Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence (CAFE)

Ideas From Other Faculty

Ideas From Other Faculty

Sample instructions to students for taking Blackboard exams

The sample instructions below are from various faculty members. They display a range of academic integrity choices as well as helpful information for students. Read several of them, regardless of discipline.

You can also ask colleagues in your department and college who teach online and hybrid courses. They will very likely be glad to help!

Landscape Architecture

44 questions, multiple choice (a few are extra credit), multiple answer, and short-form questions. Covers the first half of the semester. 10 Points Total. OPEN BOOK/INTERNET - but do not talk to your classmates.

You have one hour, so please manage your time wisely. The four short-form questions are first (each worth 3/5th of a point), then forty multiple choice/multiple answer questions (each worth (1/5th of a point).

While you can refer to your notes or search the Internet for answers, that takes a while. So you might not finish if you need to keep looking up all the answers.

First answer the multiple choice questions that you know, then go back to the short answer questions (give yourself 5 minutes max per answer), after that go back and look up what you don't know.

Hospitality Management

This Exam covers Chapter XX.

  1. You are about to enter the exam portal. Before doing so, please take time to organize all of the materials that you plan to use, such as text, Power Point slides, notes, etc. Have everything ready before going further. Consider setting a countdown timer for about 15 minutes to give you a time check warning.
  2. Refresh your browser before proceeding. Blackboard automatically logs you out after a certain amount of time. Refreshing your browser will help eliminate the possibility of Blackboard logging you out and therefore closing the exam too soon.
  3. Okay. All set? Try to relax and do well. When ready, go to the next step.


  • Number of Questions: There are 25 questions in this exam.
  • Timed Test: This exam has a time limit of 20 minutes.
  • Answer Format: All questions are multiple choice.
  • Test Type: This exam is open book, open slide, open note.
  • Timer Setting: This exam will save and submit automatically when the time expires (20 minutes).
  • Force Completion: Once started, this exam must be completed in one sitting. (Note – eLearning recommends against using this setting, as it causes problems for students who have any technical issues.)
  • Submitting the exam: Do not leave the exam before clicking Save and Submit.
  • Note: Each exam is a different version for each student – questions are different and answer choices are different for each student.

English & Modern Languages: Essay Exam
Blackboard Online Timed Essay Preparation and Advice

About the Essay: Our online timed essay consists of one essay question (randomly selected by Blackboard from a bank of four questions). The question will ask you to read a short article and consider it in conjunction with one of the readings from Chapter 68 in The Norton Field Guide. About 50% of your answer will be directed to these two readings and about 50% of your answer will explain your opinion. Your essay should offer a robust answer in a short-essay form (likely more than a paragraph or two). You have three hours to complete the exam (students registered with the DRC will have additional time as warranted in their letters).

Preparing for the Exam: First, read through the Blackboard Test tutorial for students (linked in the “Essay #3: In-Class Essay” section of Blackboard). Then gather your materials including The Norton Field Guide and any notes and re-read them. The essay question is designed to require only the use of our class materials and your general knowledge, observations of the world around you, and your personal experiences: there is no need or expectation for you to conduct outside research either before or during the exam.

Once you are ready to write the essay, find a quiet place with reliable internet access so neither you nor your Blackboard connection will be disturbed: a wired internet connection is preferable. Make yourself comfortable and have a snack and drink on hand. Plan to devote the entire three hours to the exam. Make sure your computer is plugged in or fully charged. (Note: it is my understanding that the campus will be open if you prefer to use a computer on-campus.)

Exam Availability and Due Date: The final exam will be available at 12:01 AM on Tuesday 17, March 2020. You may take the exam at any point between Tuesday and Thursday, 19 March 2020 at 11:59 PM. This gives you a 72-hour window. Please note the essay must be completed by the due date and time.

Exam Location: You can find the essay portal on Blackboard. Once you navigate to our class, click on the “Essay #3: In-Class Essay” button. Then scroll down the page until you see the exam titled “Timed Essay Spring 2020.” Click on the title when you are ready to take the exam.

Taking the Exam: Once you click on the title, take time to read through the instructions, then click the “Begin” button. You will have three hours to complete the exam, so plan accordingly. Note: the three-hour timer will not stop if you log out of Blackboard. Also note that the exam will “auto-submit” whatever is in the text box at the end of the two-hour limit.

Once you click the begin button, Blackboard will open a new window that will contain your specific exam question and a text box. A screenshot is shown below. You will also see a timer that indicates the amount of time remaining for the test. Read through the question, and then locate the class materials you will need to answer it.

Tips for a Trouble-Free Exam: The exam has a text box for you to type your essay, but I recommend that you use Microsoft Word or some other program to write your essay. This will provide you with a back-up copy should technical difficulties arise. As you type your essay, every 10 minutes or so, copy the essay (CTRL+C or Command+C) and paste it into the text box (CTRL+V or Command+V). Then click the “Save Answer” button.

This action serves two purposes. First, it keeps you logged into Blackboard. (Blackboard is not designed to easily accommodate a single test question with a two-hour window and simply typing in the text box does not register as “activity” on Blackboard, so many users find themselves logged out without knowing. Clicking the “Save Answer” button registers as activity and keeps you logged in.)

Second, regularly pasting in your work-in-progress will ensure that your essay, or most of it, will be submitted if you reach the end of the time limit: the test has an “Auto-Submit” feature that collects whatever is in the text box at the end of the two hours.

Submitting the Exam: As noted above, you should click the “Save Answer” button on a regular basis while writing the exam. Only when your answer is complete should you click the “Save and Submit” button. Once you click “Save and Submit,” you are locked out of your essay and cannot make any further changes.

Oops! I Screwed Up: Technical and user errors occur. If you run into a problem, email your instructor immediately. Typical screw-ups include losing internet connection and Blackboard crashing or booting you out due to an update or the time-out feature. However, by far, the most common error is students using the “Save and Submit” button before they are finished with the essay. This is why it is prudent to type your essay outside of the text box and copy and paste it into the box.

Fixing the Screw-Up: The final exam allows for two attempts, but this option should be reserved for students who accidentally submit work prematurely. Keep in mind, if you use the second attempt, you are very likely to be assigned a different essay question. Also, Blackboard erases the first attempt, so I can only grade the second attempt. So, if something goes wrong near the end of your test, email me immediately. Send me a copy of your final exam in the email. I will check the timing of your email and the timing of the essay submission on Blackboard. If those times are not within a few minutes, I will not accept your emailed essay.

Advice about Academic Integrity

First, in moving from face-to-face to online exams and quizzes, the opportunity for cheating does increase. Build that realization into syllabi and exam instructions. Second, the most effective tools that I have found in countering cheating are these:

  • Have a large exam bank in Blackboard. For chapter quizzes of perhaps 20-25 questions, I recommend no fewer than 200 questions or similar questions stated in different manners.
  • Check the boxes that re-sort the answer choices for each repeat, and the sorting of questions.
  • Do not pre-letter or number the answer choices (so students cannot tell each other A. or B., etc.)
  • Allow exams to be open-book, open-note. They are going to be anyway, so go ahead and plan for that as you write exams and quizzes.
  • Time the quizzes and exams. It keeps the student focused on finding answers and not consulting others. Say, 25 questions, 20 minutes for a chapter quiz.
  • Set “auto submit” at your time limit. And, without telling students, pad the auto submit time by 5-10 minutes. This will save you from students emailing in a panic that they needed 10 more seconds.
  • Allow just one attempt. Once a student opens a quiz it needs to be completed. Otherwise, students have the opportunity to canvass others’ opinions. (Note – eLearning recommends against “force completion” as it creates enormous problems for students with any kind of technical issue.)
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, our diversity of student backgrounds suggests having colleagues reading your questions and answer selections for face validity. Slang terms, technical terms, regional terms, abbreviations, and other conventions confuse students tremendously, which causes high anxiety when the purpose of the quiz is just one way to determine concept progress and understanding throughout the course. Write to express and not to impress. Simplify text.