Online Testing in D2L – The Truth About Security

Conducting online, self-scoring objective tests using the Quizzes tool in D2L has become a popular way to assess students in both online and face-to-face courses. However, for faculty using online tests, the questions always comes up as to how secure online tests really are, and how to keep students from cheating. This post will attempt to clear up some misconceptions.

Students Sometimes Copy and Share Questions Out of the Test

Now and then I hear from faculty who are shocked to find that a student has emailed them with questions taken out of a test or quiz. Yes, in the Properties screen of a quiz, you can turn off right-clicking, but students can still copy questions out by using the PrintScreen button on their keyboards, or by using keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste. Expensive and awkward software solutions exist that can disable the PrintScreen buttons and copy/paste functions, but even then students can copy and share tests by taking cell phone pictures of their screens.


Students Sometimes Use Their Notes and the Internet to Look Up Answers

Unless you conduct your online exam in a proctored computer lab, there is no way to stop students from opening up their paper notes while taking the exam. Students may also use their cell phones or open up a second browser window to search for answers.


Students Sometimes Take Online Tests Together

It is a common sight in the library during midterm and finals week to find students sitting side-by-side in the computer labs, working together on the same online test. This is especially common in fully online undergrad courses, in which most of the students live on campus.


Best Practices to Ensure Academic Integrity

It’s very difficult to create a perfectly secure, fully-online test, but there are strategies you can use to make collaboration more difficult:

1) When creating multiple-choice quiz questions, always use the “Randomize answers for each student” option. But don’t use this for questions with “all of the above”/”none of the above” choices!

test security 1

2) You can also easily tell D2L to shuffle the overall order in which questions appear, by checking the “Shuffle order of questions at the quiz level” option. This is found under the Properties tab when building your quiz. This ensures that each student receives the questions in a different order, making it more difficult to collaborate.

test security 2

3) Be sure to set a conservative time limit (30 seconds to 1 minute per question). A short time limit means less time to look up answers.

4) Also be sure to set a narrow start and end date window. This means less opportunity for students to meet up and work together.

test security 5

Rather than having it open for several days, this test is only open for a few hours in the afternoon, giving students fewer opportunities to meet up and collaborate

5) When opening up Post-Test Feedback, be sure to show only questions answered incorrectly, and NO answers. You may want to wait until after the quiz period is over to open the feedback, so that students who take the quiz early can’t share with students yet to take it. The feedback screen can be printed or screen-shotted, so it’s not recommended to have D2L display all questions.

6) You can also make collaboration even more difficult by shuffling the question order, setting the questions to one per page, and blocking students from revisiting already-answered questions. This also makes it difficult and time-consuming to screen-shot or print the test.

test security 4

In the screenshot above, the blue lines between the questions indicate page breaks. Click on a blue line between the questions to add or remove page breaks.

Overall, the strategies and tendencies outlined above have been the reality since before SRU used Desire2Learn, and was the case with Blackboard as well. The best approach to take is to assume that students will attempt to use notes and other resources, and will likely be sharing details about the exams with one another. Many of the most successful online instructors place less weight on objective tests, and instead draw most of their assessments from writing assignments, discussions, and research. Dishonesty is much easier to spot in written assignments since we can do plagiarism detection with Turnitin.


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