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Digital Toolbox: Developing Summative Assessments

by Audra Anjum, Jeff Kuhn, and Patrick Mose from the Office of Instructional Innovation

At a Glance 

Summative assessments are opportunities to gather evidence that students have met your course outcomes. Summative assessments tend to take the form of proctored exams comprising essay, multiple-choice, or other question formats, but summative assessments can take other forms as well. This toolbox provides an overview of technology options for implementing summative assessments in your face-to-face and online classes.

Proctored Exams in Online Classes

Ohio University offers online proctoring for Blackboard exams using a tool called Proctortrack. Proctortrack offers an AI (artificial intelligence) solution that documents student testing and flags suspicious behavior that instructors can review once the student finishes the exam. If you enable Proctortrack for your exam, students can take the proctored exam on their own device from a location of their choosing at no cost.

To use this service, follow the directions on Help and Resources: Online Proctoring. Students will need to complete an onboarding at least two days prior to taking the test. The Office of Information Technology is happy and ready to help faculty with exam setup, should you decide to use this option.

A good alternative to offer in addition to Proctortrack is the option for students to visit a testing center, either at one of Ohio University’s campuses or at an OHIO-approved testing center near their home.

Creating Blackboard summative assessments

Blackboard exams have a variety of options to create rigorous summative assessments for your course:

Question Types

Blackboard has many different question types, each of which can be set up for automatic grading except for Essay, File Response, and Short Answer:

Additional Test & Question Settings

  • Question pools allow you to create question sets from which each student sees only a set amount (e.g. display 20 of a 40 question pool for each student on a quiz)
  • Test or survey presentation settings control the flow of the exam, including randomizing question order
  • Results and feedback options:
    • Automatic graded options can provided canned feedback for correct and incorrect answers
    • You can provide additional feedback to students using a text box
    • You can select what feedback is visible to the students (e.g. display students' scores after completing the exam but allow review of correct answers after the exam closes and everyone has submitted the test)
  • Test or Survey Options:

Nonproctored exams or classroom-proctored exams

Exam proctoring in online environments has the potential to create additional barriers to testing, such as technology requirements or test anxiety. There may be circumstances where it is impractical or unnecessary to attempt to proctor an exam in an online environment. Instructors have alternative options to collect evidence of student mastery while ensuring academic integrity. OIT offers several solutions that allow instructors to streamline the gathering, grading, and feedback turnaround on summative assessments. In many cases, feedback can be automated for certain types of questions. 

If your students have your permission to use their personal devices during a proctored exam in your classroom, consider building your assessments using Blackboard Tests or one of the following university-supported suites of tools:

Feature Microsoft Forms Panopto Qualtrics Top Hat
Question types
  • Choice: A lists with an 'Other' option for unexpected answers
  • Text: Long or short text
  • Rating
  • Date: a simple date selector with no date formatting options
  • Ranking
  • Likert
  • Net Promoter Score
  • True/False
  • Multiple Choice
  • Multiple Select
  • Multiple Choice
  • Text Entry
  • Rank Order
  • Matrix Table
  • Slider
  • Side by Side
  • Constant Sum
  • Hot Spot
  • Graphic Slider
  • Drill Down
  • Pick Group and Rank
  • Heat Map
  • Net Promoter® Score
  • Highlight
  • Signature
  • Timing
  • File Upload
  • Screen Capture
  • Captcha Verification
  • Meta Info
  • Multiple Choice Questions
  • Word Answer Questions
  • Numeric Answer Questions
  • Fill in the Blank Questions
  • Matching Questions
  • Click on Target Questions
  • Sorting Questions
  • Long Answer Questions
  • Graph Response Questions (Beta)
  • Chemistry Response Questions (Beta)
  • Math Response Questions (Beta)
  • Chemistry Drawing Questions (Beta)
  • Video Assignments (Beta)
Automatic grading Yes, not recommended Yes Yes Yes
Blackboard gradebook integration No Yes No Yes
Question pools No No Yes No
Randomize question order Yes No No Yes
Randomize answer order Yes No No Yes
Automated feedback Yes - Answers can display after submission Yes - Answers can display after submission Yes - Show whether the question was right or wrong Yes
Availability settings Yes - Can be closed manually or by set time/date Yes Yes - Can be closed manually or by set time/date Yes

Creating exam questions

Whether you are going to use proctored or nonproctored exams, consider writing your own questions each term rather than using content provided by your textbook publisher or recycling old exams too many times. It is very likely that the materials your textbook publisher provides are already available freely on the web. If you’re curious about whether your exam questions are online somewhere, copy and paste one of your questions into a quick web search. Publishers’ materials are best used for review, self-check, or formative assessments that can help students prepare for larger, summative assessments. Or, they can be supplemented with other types of exam questions that may assess deeper learning, such as:

  • Short answer questions that have been tailored to information presented in lectures. These types of questions give students a chance to display what they have learned. These questions also encourage students to maintain academic integrity by grounding responses in what they learned from your course specifically (not what is on the web). 
  • A metacognition task that has students look at errors on a past exam and explain the correct answer to earn back a certain number of points determined in advance by the instructor. These questions may require you to create a new exam each time you teach; however, building this habit into your workflow can ensure that past exams are useful in current classes and that course content is always fresh. 
  • An application task that consists of having students choose a question from the exam and explain how the knowledge it tests is important when applied to the field. These types of questions allow students to explain the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ of your course material. 
  • An entirely short-essay exam format. Tailor the questions to your course’s specific content to encourage students to produce their own work and to discourage inappropriate reliance on outside sources. Be sure to let students know the criteria you’ll use to evaluate their responses (e.g., a rubric) before they take the exam. 

If some of your exam questions are of a multiple choice or multiple answer format, consider whether using some of the built-in options will strengthen your exam’s security. Depending on the platform you choose, you can randomize your exam question order, randomize each question’s choices, or randomly pull questions from a larger pool of questions so that each student gets a different set. Taking these measures will help individualize the testing experience for each of your students. 

Some exams are best suited for an open book or open resource format. The open book/resource option allows students to engage with your full exam as you originally intended while incorporating an individual component that reinforces students in practicing academic integrity.

  • Add a section to your exam that requires students to give the course-related sources they used to answer each question, as well as the citation information of any other resources they used.
  • Add a question that asks students to write a short reflection on what they learned from the process of researching the questions.
  • Have students choose one question or problem on the exam that was difficult and explain the process they went through to find the answer and/or to solve it.

    Non-Exam Summative Assessments

    Depending on your learning outcomes, a high-stakes exam may not be the most practical or effective way to gather evidence of student mastery. Other types of assessments may be more authentic or truer to what your students will experience in the real world. A robust, detailed rubric that is provided in advance to your students can help facilitate objective, consistent, and efficient feedback and evaluation. 

    • Portfolio-based assessment. Portfolios are an invaluable tool in academic and professional development. They provide a powerful medium for users to efficiently collect and organize artifacts representative of work completed over time. Portfolios offer a means to demonstrate formative and/or summative progress and achievement. Portfolio authors are empowered with tools to effectively present their information in a cohesive, personalized format. You can request that portfolios be submitted for course assignments. Portfolios can take many forms, depending on your subject-matter and on your course format. The Blackboard Portfolio Tool offers a university-supported platform that ties into the Blackboard grading infrastructure.
    • Oral think-alouds and defenses. Sometimes, it is essential that you hear your students discuss certain topics so you can be certain they understand. 
      • For project-based summative assessments, consider having students walk you through (think-alouds) their designs, decisions, or applications, either in a live Teams call or within an ongoing VoiceThread. If you choose to do a live Teams call with your student, you will have the opportunity to ask follow-up questions and provide feedback all at once. If you choose to do an asynchronous VoiceThread activity, you can leave video comments on videos your students submit and have them reply to your feedback later, which eliminates the need to schedule meetings together. 
      • For more traditional summative assessments such as term papers or exams, schedule an oral defense component to allow students the opportunity to explain certain aspects of their responses. This will help ensure students submitted their own work. Use Microsoft Bookings, along with Teams, to easily facilitate scheduling these oral components. 
    • Extensive written assignments. In addition to traditional term papers, consider the following ideas. Attach a detailed rubric to these assignments using the Blackboard Assignments tools to facilitate specific and timely feedback and evaluation.
      • Assign an annotated bibliography. Consider having students choose five to ten key scholarly articles from the course readings and write a short critical summary for each, explaining what the article is about and then giving their assessment of the article’s value to the field.
      • Assign a transformative reflection. Ask students to write a short reflection about how the course has changed their thinking about the course topic or about a course sub-topic. 
      • Assign resource recommendations or critiques. Have students give a resource recommendation for two scholarly articles, news articles, videos, or other instructional media that they have researched by writing a short explanation of how these pieces could help future students understand the course material.
    • Authentic assessment. Authentic assessment seeks to test students' skills and knowledge sets in realistic situations and in ways that are relevant to the skills required of them in their future disciplinary professions. The Office of Instructional Innovation has collected the following materials that discuss the benefits and challenges of this type of assessment and how you can incorporate authentic assessment in your online course.