Online tests

Please contact the Digital Education Office for consultation before arranging any new Blackboard Test assessment or exam. We can offer either tailored training and guidance on the best settings and approaches for your specific assessment needs, or general courses on Blackboard Tests question writing and development, available through Develop.

Workflows and Overviews

About Online Tests

This page provides an introductory overview of online tests including advantages, considerations, responsibilities, recommended technology.

Online tests can be used for diagnostic, formative or summative purposes, providing a wide variety of question types, including multiple-choice, gap-fill, interactive and short-answer questions. Students may access an online test remotely using their own devices or in a PC lab, although access to these can be limited. Students need to be connected to the internet to open, take and submit a test. As with all forms of assessment, accessibility, suitability, and adequate resourcing should be considered carefully before implementing an online test. 

Before arranging any new summative Blackboard Test assessments, please contact us for consultation. We can offer tailored training and guidance on the best settings and approaches for your specific assessment needs, helping to avoid common issues that may impact your students’ experience.


  • Automatic marking for some question types.
  • Options for immediate feedback.
  • Access for students in different locations.
  • Reporting: helping you to reflect on the process, refine the exercise, or identify areas in which more instruction is needed.
  • Efficiency: Saving time can be a driver for implementing online tests, but significant resource is required in planning, preparing and running online tests.

Key considerations

  • Accessibility: whilst online tests can improve accessibility for some students, they can also provide obstacles to others. Careful consideration should be given to the forms of questions used and the access to technology amongst a diverse student cohort. An offline version should always be available if a student requires this owing to a disability or neurodiversity.
  • Pedagogic Rationale: As with all forms of assessment, one should carefully consider the pedagogic rationale for using an online rather than in-person form of assessment or evaluation.
  • Initial setup and ongoing investment: Whilst online tests can improve efficiency in the longer term, there is a need for a significant initial investment of time to establish the necessary materials, settings, staffing and processes. Arrangements must be made to ensure that the assessment is secure, reliable, accessible and valid. A consultation with the DEO is strongly recommended prior to establishing a new online test.

Digital Education Office Support and School Responsibilities

Typically, there are three phases to organising an online test: 

  1. Consultation and planning 
  2. Preparation and implementation, including developing content 
  3. Running and ongoing administration, including managing results and evaluation  

The Digital Education Office can provide advice in the consultation and preparation phases. Running the test and ongoing administration will be the responsibility of the School, contacting the DEO for further advice if required.

Below is a list of typical tasks required when planning, implementing and running online tests, support the DEO can offer and School responsibilities.  

DEO Support

Typically, the DEO will:

  1. Advise on effective practice.
  2. Advise on effective question design.
  3. Advise on software settings and configuration, including for accessibility and security.
  4. Highlight any relevant University regulations.
  5. Prepare and deliver training for administrative and academic staff within the School. 
  6. Provide generic support materials that the School can adapt if required. 
  7. Respond to ongoing queries from staff via the DEO helpdesk.
  8. Advise on post-test evaluation and offer consultation on possible improvements. 

School Responsibilities

These may vary depending on the nature of the test, but School responsibilities will typically include:

  1. Identify the pedagogic rationale for an online test.
  2. Identify the academic and administrative lead(s) for the test.
  3. Consider broader staffing needs, such as marking allocation and invigilation. 
  4. Identify who may need training, including those who will devise, plan and implement tests and those who will administer them.
  5. Communicate with staff and students regarding the test.
  6. Create questions and input these and any other supporting materials.
  7. Check questions and assessments, ensuring they meet accessibility, pedagogic, and disciplinary standards.
  8. Identify and make arrangements for students with special requirements, such as Alternative Exam Arrangements (AEAs) or specific access needs. Liaise with Education Services regarding timetabling and Disability Services regarding AEAs.
  9. Prepare a contingency plan (including an offline, paper version of the assessment if required).
  10. Run the test, including assisting students, managing invigilation, and implementing contingency plans if needed.
  11. Provide first-line support to students in the event of any difficulties during the test.
  12. Manage logistics, such as booking computer labs (if on campus) or ensuring students have adequate personal or remote technologies to complete the assessment fairly, liaising with IT Services where necessary. 
  13. Ensure access to computer labs (if on campus) if required, and arrange invigilation, liaising with the Exams Office.
  14. Manually mark any questions not auto-marked, export results and generate reports as required.
  15. Liaise with external examiners, including providing access to the system if needed and where possible. 
  16. Collect any staff or student feedback as appropriate.

Blackboard Tests

The Digital Education Office recommends the use of Blackboard Tests for summative online testing, exams and, in some instances, formative tests. For more introductory information see Introduction to Blackboard Tests (YouTube, 2mins). If you are already using Blackboard Tests in your School, please refer to our recommended workflow.

Blackboard Tests advantages

  • Support and guidance available from the Digital Education Office.
  • Students are automatically enrolled on the relevant Blackboard course.
  • Students and staff are likely to be familiar with Blackboard.
  • A wide range of question types are available.
  • Questions can be developed for a specific test or organised into pools to be re-used in several tests.
  • Test configuration is flexible, providing a range of options, including making the test available to a whole group or a limited number of students, giving extra time to specific users, and making feedback available immediately or at a later date.
  • The Grade Centre allows you to monitor test completion and student performance.
  • If configured, students can access their scores and feedback from My Grades.
  • Feedback and marking can be automated, depending on the type of question used.
  • Integration with eVision.

There are a range of other options available for formative online testing, each with benefits and use-cases.

If you would like to discuss whether Blackboard tests might be appropriate in your context or discuss other formative options please contact us.