Many of us our coming off our first semester of required-online classes; and at some of our institutions we are preparing for what is most likely a required-online semester in the fall. (That is: The first time we know in advance of the all-online requirement, and with some experiential knowledge of how things progressed in the spring.)
Assume that we're going to be giving math tests online in the future. In my department there are a wide variety of opinions about how best to deploy those tests, and we've passed around competing published opinion papers on the matter (mostly from a time when courses were not all-online by necessity; i.e., prior publications assume students registered for online courses as a special case). Most of the conversation revolves around how to tamp down on cheating during those tests. Granted that, what are the best parameters under which to give tests? Some points that would be addressed in the best answer:
- Short vs. long availability period? E.g.: Some instructors want the testing to occur within the normal class hour, and require students to begin within a 15 minute window. Others look to give students maximum flexibility, say, a 6-hour or day-long window in which to take the one-hour test (so as to work around other courses, family/work obligations, etc.)
- Short vs. long timer? A short timer on the test may reduce opportunities for cheating, but likewise make a student more desperate and likely to resort to cheating; perhaps a longer timer would reduce that stress.
- Present questions all at once or one at a time?
- Randomize question order?
- Prohibit backtracking?
- Require academic integrity statement?
Now, my own situation involves teaching math and computing in the context of a community college STEM degree program; e.g., at the level of college algebra through calculus III, linear algebra, and discrete mathematics. Traditionally these tests are largely computational -- a small number of proof-based questions are asked at the uppermost levels, and it is a minority of our students who can answer any of them (e.g., making all questions proof-based is not an option at this level). Hopefully this question can cover an array of similar-level courses at other institutions.
The online system we use is Blackboard, but likewise I hope this question is appropriate for any online platform (e.g., my bulleted points above are basically the Blackboard test deployment options, excepting the last one).
The larger institution has made an executive decision to not license or employ any online proctoring system (e.g., video surveillance of students taking tests), so that is not an option in our case.
Note some related but distinct questions on ME.SE that have been recently asked:
- "How, now, shall we teach math online?" This is a much broader question about all aspects of online teaching, which only touches on testing in passing; the present question is solely focused on how to deliver online tests.
- "What websites allow students to purchase solutions to problems?" This is specific about tracking websites that support cheating on homework and tests; the present question is about how best the instructor can structure tests.
- "How to conduct online testing for Calculus?" This question is specific to calculus; and more critically, has a selected answer which is to not give tests in the first place, which therefore addresses none of the points in the present question.
So: What are the best-practice parameters with which to deploy an online test in the current environment (all classes by necessity being fully online)?
Note: Suggestions to refrain from giving tests are out of scope for the current question, and will not be selected as the answer. Please address any such possible practices in a separate question.