Strategies for Online Exams

Strategies for Online Exams

By Lirim Neziroski, Ph.D., MBA, Dean of Teaching and Learning Outcomes

As USF continues with online instruction, you will likely need to create and administer an online exam.  This email describes a few options.

Adopting an external online testing platform at this time is probably not possible due to the student expense, new exam and technology setup requirements, and instructor learning curve that are needed.  However, if you are using a publisher’s online platform (such as Pearson’s MyMathLab or McGraw-Hill’s Connect), you may be able to set up exams on those platforms.

Canvas Exams

Otherwise, create an exam on Canvas.  To get started, click on Quizzes, then click +Quiz to create a new exam.  Under the Details tab, give the exam a name, add instructions, select quiz type (“graded”), and assign it to a gradebook category (such as Quizzes, Exams, or Assignments).  Below, select optional features such as Shuffle Answers, Time Limit, Access Code, and whether students can see answers when they finish.

Under the Questions tab, click +New Question to add a question, and select the type of question.  Canvas allows the following question types:  Multiple Choice (with one or more correct answers), True-False, Fill-in-the-Blank, Matching, Short Answer or Essay Style, and File Upload.  Many question types are graded automatically (you’ll have to grade essay-style questions manually), and you can see a detailed reports about student performance.  You can also create question groups and upload questions in bulk – contact DAT.

Resources for Canvas Exams

Here are some resources about exams from the Canvas Guides:

Ensuring Academic Integrity

Admittedly, it’s more difficult to ensure academic integrity for online exams, but you can take steps in the design of the exam to promote integrity.  Consider the following:

  • Shuffle Answer Choices – This rearranges answer choices for each student.  (You may have to reword “All of the Above” to “All Answer Choices.”)
  • Shuffle the Order of Questions – Contact DAT for help with this.  You can create different versions of the same question, and Canvas will randomly select a different question for each student.  Or, simply use this feature to present all of the same questions in a different order for each student.
  • Set a Time Limit – Limit the amount of time students have on the exam so they won’t have time to look up answers.
  • Use Open/Due/Close Dates – Restrict availability of exam to a few days to prevent information sharing.  You could even limit availability to the class period (as long as all students have an opportunity).
  • Show One Question at a Time and Prevent Backward Navigation – This prevents students from going back and changing their answers.  (However, students with slow internet connection may lose time if there is a lag between each question.)
  • Require an Access Code – In order to begin the exam, students will need to enter a code you provide.
  • Delay Exam Review – Wait to release correct answers until all students have completed the exam.
  • User Higher-Level Questions – If possible, use short answer or problem-based questions instead of multiple choice.  These questions require an original and unique response from each student and more difficult to copy.  (However, be cautious of changing expectations on the exam.  If lectures and course content have focused on the “understanding” and “comprehension” level, students will be unprepared for application-level questions on the exam.)

Contact me or DAT for support with Canvas Exams.  Please also visit our “Resources for Online Learning” page on Learnitnow:


Lirim Neziroski, Ph.D., MBA
Dean of Teaching & Learning Outcomes
(815) 740-5099

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