How do I help students avoid problems when taking online tests?
Online testing has more variables than the traditional classroom setting, and thinking about them before test time is helpful for instructors and students. Based on our testing of Duke’s Sakai system, we offer the following guidelines to ensure students can successfully complete tests and quizzes in Sakai.
Share the golden rule: one window, one browser.
If the quiz is open in multiple tabs, browsers, or computers, answers may be submitted incorrectly and the test timer may be incorrect. Sakai might also temporarily close an exam and display a ‘data discrepancy’ warning—forcing students to reopen the exam in only one window and browser. Revisiting old exams while taking an exam might also trigger these warnings and/or result in lost answers.
Be sure to explain the test setup to the students.
Inform students about the dates of availability and time limits before starting the test. Explain that timed assessments are submitted automatically when the timer expires, so students need to save their work periodically and be aware of the clock.
Set each question to appear on a separate web page (or at least create several parts for the test).
These strategies will force students to save their work frequently. If all the questions open in a single window, students are likely to lose work if they forget to save occasionally or their internet connection fails.
Set the feedback release date to a point after all students will have taken the exam.
If you choose to show feedback to students and don’t create a release date, students can view the correct answers before all students have completed the exam.
Consider using Assignments for writing-intensive exams.
Essay writing is better suited to the Assignments tool and allows for many of the same settings available in Test & Quizzes.
Create a dummy exam for testing.
A no-credit exam with similar settings will allow the students to test their browser and computer before the real exam.
Tell students how to report problems.
Decide who students should contact when there are problems. For example, what are the OIT help desk phone number and hours, will a TA or instructor be available over email or on campus during the testing window?
Have a backup plan ready.
Online testing can introduce several complications: the power could go out, the student may lose wireless/internet connectivity, or a student’s laptop may crash. In most instances, students can usually log back in and complete testing – but having a backup plan for students who experience too many technical issues is always recommended. Consider offering an alternate test on paper for students.