Testing Tools

Test Design 

"Testing provides motivation for students to review material and practice their skills, and, when implemented properly, provides guidance regarding what an expert in the area deems to be important. It also forces educators themselves to consider which aspects of the learning topic are important enough to warrant testing. Thus, testing should not simply be considered a means of assigning grades to student learning but also as a powerful means of improving it" (Eva, 2008).

How can testing help learning?

Whether testing can help improve learning depends on the care that we put into the test development, test delivery, and the design of feedback mechanisms.

Research shows that tests can help learning if:

  • Test items are aligned with the learning objectives.
  • Test items target higher cognitive levels.
  • Constructive feedback is given to students.

The Faculty Center can help you design a new test, review an existing test, and administer your tests online through BlackboardRespondus, or MapleTA. Guidelines and tips for test development and implementation are also covered in our workshop on Using Tests to Improve Leaning.

The primary purpose of evaluating student learning is to assign grades. However, well-designed and well-executed evaluation can also incentivize students and support self-regulated learning strategies. Research shows that properly used evaluation strategies can encourage students to keep up with the material and enhance students' academic engagement and achievement in college. Therefore, evaluation of student learning is a very important component in course design and requires a lot of careful thought in planning.

Methods of Measuring Student Learning 

Tests, regardless of their mode of delivery, are widely used because of their apparent advantages: wide sampling of content, scoring efficiency and accuracy, and capability of testing a large number of students, just to name a few. Issues of guessing, cheating, and over-testing recall-level thinking skills make tests less desirable for courses that involve a lot of hands-on learning experience and focus heavily on student performance (e.g., arts and music).

  • Performance tasks

Performance tasks, also known as authentic tests, assess a students' demonstration of a skill or competency that traditional tests often fail to evaluate. By using this method, instructors require students to create a product, make a presentation, or execute a performance. It can be time-consuming and labor-intensive.

However, with the help of modern technologies, performance-based evaluation are creatively used for both small and large size classes. For example, instead of asking each student to give a 10-minute presentation in the class, instructors can ask students to use audio-video capturing programs (e.g., Adobe Connect, Camtasia, Captivate, Jing Pro, Panopto, and Wimba) to create a multimedia PowerPoint presentation and share it through podcasting. Instructors can also ask students to conduct a peer review of their work so that the instructors can save scoring time, while students benefit from evaluating each other's work and receive valuable feedback.

Preparing an Evaluation Strategy

The first thing for planning an evaluation of student learning is to articulate learning outcomes that instructors expect students to achieve upon completion of their course. Having explicit learning objectives, and using them to guide evaluation, helps instructors and students focus their efforts and enables them to use their teaching and learning time more efficiently.

The linkage between learning objectives and evaluation can be built by using evaluation methods that match the cognitive levels and the topics defined by the learning objectives.

Most evaluation methods can measure a wide spectrum of cognitive levels across various disciplines. Some do a better job in measuring high-level thinking skills, and some are more appropriate in one discipline than in another. Their pros and cons have to be weighed in the process of selection

Testing or Surveying

Both tests and surveys can provide you with powerful features to create assessments quickly and easily.

Available question types include:

  • multiple choice
  • matching
  • ranking
  • fill in the blank
  • essay
  • ...and many more!

After exams and surveys have been created, they may be delivered via the Internet, or published directly to Blackboard. Flexible delivery options give you full control of the test and survey process. You decide the period of availability, the number of attempts, time limit, and whether access is protected. Student responses are (in most cases) processed automatically, and reports generate immediate feedback.

Most test and survey tools are Web-based. All you need is your Web browser.



Tests or Surveys


Eligible Users






Maple TA















If you still want to use paper and pencil, use the exam scanning services provided by the Opscan Test Scoring Office to make the process less burdensome and more efficient.