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Blackboard Assignments for Time-limited Exams

How to use this tool in the current context

Blackboard Assignment is a type of assessment tool within Blackboard. Assignments allow students to submit one or more pieces of work online within a defined timeframe and allow instructors to access their submitted work.  

Over the Summer 2020 exam period, instructors can choose to use assignments to allow students to either submit within their scheduled module exam slots or to submit alternative assessments such as essays over an extended period as would be the case in coursework.  

Blackboard assignments do not provide a text-matching or plagiarism detection option. If this is essential,please use Turnitin instead. 

This guide focusses on exams that are typed and edited in a word-processing tool such as Word. If you require students to complete a handwritten exam and scan this in, please see this additional guide. In both cases the steps to add the Blackboard assignment, and access student work are the same. 

In all cases, we would strongly recommend that clear and explicit instructions are provided to students in advance of the exam, that these instructions are clearly signposted on the Blackboard module homepage, and that students are given the opportunity to try out a dummy version of the exam. 

Adding a Blackboard Assignment

Log into Blackboard at https://nuigalway.blackboard.com 

Choose the particular module from the My Courses list and ensure the Edit Mode is on. Within the course, we recommend that you consider adding a content area to your navigation menu called Exams to signpost it to students as being the summer exam section. 

To do this, click on the + option, choose Content Area, and call it Exams. Click the ‘Available to Users’ option.  

To add an Assignment link within the Exams section in the Course Menu, click on Exams. 

Enter the Exams content section, choose Assessments on the Action Bar at the top and select the Assignment option. 

On the Assignment Options page, please fill in the following: 

  • Name: Type in an appropriate Assignment or Exam Name 
  • Instructions: Provide any instructions in the Instructions textbox 
  • Assignment Files: Attach the exam paper to the Assignment Files section 
  • Due Dates: Add a date to the Due Dates section. Due dates allow you to accept late submissions from students (these will be marked as late, and include a timestamp). Normally you would set the due date/time to be the end of the exam. Whilst all students are to complete their exam in the 2 hour scheduled, they are permitted an extra 30 minutes for upload (and more for those with LENS report requirements). If you set the due date as the end of the scheduled exam, note that all will have ‘late’ flagged on them and the students will see this when they submit and this may cause some anxiety or confusion unless clearly explained to them. You may wish, alternatively, to extend the due date but make it clear in the instructions and the examination paper itself that the time allocated to working on the exam itself is two hours. Your School/College may have a policy on this.
  • Points Possible: Allocate the maximum mark for the assignment or exam in the Points Possible textbox  
  • Grading Options: Enable Anonymous Grading, if you have decided to use this feature, in the Grading Options section. Find out more about how this feature works. If used, remind students in the instructions section not to include any identifying details in their submission, in either the document or filename. (Note that for a ‘Plan B’, or fallback scenario, which includes document submission by email, you may lose the anonymity aspect or may confuse submissions if students do not have an identifier in the document!) 
  • Important: In the Availability section, specify how long the assignment will be displayed to the student, using the Display After and Display Until date and time fields.  

    Display Until is how you long you make the exam/assignment visible on Blackboard to the students. As with the due date, you should consider making this sufficiently long so that students can still access it within the time frame they are allowed for upload and for LENS report based extensions. This should limit the number of technical issues your students may experience, compared to a stricter cut-off point. All submissions are time-stamped anyway and so any serious breaches of the timeframe would be detectable. Your School/College may have a policy on this.
  • In the Display of Grades section ensure the ‘Show to students in My Grades‘ checkbox is unticked. This ensures results you enter on Blackboard are hidden from students until you decide to show them.

Walkthrough of Adding an Assignment

Tip: One easy way to manage the process if students are submitting a word document or similar, is to advise students to download and use the actual Exam paper file (that you have uploaded) as their submission. 

It can already have the appropriate layout and contain the exam questions. Leave space after exam questions where students can fill in answers or complete essays. At the end of the exam, the student can save this document and submit it. 

Remind the students in the instructions section to enable editing on the document after downloading it.

Where to Access Student Submissions

Once your students have submitted, you can easily access their work and grade it in the Grade Centre. Within the Control Panel menu, expand and click on the Needs Grading Option in the Grade Centre Menu. 

Filter by Category (Assignment) and Item (choose the particular assignment name) to only see work from the specific assignment.

You should see a list of student submissions. Any work that was submitted after the Due Date is marked Late, and includes a timestamp. Click on entries under User Attempts to view, download or grade students’ work.

Other Considerations 

Using this approach to setting exams carries a number of potential risks, and there are issues that you should consider, including the following: 

  • Are any of your international students now in a different timezone, and being asked to sit exams at unsocial hours. This might well be something that is best addressed at School/College level. 
  • Do any of your students require additional time to complete the exam? Unlike other assessment types such as Blackboard tests, Blackboard assignments do not allow you to easily provide additional time exceptions to individual students. You will, therefore need to consider ensuring that the Assignment is open for a longer period than the scheduled exam + standard upload time. You can use the timestamp of the submitted documents to check whether a student uploaded within the timeframe appropriate to their circumstances. For particular accommodations you may need to have an alternative assessment or submission by email, or some agreed appropriate arrangement. Further information and advice on these issues may be obtained from the Disability Support Service. 
  • How do you plan to manage any technical issues or queries from, and communication to, students on the exam day?  There should be a consistent process for this, perhaps at School/College/University levels. Please make sure that you are aware of such or make your own arrangements if necessary. 
  • As with all online assessments you must have a ‘Plan B’ for any issues students might have with regards connectivity, browser freezing, connection timing  out, etc.  You might be able to reduce some of the risk, or at least be made aware of the possible issues for particular students, by running a test/trial of your assessment type with the class prior to the exam.