Online Exams

From time to time, we receive inquiries from instructors regarding the use of the Blackboard Test tool for delivering online final or other high-stakes exams.

University of Toronto institutional policy states that final exams must be conducted formally. This includes ensuring that the identity of students writing exams can be verified in an appropriate manner, that students are only able to access approved supports or aids during the exam, that a means of ensuring no academic offences occur is in place, etc. Furthermore, as per policy, criteria and procedures for final exams must be met within the context of the exam period. CTSI does NOT recommend the use of the Blackboard Test tool for final or other high-stakes exams based on U of T policy. In our experience, the tool is neither robust nor reliable enough to ensure the appropriate conditions required by policy for final or other high-stakes exams. Furthermore, the University does not have 24-hour instructional technology support who can respond to problems in the “heat of the moment.”

The University of Toronto has a contract with ExamSoft to provide a better solution for high-stakes assessments. Please read more here

However, notwithstanding the availability of ExamSoft, developing and preparing a computer-based exam, especially an online exam, requires a significant amount of advance preparation. Regardless of how robust the exam delivery software, a small minority of students will attempt to circumvent rules and procedures (for example, completing an online exam together, or comparing notes electronically during the exam). In addition to preparing the actual assessment, instructors should take into account the possible need for invigilation or online proctoring to ensure the integrity of the assessment.  For example, we know that some departments that use ExamSoft, still hold their computer-based exams in a physical location, and not online.

For all of these reasons, instructors and departments should be very careful about the use of any computer-based delivery system for final or high-stakes exams. Again, CTSI recommends that the Blackboard Test tool be used only for formative assessment.

Read more about assessment strategies.