Best Practices for Online Tests

As circumstances arise that require you to teach online, you may find yourself needing to administer tests online. In the guidance that follows, the term "tests" includes quizzes, exams, and other assessments that can normally be delivered in the form of a document that students receive, complete, and return to the professor. 

Tools for Online Testing

There are several options available to faculty within Nexus for assessment:

  • Nexus "Core" Activities: LinkedIn Learning Course (~35 minute training–note, you need to sign-in to LinkedIn Learning using your Union College email account and password)
    • Quiz: The Quiz activity module allows faculty to design and build quizzes consisting of a large variety of Question types, including multiple choice, true-false, short answer and drag and drop images and text. These questions are kept in the Question bank and can be re-used in different quizzes. Watch this quick start guide to get started and read the full Quiz activity documentation to make the most of everything a Quiz can do.
      • Note! If you have students who need extra time on a test for an accommodation, we recommend using this Nexus Quiz tool (see "Accessibility" section below). 
      • Nexus is set to log a user out when they are idle for a long period of time. The current idle timeout is set to four (4) hours. If you expect the quiz to take a long period of time to complete, let the students know that they should be aware of the timeout limit.
      • To keep the quiz manageable, consider choosing to have a new page for every question or after a certain number of questions (do this in the "Layout" section of the quiz settings). This will also serve to keep the student sessions active as they save their answers and progress to the next question.
    • Assignments: Assignments allow students to submit work to faculty for grading. Assignments enable teachers to grade and give comments on uploaded files and assignments created on and off line. Grading may be by simple percentages or custom scales, or more complex rubrics may be used. Students may submit as individuals or in groups. Watch this quick start guide to get started and read the full Assignment activity documentation to fully utilize.
  • Nexus 3rd Party Plug-in Options
    • Gradescope: Gradescope is integrated with Nexus and is an excellent option to extend assessment and feedback functionality beyond what Nexus provides.
    • Turnitin Assignment: Turnitin is integrated with Nexus and allows faculty to check student work for plagiarism, as well as give paperless feedback.
    • Google AssignmentsGoogle Assignments is a tool that simplifies the process of assigning, receiving, and grading online assignments. The tool includes an "originality report" feature that is similar to Turnitin in that it scans the submitted assignment and checks it with anything on Google to find potential plagiarism.
    • H5P Assignments (Multiple Choice Quiz, Fill in the Blanks, Drag & Drop, True / False, etc.): H5P (HTML5 Package) makes it easy to create, share and reuse interactive content and applications online.
    • Textbook Publishers: For final exams, both McGraw Hill and Pearson are already integrated with Nexus. Both will allow students to take a quiz elsewhere and have it post grades back to Nexus. If you are interested in exploring this option, please contact the Learning Design & Digital Innovation groups (LDDI).

Google Forms is also an option as for a quiz platform, although Nexus usually provides more options and analytics. Moreover, there is currently no direct way to import grades from a Google Form quiz into the Courses Gradebook. If you do choose to use Google Forms as a quizzing platform, activate the settings that limit responses to Union domain and that automatically collect Union email addresses from respondents.


Designing and Administering Online Tests

Instructor Presence

During an on-site test, the professor is generally accessible to the students for questions. To provide similar access during an online test, schedule the test for a synchronous session over Zoom for the students during the same period, and use the private chat feature in Zoom to field individual students' questions.


Track Attendance Through Nexus

The Attendance activity in Nexus is designed for teachers to be able to take attendance during class, and for students to be able to view their own attendance record. A teacher can mark the attendance status (configurable) of a student or it can be setup so that the students can mark their own attendance. The Attendance activity can generate reports for either the entire class or for individual students. Students may also see their own attendance record if the activity is not hidden.



Students who receive accommodations for onsite testing must receive equivalent accommodations for online testing. The common accommodation of extended time is easy to implement in the Nexus Quiz tool:

  1. Launch Nexus and open your course.
  2. Locate and open your quiz.
  3. In the upper right corner of the screen, click on the "gear" icon and select [User overrides].
  4. Click on the [Add user] override button.
  5. In the Search field, type the user's first or last name. Select the user and the name will appear in blue above the search area.
  6. Update the open and close dates, number of attempts, and/or time limit for the quiz.
  7. Click on the [Save] button to finish, or Save and enter another override to set another override.

Other accommodations may require additional guidance from the Office of Accomodative Services.


Time Limits and Deadlines

You can place time limitations on an online Nexus quiz just as you would for an on-site test. In fact, you should do so, particularly if your online test replaces a test you would otherwise give on-site. However, the risk of network interruptions accompanies any lengthy online experience, especially for students using high-traffic public WiFi networks. To reduce this risk, divide lengthy tests into shorter, individually timed segments. 

You can also place time limitations on Gradescope assessments.


Academic Integrity

The logistics of remote testing and the affordances of the internet make it easier for students inclined to cheat to do so, and may present a greater temptation for students who normally would not cheat in on-site contexts. Adapting pedagogically to these circumstances is generally preferable to deploying technological and logistical countermeasures, although the latter can also be useful.

Pedagogical strategies for promoting academic integrity in online testing include:

  • Design online tests with the assumption that, regardless of your preferences, students will in fact have unrestricted access to the internet while taking online tests. (At present, Union College does not recommend or offer technical support for lockdown browsers.) Avoid asking questions whose answers can easily be found using internet search engines or quickly looked up in textbooks (unless navigating search engines and textbook indices promotes your course's learning outcomes). Aim for questions that tend toward the middle terms of Bloom's taxonomy of cognitive processes as revised by Anderson and Kratwhol—understanding, applying, analyzing, and evaluating.
  • Require students to affirm the Union College Honor code. Craft an Honor Code Affirmation as the first question of your test.

Technological and logistical strategies for promoting academic integrity in online testing include:

  • Display questions one at a time, with no backtracking allowed.
  • Display questions in a random sequence, except when using a series of individual questions as steps in a more complex scaffolded question.
  • Draw questions randomly from a large question pool.
  • Randomize the sequence of answers on multiple-choice questions.
  • Impose a time limit, particularly if the assessment focuses chiefly on information recall.
  • Release detailed feedback to students only after (but as soon as possible after, to promote learning) the submission deadline has passed.

At present, Union College does not recommend or offer technical support for third-party online proctoring services. If you think your students should be visually monitored while taking an online test, schedule the test as a synchronous class activity and host a Zoom session in which you require students to have their cameras on, and monitor the class just as you would in an on-site session. This technique also has the virtue of making you available to the students for questions, as previously discussed.


Preparing Students for Online Testing

Before you administer the first graded online test in any particular course, give students a no-stakes practice test so they can become accustomed to the testing platform. On this practice test, include samples of all the different types of questions (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, matrix of choices, etc.) that you think you may wish to use later in the course.

To help your students avoid technological issues during an online test, we offer the following advice. (In the bullet points below, "you" refers to the student reading the advice.)

  • Use a wired internet connection if you can.
  • If you must use WiFi, use a private WiFi network if you can.
  • If you must use WiFi, try to reduce the number of devices accessing the same WiFi network simultaneously. For example, put your phone in airplane mode while taking a test or quiz on your laptop computer.
  • Never have Nexus open simultaneously in more than one window or tab in your web browser. Failure to follow this guidance is the most common cause of data loss while taking an online assessment in Nexus.
  • When navigating an online exam, don't use the browser back button. Instead, use the "Next" and "Back" buttons within the assessment interface.
  • Wait for each page to load completely. If you begin selecting answers before the page fully loads, you may lose work.
  • Write short answer or essay questions in a word processor or text editor, then paste your answer into Nexus. This way, a backup copy of the work will be available if anything goes wrong.
  • Save your test answers frequently.
  • Don't forget to submit your exam when finished! Read all of the text on the screen carefully so that you know which step you're on. You haven't turned in your test until you've received a confirmation that you've submitted your assessment.


[With appreciation, the above recommendations were compiled/modified from Pepperdine's Center for Teaching Excellence]

If you are having difficulty or you have unanswered questions, please contact the Help Desk through the ITS Service Catalog or call (518) 388-6400.



Article ID: 101117
Fri 3/13/20 10:04 AM
Mon 4/25/22 9:02 AM

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