University of Southern Indiana

Minimizing Test Resets

When you give an exam in Blackboard (quiz, final, etc...), it is important to properly set up your exam and exam options to minimize the chance that your students will be kicked out of the exam, forcing you to reset it for them. Following these guidelines will minimize your students' chances of being kicked out of an exam due to limitations of the Blackboard system:

  • Avoid creating large exams involving many/complex questions and presented all at once. Blackboard documentation states that 50 questions in an exam is considered a lot of questions. Consider breaking large exams into smaller exams taken in sequence instead.

  • If your exam is going to last more than 25 minutes, choose to display the exam questions "One at a time" instead of "All at once".

    Here's why: When choosing whether to display your exam "All at once" or "One at a time", keep in mind the time frame you are giving the students to complete the exam. If you are giving an exam that is going to take longer than 25 minutes, please choose to display your test questions "One at a time" to the students. There are timeouts in the Blackboard system that may expire after approximately 25 minutes of "perceived" inactivity and kick your student out of the exam. When a student is simply filling out information on a webpage, such as typing in essay answers or clicking buttons to answer multiple choice questions, this is not considered activity by the Blackboard server. The Bb server only knows the connection is active when there is data flowing between the student's computer and the server. When you set a long exam to display "All at once", usually students are going to begin the exam and fill out all of their answers, but will not transmit any data to the Blackboard server until the end of the exam when they click "Submit". If the students surpass the timeouts while filling out their exams, then they will be disconnected from the exam and the work they do will be lost when they go to submit their exam to the server. Students can work around this by clicking "Save" periodically throughout the exam (every 10-15 minutes), as it will transmit data to the server and refresh the timers. However, you can't force a student to do this and you can't be sure they will do this on their own. The best option for exams lasting longer than 30 minutes is to choose to present the exam questions "One at a time". This will force data to be transmitted between the server and the exam each time the student proceeds to the next question.

    Keep in mind that essay questions may still cause a timeout to occur if the student takes longer than 25 minutes to complete it. A timeout may also occur if a student goes away from the exam and does not interact with it for more than 25 minutes

  • Due to the timeout limitations stated above, if you are giving an exam that has essays questions, we suggest either providing the essay questions separately (in the case of a mixed question exam) or allowing your students to be able to leave the exam and come back to it by turning "Force Completion" off in the exam options.

  • When creating the exam, do not use any "Randomize Answers" options if you are also randomizing the question order or using "Random Blocks" to dynamically create your exams. There is a known issue in Blackboard that may cause students to be disconnected from exams if these two randomization options are used together.

  • Regarding randomization, Blackboard also recommends avoiding using randomized display order for exam questions when using the "One at a time" display option.

  • When using random selection of questions from pools (Random Blocks), keep the overall exam especially short.

  • Large exams create lots of server load when submitting the exam, which can lead to failures due to application overload when groups of users submit at the same time, so when taking large in-classroom exams or exams timed such that many students may submit the exam at once, please stagger the submissions.

  • Encourage your students to follow the best practices set forth by USI Blackboard Support to prevent being disconnected from an exam. These practices can be found on the USI Blackboard Support Site under "FAQs for Students".

Please understand that even if you and your students follow all of our guidelines there is still a chance that a student can get disconnected from an exam. When giving an exam over the internet, you are not just relying on the Blackboard server and the student's computer working properly, but all of the wire and equipment that connects the two. There will be circumstances out of our control that may cause a student to be disconnected from an exam. However, following the guidelines above, and having your students follow best practices for test taking in Blackboard, you should find that the number of resets you are doing per exam is minimal.

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