In addition to the written guidance below, there is an online exam advice video which can be shared with students. Please note that this video has been updated for 2021/22 and you should replace any existing video links with the updated one.

The Digital Learning Team are also running sessions on setting up online exams in Blackboard as part of the Autumn/Winter Digital Learning Seminar Series.

Key information for 2021/22 exams

  • The default approach remains that exams will be set online using Blackboard unless there are Professional Standards Regulation Board (PSRB) requirements which require adjustment to this.
  • The availability of exam papers will change from having a blanket 24-hour period to an approach based on the validated duration of the exam.
  • All exams will have extra time added as default for students as an inclusive and proactive measure. Many reasonable adjustments can be met through online exams and additional time.
  • For students that require additional reasonable adjustments (e.g. rest breaks, morning or afternoon start time) will have a seven-hour exam duration, or in exceptional circumstances an alternative form of assessment will need to be put in place.
  • All exams will be scheduled in the morning with a standard start time of 09:30 am (UK time). This is to accommodate the seven-hour learning contract adjustment and to accommodate students who are studying overseas in different time zones.
  • A late submission of an exam should be marked as fail.

General principles

Some considerations when using scheduled exam papers as online exams:

  • Review your questions. Questions may need to be reviewed to move away from recall-based tasks to questions that require students to use information rather than reiterate what they have learned. It will be important, therefore, to provide guidance for students in the change in orientation of the task.
  • Set word limits for each question. Establish a reasonable word count range (e.g. “500-750 words”) to be applied. A maximum word limit for the entire exam can be derived from the university assessment tariff.
  • Set time limits for each question or section. Provide an approximate amount of time you recommend a student typically aims to spend on a question/section (as an addition or alternative to word limit). This should add up to the total amount of time you have already communicated to your students and be no longer than the original exam length.
  • Maintaining academic integrity. The online nature of the exam means that students will have access to a wide range of information sources and academic support services while sitting the paper. Students can be advised of any particular sources or services that they might find useful, but that they must also treat this as a formal exam. Please be mindful of any access issues by recommending a wide range of resources as students will be required to complete the exam within the expected duration. You may also ask students to upload their completed answer paper to Turnitin for text matching.
  • Encouraging students to prepare. This might be a student’s first experience of an online exam. The conditions may give a false confidence, students may spend less time preparing in advance and so spend more time looking for information during the exam. Students should be advised that there may be high demand for resources during the two week exam period and that it is critical that course and module teams stress the importance of the need for students to revise as they would for an invigilated exam.

Signposting students

  • The exam must be created in the Assessment area of your Blackboard module site.
  • Make sure it is the first item in the Assessment area and appropriately titled so that students know that it is the exam for the module.
  • Create an announcement with a link to the exam that is released to students at the same time as the exam to help students quickly locate the exam.
  • Ensure that any other items in your site that a student might confuse with the exam are hidden before the exam becomes available.
  • Exam cover sheet templates are available from the Examinations team

Selecting the tool for submission

Exams must normally be created and submitted using Blackboard Assignment submission points. It is recommended that the exam paper is provided in an editable format (normally Word) and attached to the Assignment submission point for students to download, complete offline and submit back to the submission point. Optionally, you might provide an additional copy of the exam paper in PDF format for consistent layout where questions contain, for example, mathematical equations or chemical formulae so students are not disadvantaged by using different versions of software. Read detailed guidance about setting up and using Blackboard Assignments for an Online Exam.

If your exam consists of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) or other close-ended questions, it is recommended to make your exam available as a Blackboard Test. The main benefit is that the exam will be automatically marked, however it will require some upfront support and investment of effort in terms of creating the questions in Blackboard, but these questions can easily be reused in subsequent assessments. Read detailed guidance about setting up and using Blackboard Tests for an Online Exam.

Unlike previous years, no grade columns have been automatically set up in the Grade Centre for recording exam marks.

Exam duration and availability

The duration of the exam will be based on the validated duration of the exam. The original duration will have an additional 15 minutes added to cover reading time, and a further 15 minutes per hour added to allow for any IT issues and reasonable adjustments so that:

Original Exam Duration 2021/22 Exam Duration (Working Time) 2021/22 Exam Duration (including 15 minutes Reading Time)
3 hours 3 hours 45 minutes 4 hours
2 hours 2 hours 30 minutes 2 hours 45 minutes
1 hour 1 hour 15 minutes 1 hour 30 minutes

 

This approach will retain the inclusivity from having a standard duration for all students taking the exam. Most learning contract adjustments for students allow for an additional 15 minutes per hour. For the very small minority of students who require more complex adjustments, a single learning contract adjustment will be applied which will give a seven-hour period to complete their exam online.

All exams will be scheduled in the morning with a standard start time of 09:30 (UK time). This is to accommodate the seven-hour learning contract adjustment and to accommodate students who are studying overseas in different time zones. All exams will conclude no later than 16:30 (UK time).

A late submission of an exam should be marked as fail.

The Exams Team will schedule all exams and module leaders will prepare the exam papers and set them up on Blackboard according to the exam schedule:

  • Use the item availability date and time options available in Blackboard to control the release and availability of the exam.
  • Make sure that the item availability is set to ‘yes’ otherwise it may cause student anxiety if there is a delay due to manually releasing the exam.
  • Set the item due date and time so students know when they must submit their answers.
  • Ensure the exam is set up to accept unlimited attempts. This is not intended to allow students to repeatedly make revisions and resubmit work while the exam is available, but enables students to re-attempt the submission if they experience problems during the submission process or they make an error.

Student support

Where students are experiencing digital poverty/difficulties, we expect to be able to utilise designated quiet study places on campus and Hallam laptops or PCs for them to take their exams.

In advance of the exam:

  • Offer students a practice exam (or test question) that includes all relevant features and settings of the actual exam, all question types to be used, and a sample of questions similar in content, style and difficulty so that they can get a feel for being examined online and familiarise themselves with your submission tool of choice. This is a great opportunity to provide students with revision material and to test the device they will be using during the exam.

At the start of the exam:

  • Academic staff will be expected to be available online (e.g. via Collaborate or Zoom) at the time that the exam paper is released, and remain available for 15 minutes (i.e. during the reading time), to answer questions about the exam or respond to problems that students might be experiencing. Ensure that you inform students that you will be available for the first 15 minutes of the exam and how to contact you (i.e. provide the link to the Collaborate or Zoom room).
  • A summary of any questions and answers raised during the reading time at the start of the exam should be posted on Blackboard for the benefit of all students.

Special cases

Exams consisting of multiple parts

If an exam consists of multiple parts (e.g. part A is entirely MCQs, part B requires written answers), this can be provided using separate tools. Collectively the exam should be available for the expected duration of the exam.

Students with learning contracts

Adopting an approach based on the expected duration of the exam, with an additional 15 minutes added to the expected exam duration to cover reading time and a further 15 minutes per hour added to allow for any IT issues and reasonable adjustments, will retain the inclusivity from having a standard duration for all students taking the exam. Most learning contract adjustments for students allow for an additional 15 mins per hour. For the very small minority of students who require more complex adjustments, a single learning contract adjustment will be applied which will give a seven-hour period to complete their exam online.

Providing word counts and estimated time that should be spent on the exam will also help students who would have a prompter. Disabled Student Support will be in contact with those module leaders who have students who require a reader or scribe during their exam to discuss if any further adjustments need to be made for those students. For further guidance please email ! Disability Support Team.

Support

For any further support related to setting exams in Blackboard please contact the Digital Learning Team at digitallearning@shu.ac.uk or visit the drop-in support room Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.

The University Examination Team provides further information about setting exams.