The University Challenge of using BlackBoard Test Tool

“Magna Carta! Disraeli! Debussy!” are usually my exclamations when watching University Challenge as I desperately attempt to get any question correct over anyone else watching with me.

I’d never get anywhere near a team for University Challenge, I’d like to think I’ve retired.  So I was delighted when Jane Coles, Societies Coordinator for the Guild, contacted our team for help with the trails for the University of Liverpool team.

Jane was looking for a way to run the trial through our VLE BlackBoard and to use the Test assessment tool.  The issues Jane had was:

  • To move a paper test into an online format.
  • Avoid manual marking each attempt.
  • Analyse the results of each student.

After meeting to discuss the issues, we went into the Test tool and looked at the different question types.  To get automatic marking to work, the best option was Fill in the blank option.

One of the benefits of Fill in the Blank option is it’s one of the few question types in Blackboard that allows you to set the correct answer to text that is either an exact match or contains that text.

uni challenge1

So for example, if the question was “Name colour is a ripe banana?”- you could either set the correct answer to be an exact match of ‘yellow’ being correct or contains ‘yellow’ so the student would still get the correct answer if they submitted ‘bright yellow’.

The option would also allow automatic marking, which can be viewed as soon as the student submitted their exam in either the Grade Centre or Retention Centre.

Jane went away and built a test consisting of 127 questions, varying from subjects covered on University Challenge.  Jane also manually enrolled the students onto the module and invited them to attend one of three time slots, Monday-Wednesday, where the trials would be taking place.

To avoid students potentially cheating by searching the web, Jane used NetSupport School software and locked down all the computers in the computer lab to only access the student intranet and Blackboard.

The students sat the trials and were encouraged to answer as many questions as they could during a two-hour slot.  They could leave anytime they liked but could not return once they had submitted their answers.

The trials themselves were successful, with the system not crashing or students having issues navigating through Blackboard and the Quiz.  I attended the final day and everything went smoothly.

Afterwards, Jane and I met to push the results through to the Grade Centre as exclamation marks were appearing.  This was due to the first few questions being of Essay type to simply ask availability, contact details and year studies finished.

Using the ‘Grade Questions’ option in the Grade Centre allowed us to quickly mark the Essay type questions for all student attempts on one page and finally push through the students’ score.

The other issues we had was if the answer was set as a plural answer (e.g. eggs) but the student set their answer as singular (egg) – the software identified the answer as wrong.

In the future we would need to set the answer as singular, but thankfully the score could be overwritten to be correct before marks are finalised.  Other issues to be aware of are to avoid capital lettering, set numbers as figures and text, as well as ensure apostrophes are correct or remove them.

uni challenge2

Also any questions that required two answers, if the student put “Atlantic and Pacific” but the correct answer set was “Pacific and Atlantic” it would be marked as incorrect.  So for future use, we would need to put both combinations in as the correct answer, as the Quiz tool allows more than one set of correct answers.

I found it to be a positive learning experience.  I enjoyed working with Jane and the Guild to get this project completed. I also learnt a lot of about the capabilities and restrictions the Blackboard Test tool offers.

In the time of writing this, the team has been selected to represent the University and are going through the first stages of getting onto the TV show.  I wish them the best of luck and hope Jeremy Paxman goes easy on them.

Ben McGrae

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