HelpLearning TechnologiesBlackboardTimed Scanned and Uploaded ExamsProcesses for Presenting an Exam Paper and the Scanning and Uploading of Handwritten Solutions to Blackboard

Processes for Presenting an Exam Paper and the Scanning and Uploading of Handwritten Solutions to Blackboard

Some important considerations for using this approach

A proposed approach to distance assessment involves presenting an exam paper to students for a scheduled exam time slot and requiring the students to work through this using pen and paper. At the end of the exam, the students are asked to scan their handwritten answers and upload them for assessment.This is particularly relevant for courses which require mathematical derivations, drawing of diagrams, and similar. 

Key Preliminary Points

  • There are a number of apps which facilitate the scanning of such documents using a mobile phone. Such apps are preferable to simply using the camera and taking a snapshot. Nonetheless, the ultimate quality of the scan (and the legibility of the writing/drawings) will be determined by the quality of the camera.
  • The recommended app for this type of scanning is Microsoft Office Lens, which is available for iPhones and Android devices. This integrates well with the other Microsoft products including OneDrive cloud-based storage. All students and staff at NUI Galway have such personal storage and access to the broad Office suite. OneDrive is also accessible within Blackboard and hence a file stored on OneDrive on a phone is accessible directly in Blackboard.
  • Students who are not fully confident in the use of their phone may struggle to follow this process, and hence training and practice is important.  Poor internet connectivity will hamper the upload process of large documents.
  • Multiple page documents (as in a typical handwritten examination response) should be stored as a single PDF file. Office Lens provides this as one of the principal output formats.
  • Uploading of a scanned examination paper/document can be carried out in a number of ways
    • By saving onto the student’s own OneDrive folder and then accessing this on Blackboard (or on their computer and then uploading to Blackboard)
    • By uploading from their phone using the Blackboard Student app (provided they know which module/deadline option to select and know where on their phone the PDF is stored)
    • By emailing (one of the options on Office Lens) to a specified email address (lecturer/module/School - whichever is preferred needs, of course, to be communicated to the students).

Setting up

Workflow Recommendations (to be read in conjunction with instructions/guide)

The first stage is to set up the release of the examination paper on Blackboard for the specified exam period and to open the assignment upload area. This can be done using the simple Content tools on Blackboard, setting the availability date and time window.

  • Take care to ensure that the Assignment settings regarding ‘Availability’ times are correct. It is good practice to be online before and during the scheduled exam period to confirm that the paper is available to all students and to have a copy for emailing, should that be necessary.
  • We recommend that you consider (unless you have instructed your students otherwise) creating a new Content Area on your course/navigation menu (left hand side of the window) called ‘Exams’ or similar, so that students can easily find where the paper is going to be available and where they are to submit their answers.
  • Take care to ensure that the Assignment settings regarding ‘Availability’ times are correct. It is good practice to be online before and during the scheduled exam period to confirm that the paper is available to all students and to have a copy for emailing, should that be necessary.
  • We recommend you set the due date to be the end of the total time allowed for the exam
  •  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 extend the visibility of the paper. The University has recommended that all students be given up to an extra 30 minutes to upload their assignments, should that be needed. This is not an extra 30 minutes to work on the paper. The work is required to be complete within the exam slot (2 hours) but is to allow for processing of the document, uploading, and any issues with network connectivity/bandwidth. So Display Until on Blackboard for your exam should be 2.5 hours after the scheduled start, or longer if some students’ LENS reports require such.
  • Do not use Turnitin for this process. It is not capable of comparing scanned documents and uploading such files will cause difficulties and error messages. Simply use the Blackboard Assignment tool.
  • Ideally the paper should be downloadable (an attachment) so that if students have connectivity issues, they have a local copy they can work through.
  • Make any arrangements necessary for students with LENS reports or other particular needs. This can mean extending the time for submission for those particular students (by providing a parallel submission with extended times just for that group, or simply an extended time for all students in the same Assignment and simply looking at the timestamp to ascertain whether any other students submitted late).
  • Check, using the student preview view, the appearance of your Blackboard module, confirming that the section you have created is available to students and that the exam paper is currently hidden (until the scheduled time).
  • Ensure students have clear instructions on the requirements and the process, including specifications with regards submission of their scanned file and an associated email address for them to use if they have difficulties uploading to Blackboard.

Student Tasks

  1. Some considerable time prior to the exam, students should be requested to download and install Microsoft Office Lens onto their smartphones and practice scanning and uploading a multi-page PDF. The process is explained in the accompanying documentation.
  2. The student should log in to Blackboard in good time for the examination (we recommend 15 minutes before the scheduled start time) and ensure that they have sufficient paper, pens, etc, as required to complete the examination. They will, of course, require to have a mobile/smart phone ((or other device capable of such)) with a sufficient camera for the scanning stage. The phone should be available when the exam period is over to scan and upload their answers, and not used during the exam itself (set to do not disturb, or notifications off).
  3. At the end of the scheduled exam, students are required to carefully scan each page of their written answers (or drawn diagrams), ensuring that each is in focus, contains the full page, and is legible. Examiners will allow up to an additional 30 minutes to complete this process fully, rather than it being expected to be done within the scheduled exam period itself.                                  


Other Considerations

Clearly this process requires students to have access to a computer to view the examination paper and a smartphone (or other device) to scan their answers. Schools should have in place an alternative arrangement, or means of dealing with assessment, for those without such access.                   

A practice run, using the app/process and upload to confirm that all students have successfully carried out the process is essential. This will also enable confirmation that students are able to ensure their documents are in focus, not overly cropped, and legible – key considerations for the final submission.

Schools/Module Leaders should consider whether or not they also require the students to post the hardcopy of the papers, but this may not be possible in the current COVID-19 restrictions.                                   


Risk Matrix

For further information, and our risk matrix, visit our documentation here