Best Practices for Online Tests
Should circumstances arise that require you to teach online, you may also find yourself needing to administer tests online. In the guidance that follows, the term tests includes quizzes, exams, and other assessments that can normally be delivered in the form of a document that students receive, complete, and return to the professor. Best practices for online projects (roughly conceived as activities culminating in a document that students submit or a performance that students enact) are available elsewhere.
Tools for Online Testing
The Tests & Quizzes tool within Courses is the preferred tool for online testing. It has been designed specifically for this purpose, complies with FERPA, provides for accessibility, and offers a range of pedagogical options. If you need any assistance setting up assessments in the Tests & Quizzes tool, Pepperdine's Technology and Learning team or your division's Technology Liaison can provide individual support.
Google Forms can also be used as a quiz platform, although Courses usually provides more robust options and analytics. Moreover, there is currently no direct way to import grades from a Google Form quiz into the Courses Gradebook. If you do choose to use Google Forms as a quizzing platform, activate the settings that limit responses to the Pepperdine domain and that automatically collect Pepperdine email addresses from respondents.
Some textbook publishers may provide their own online homework and quizzing platforms. The CTE, TechLearn, and your Technology Liaison cannot provide technical support for your use of these tools, nor certify their compliance with FERPA regulations and Pepperdine's privacy standards. Therefore, it is recommended that you use such tools only for low-stakes formative assessments and practice, not for summative assessments.
Preparing Students for Online Testing
Before you administer the first graded online test in any particular course, give students a no-stakes practice test so they can become accustomed to the testing platform. On this practice test, include samples of all the different types of questions (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, matrix of choices, etc.) that you think you may wish to use later in the course.
For each online test you plan to administer, use the software's preview function so that you can see the test as students will see it. If your test includes embedded images, videos, PDFs, or other types of media, you might also consider enrolling a colleague (or yourself using a secondary email address) into your course as a student and asking them to complete each test with embedded media before you release it to students. Although a bit cumbersome, this method will reveal any problems with students' access to the embedded media resources (something that the preview function, at least in Courses and Google Forms, will not detect).
To help your students avoid technological issues during an online test, offer the following advice. (In the bullet points below, "you" refers to the student reading the advice.)
- Use a wired internet connection if you can.
- If you must use WiFi, use a private WiFi network if you can.
- If you must use WiFi, try to reduce the number of devices accessing the same WiFi network simultaneously. For example, put your phone in airplane mode while taking a test or quiz on your laptop computer.
- Never have Courses open simultaneously in more than one window or tab in your web browser. Failure to follow this guidance is the most common cause of data loss while taking an online assessment in Courses.
- When navigating an online exam, don't use the browser back button. Instead, use the "Next" and "Back" buttons within the assessment interface.
- Wait for each page to load completely. If you begin selecting answers before the page fully loads, you may lose work.
- Write short answer or essay questions in a word processor or text editor, then paste your answer into Courses. This way, a backup copy of the work will be available if anything goes wrong.
- Save your test answers frequently.
- Don't forget to submit your exam when finished! In Courses, you must click "Submit for Grading" on two separate pages in order to complete the submission process. Read all of the text on the screen carefully so that you know which step you're on. You haven't turned in your test until you've clicked "Submit for Grading" on the second, confirmation screen and received a confirmation that you've submitted your assessment.
For more on tips and best practices for students, this documentation may be helpful.