Best Practices for Quizzes and Tests

January 25th, 2010 by Liz Stover

A number of instructors have expressed concern that students have had difficulty with quiz and test-taking in Blackboard. Of course, you should always provide a variety of assessments in your courses, but there are a few things you can do to decrease problems with Blackboard tests:

  • Limit the time for quizzes to no more than one hour. This will decrease the possibility of the system timing out and intermittent connectivity problems that result in the test getting locked.
  • If your test material requires more than one hour, divide it into sections (such as multiple choice and essay, part A and Part B, etc.).
  • Include detailed instructions with the quiz link so students can read them before actually starting the quiz. This will decrease stress and students will not have to spend quiz time reading instructions. They will also know what to expect before entering the test. You should include: how many questions, how many points possible, how much time is allowed for completion, and general instructions.
  • Unless there is a compelling reason to use the Test tool for essays (e.g. you want the assessment to be timed), it is best to set these items up with the assignment tool. This also allows you to download the file, do any markup, and upload with your assignment feedback.
  • Advise students of a few important guidelines:
    • Read the information on the Blackboard login page regarding browser issues.
    • Close all windows on the computer and then launch a new window to login to the learning management system.
    • Close other applications before taking the quiz/test (including chat programs).
    • If there is a specific start time for the test, login 10-15 minutes early to test the connection.
    • After opening the test, scroll to the bottom of the page to be sure the Save and Submit buttons are available.
    • Do NOT click “Submit” until you have completed the exam.
    • Do NOT use any of the browser navigation buttons (i.e. Back, Forward, Home, etc.) during the quiz/test.
    • Do NOT leave the assessment page without completing the assessment and clicking the “Submit” button at the end (if it is a forced completion test).
    • Do NOT click the Refresh or Reload buttons in your browser while taking the quiz/test.
    • Do NOT open other browser windows or applications while taking a CFCC quiz/test.
    • Do NOT click on buttons in the Blackboard navigation while taking a quiz/test. 
    • If you are only able to answer one question at a time (questions present themselves on separate pages), make sure you only single-click the “Next” button to move forward.
  • It is usually beneficial to students, especially those who have not taken an online test before, to provide them with a practice quiz  or low-stakes quiz to ensure that students are comfortable with the interface. This can be a simple survey or an icebreaker assignment at the beginning of the course that asks questions about the syllabus and course expectations. This will also let you know if students have read the syllabus and other course information.

If you would like feedback or advice to help you create course assessments or other course content, feel free to contact me at or by phone at 910-362-7722 .

Liz Stover
Instructional Technologist

Course Essentials Checklist and Rubric

January 19th, 2010 by Liz Stover

Are you looking for guidance in developing your online course? Do you wonder what you should include and how you should organize it to create a high quality learning experience for your students?

The Department of Distance Learning has posted a list of 25 specific standards for developing a quality Internet or Hybrid course (see the Distance Learning Faculty Resource Webpage). After much discussion, the Distance Learning Committee and Distance Learning Department agreed up these items as being critical to creating a quality course.

Please visit with the DL department if you would like assistance implementing these 25 standards:

Larolyn Zylicz
Department Chair of Distance Learning

Liz Stover
Instructional Technologist

Academic Tweeting

January 13th, 2010 by Liz Stover

Most of you have heard of and/or use the microblogging tool, Twitter. Some of you might even be using it with your students to enhance your courses. If you are considering ways to use this popular free resource for your courses, check out academHacK’s list of ways to use Twitter in academia.

Twitter is a microblogging tool, meaning your posts will be brief (140 characters or less). Your posts are known as “tweets” and these tweets are broadcasted to anyone (by computer or cellphone) subscribing to your twitter account.  Likewise, you will receive messages from accounts to which you have subscribed.

Some of the educational uses listed by AcademHack include building classroom community, providing instant feedback, and maximizing a teachable moment. For specifics on these uses and to explore others, refer to academHacK’s list of ways to use Twitter in academia.

Free Graphics Editors

January 11th, 2010 by Liz Stover

Do you need to edit images for your course or are your students required to post graphics for assignments? If you do not have access to a nifty graphics editor like Photoshop, you will be interested to know that there are some free options available, which will provide you with many of the same features:

  • Photofiltre (free for educational or private use – Windows)
    This application includes many of the filters you find in PhotoShop and other software. The interface is intuitive and similar to other photo editing software so you’ll feel right at home for free.
  • LiveQuartz (MAC only)
    This one is for you MAC users. Created for Leopard, this free image editor uses layers and filters. View screencast of LiveQuartz.
  • Gimp Portable (Windows)
    Graphics application with many advanced features, a portable application that you can store on a flashdrive or other portable storage, interface is a bit complicated but the many features are worth it.
  • Photoscape (Windows)
    This graphics editor includes batch editing and a screen capture tool.

DL Workshops for Spring 2010

December 29th, 2009 by Liz Stover

Happy New Year! Distance Learning has posted a schedule of workshops being offered for spring 2010.  Workshops include basic Blackboard training and other topics related to course design and development. Stay tuned as more workshops will be added.

View schedule of workshops.

Explore the LOR. Find quality content for your courses.

December 18th, 2009 by Liz Stover

NCLOR learning object repositoryNC ExpLORe is North Carolina’s learning object repository. Simply stated, a learning object is a re-usable piece of content that meets a learning objective. A learning object can be a learning module, an audio or video clip, a simulation, an assessment, or other course content.

Instructors can locate content for courses by searching NC Explore, and then integrate the learning objects into online courses. Sharing and reusing content saves time and expands the amount of resources available. Also, these items can be adapted, if necessary.

To get started with NC ExpLORe, create an account or login as a guest to browse available learning objects. You can also create and contribute some of your own!

Blackboard Getting Started December 21

December 16th, 2009 by Liz Stover

Blackboard Getting Started

This workshop will cover the very basics of Blackboard and online course design. It will provide you with just enough information to get started developing or editing your course.

When: Monday, December 21, 2009, 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Where: L-210 Technology Training Center
Prerequisites: Completion of Bb 101 online, basic computing skills

Contact: Liz Stover, Instructional Technologist / S200-E / 910-362-7722 /

Make your course come to Life with NC LIVE

December 16th, 2009 by Liz Stover

As an online or hybrid instructor, you are always looking for interesting and effective course content. NC LIVE is a statewide collaborative that offers you and your students access to more than 50,000 articles, e-books, and streaming videos.

This service is free to use for members of the North Carolina Community College System, University of North Carolina System, or public libraries of North Carolina. If you or your students access the site off campus, simply insert your CFCC username and password to gain access.

As of December 14, NC LIVE has added 379 new eBooks through MyiLibrary, covering subjects such as medicine, history, project management, and language learning. Other eBook resources include NetLibrary, Literary Reference Center, Learning Express Library, ABC-CLIO E-book Collection, and OAIster.

NC LIVE offers a wide range of video subjects, including history, the arts, business, and science. Many of the videos have close captioning available, providing an accessible format for users who are hearing impaired. Also, users can select video quality, depending on their Internet connection, providing access for students with slower connections.

The Learning Resource Center at CFCC has helpful guides to assist you with locating content at NC LIVE. If you get stuck, NC LIVE offers live chat help, so take advantage of this great resource to make your courses come to life.

Blackboard Getting Started Training

December 14th, 2009 by Liz Stover

Distance Learning is offering another Blackboard Getting Started training in L-210 (Technology Learning Center in the Library) on December 17 from 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

If you will be teaching online (hybrid or fully online) and have not attended Blackboard Getting Started training, please mark your calendar as the spring semester is quickly approaching. Contact Liz Stover by email at or by phone at 910-362-7722 with any questions.

OpenSource Free Textbooks

December 11th, 2009 by Liz Stover

When considering textbooks for your courses, you might take a look resources offered by the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources.  The goal of the consortium is for educators to pool their expertise to create resources  for community college students and faculty.

Community College Open Textbook Collaborative  offers a growing selection of subjects suitable for community colleges.  Textbooks submitted must follow guidelines regarding copyright, formatting and accessibility. Textbooks are peer-reviewed; the Peer Reviews section will identify the results of reviews. Books are rated for clarity and comprehension, readability, consistency, appropriateness, interface, content usefulness, modularity, errors, reading level, and cultural relevance.

If you would like to get involved with the College Open Textbooks Professional Network, consider joining the forum or piloting textbooks.

Learning to Teach Online Can Help Instructors Design and Administer Better Classroom-based Courses

December 9th, 2009 by Liz Stover

From Inside Higher Ed, researchers at Purdue University at Calumet paired up experienced online course instructors with faculty who wanted to adapt classroom courses for online delivery and  found that when professors learned to develop and administer distance education courses properly, they also improved their classroom-based course design and delivery.

Read the entire article,  “Learning from Online”, from Inside Higher Ed.

Blackboard Getting Started Training 12/11

December 9th, 2009 by Liz Stover

Attention all online and hybrid instructors. If you are in need of Blackboard Getting Started training (required for online and hybrid instructors), Distance Learning will be conducting another 2-hour training on Friday, December 11 from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. in L-210.

Please complete Blackboard 101 before attending the workshop so we can start talking about the instructor view and how to organize your course. I hope to see you there!

Liz Stover, Instructional Technologist

Do you need audio, images, or other media for your course?

December 4th, 2009 by Liz Stover

Distance Learning has added a new blog page with audio, video, and graphics resources that are free for you to use.  Please visit our Free Media page to locate resources in the public domain or otherwise free from copyright restrictions. As always, you should read any disclaimers. Among the items you will find are digitized archives of old films, photographs, and music recordings.

Second Blackboard Training for December

December 3rd, 2009 by Liz Stover

Distance Learning is offering a second Blackboard Getting Started training on December 7, from 1-3 p.m. Please refer to the DL Training page of our blog for details.

Blackboard Training on December 4

November 20th, 2009 by Liz Stover

Getting Started with Blackboard

For instructors teaching on Blackboard for the first time this spring, please note that there will be a training on December 4 from 3-5 p.m. in the Technology Training Center (room L-210).

Please make sure, if attending, that you first complete the  Bb 101 course. If you plan on attending and have not contacted me yet, please do so at or 910-362-7722.

Thanks and I hope to see you there!

Liz Stover, Instructional Technologist