Putting tests into your module is a great way of allowing the students to test themselves as well as letting you see the progress they are making. A test can provide some positive re-enforcement of a topic. It can also highlight possible areas where all students are struggling. Tests can be as short or as long as you want, depending on the nature of the test. Blackboard also allows for a variety of different question types – from simple Yes/No answers to more complex Essay type answers.

The problem is that putting in questions can be a long and laborious task using the Blackboard interface. But fear not! Here we offer a relatively quick and painless solution – use Microsoft Excel.

What’s that? Microsoft Excel? Isn’t that a spreadsheet package? Yes it is, but we can use it to create a quick list of questions. The question creation is very fast – you can create a whole list of questions and then upload them into Blackboard in one go. In addition, we can spell check our questions to make sure everything is just so.

“But I don’t have Excel”, I hear some of you cry. Fear not! You can use an online alternative such as Google Docs which you can find at https://docs.google.com. You need to create an account but that’s free. Once you’ve got your account, log on and click on the Create New button. From the drop down list select Spreadsheet and you’re good to go.

The Process

Let’s look at the basic process. The first thing to understand is that each question type has an associated code in Blackboard. For example, a multiple choice question type has the code MC. A true/false question type has the code TF and so on. In our Excel spreadsheet, the first column contains this code. The next column contains the question itself. You might find it easy to use the Wrap Text feature in Excel so you can easily see the full contents of each cell.

The Example

As mentioned before, the code is for a multiple choice question is MC so in column one, type MC. In column two, type in your question. In column three type in a possible answer and in column four type in either “correct” or “incorrect” to refer to the answer that you entered previously. Repeat this process for all potential answers: the answer itself followed by either “correct” or “incorrect”.

Here’s what it might look like:

A B C D E F G H
1 MC What is the capital of England? Manchester Incorrect London Correct Newcastle Incorrect

The correct answer is London and we can see that in the cell to the right of the word “London” has the word “correct” which tells Blackboard which answer you consider to be the correct one.

The Next Step

So you’ve got a whole list of questions typed up. You now need to do a couple of things to get them into Blackboard. You can save the questions as a regular Excel Spreadsheet for your own backup but you have to save your spreadsheet as a text file. If you’re using Excel this must be a Text (tab delimited format) which you can find from the Other Formats menu. If you’re using Google Docs, this must be a Text file. Once done, go to Blackboard and upload your questions into your module. In the words of a famous TV chef, “Done!”

The Pros and Cons

Most question types can be created using the above method. However you cannot create three question types: Calculated Formula; Either/Or or Hot Spot questions. If you want to use these question types, you’ll need to go through Blackboard’s Test Canvas.

The other major downside of this method is that you cannot enter any feedback responses for either correct or incorrect answers. You can, however, go back to the test canvas and enter any feedback once the main bulk of the questions have been created.

SmallThumbThe major advantage of this method is that it allows you to rapidly build up a test bank. You can cut and paste from Word into Excel much easier and quicker than attempting to cut and paste from Word into Blackboard. Excel also has a solid and robust spell checking facility. Copying from cell to cells in Excel is very quick, allowing you to re-use standard question types.

We have prepared a Guide Sheet to go along side this post which goes into more detail with regards to the nuts and bolts of the process. Hopefully we haven’t scared you away from putting in some questions into your module. Let us know how you get on and if you’ve found your own easy method of adding questions – we would love to hear your success stories!

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