inadvertently be changed in multiple-choice questions.
- Don’t… Double-click the “Begin,” “Continue,” “Save Answer,” “Next Question,” or “Submit” button. That could register as two separate events and may cause questions to be skipped, or even invalidate your test attempt! All actions in Blackboard are single-click only; you should never need to double-click.
- Don’t… Change the size of your browser window, open a new browser window, open another program, use Alt+Tab, or attempt to navigate to another area of the Blackboard site during the assessment. This may cause Blackboard to invalidate your test attempt or lose the answers you have provided. You should never use the Maximize, Minimize, or any other buttons in your browser during an assessment.
- Don’t… Use any browser-based navigation buttons, such as (Browser History) Back and Next, during your assessment; these may invalidate your test attempt.
- Don’t… Use the Enter key outside of a Text Editor box; this may erroneously cause your test to be submitted or invalidated.
- Don’t… Cut-and-paste from higher-level word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word, as they may accidentally transfer hidden formatting to your answer that could prevent Blackboard from saving properly.
After Your Test
- You must click the “Submit” button, not just the “Save” button, at the end of the test for it to be completed; you will know if you have not clicked the “Submit” button if there is a pencil-and-paper icon , indicating your Attempt is still In Progress, in the grade box.
- After you Submit your test, the feedback you will see next depends on the settings your Instructor has selected; options range from only a confirmation that the test was submitted with no additional information to marking and feedback for each answer with a final grade. Some instructors may require you to print or email a screen shot of this report as verification that you completed the assessment. If you see a clock icon it means your assessment is currently being graded.
- If there are any questions which require individual grading by the Instructor, such as essays, you will see a green exclamation mark instead of a grade; you will also see a green exclamation mark after submitting if you have exceeded the specified time limit.
- If you have clicked the “Submit” button and don’t reach a confirmation page for any reason, logout of Blackboard, close and re-open your browser (do not open a separate window!), and navigate back to the test page. If you are not informed that your test was completed and submitted, or if you are otherwise not certain that your test submission was acknowledged after you clicked the “Submit” button, contact your Instructor immediately.
- Once you are satisfied that your test was submitted and received, relax … your test is now complete!
In the Event of Errors or Emergencies:
- If anything goes wrong during your assessment, notify your Instructor immediately and/or follow the procedures your Instructor has given in event of a technical error.
- Try to get back into the assessment:
- You should close and re-open your browser and log back into Blackboard to try to resume the test.
- If your Instructor has not required assessments to be completed in the first sitting, and the time allotted for the assessment has not expired, you may be allowed to continue.
- Otherwise, contact your Instructor immediately and explain in detail what has occurred; how your situation is handled is at the Instructor’s discretion.
- If at any point during the assessment you receive the error messages “Test already completed” or “You recently left the test [test name] without submitting it. It was automatically submitted for you.” it means you have been locked out of the assessment. Contact your Instructor immediately and relate the situation; this may happen in the event of an interruption to your Internet connection or a time-out of your assessment session.
- Only Instructors or Teaching Assistants can reset tests; if you get locked out of your test or have missed the test deadline, contact your Instructor. It is the Instructor’s decision whether or not to let you attempt the test again; the Help Desk will not reset a test for you.