Online Assessment - Staff Guides

"Guidelines for conducting Real Time Online Exams" – Guidance for Designing and Running Online Assessments

A handbook was created to assist staff in preparing for online assessment in summer 2020. We recommend that staff read through this guidance first then consult the guides below for the three main technologies being supported for online assessment in Hilary & Trinity terms 2021.

Recommended option: IT Services recommend where possible that staff new to online assessment use the Blackboard assignment tool as it has the simplest work flow of the 3 tools. Turnitin can also be used for assignments or take-home exams but is recommended in the current situation primarily for staff already familiar with its features. Effective online tests are very time-consuming to create, test, deploy and proctor so please convert your assessment to online assignments wherever possible - please see the handbook above for guidance on this.

Summary Tables

You can view a guide with tables that map the assessment options to the Blackboard tools and summarise the advantages and disadvantages of the three main tools; however we still recommend you read the full guidance document above before proceeding with a particular option.

Technology Guides


→ Blackboard Assignment Tool (click to expand)

The Blackboard assignment tool offers the simplest work flows and the widest range of accepted file formats for running online assessment. We recommend this tool where possible for staff new to online assessment or staff who need to support the upload of multiple files in different formats (e.g. images, scanned documents etc.)


→ Turnitin in Blackboard (click to expand)

The Turnitin assignment tool in Blackboard offers a wide similarity report database and a range of annotation tools for providing online feedback. However there is a degree of complexity to how it integrates into Blackboard. We therefore recommend staff use it in the current situation if they are already familiar with its features.

Student submissions: if your students are submitting via Turnitin in Blackboard, they DO NOT create a account. They should not submit to under any circumstances - instead they should submit via the relevant Blackboard module where you have created the Turnitin assignment and save the receipt once they have submitted.

→ Tests in Blackboard (click to expand)

The tests tool in Blackboard offers a wide array of options for creating online tests including different question types and question pools. Please see the detailed information on the considerations surrounding the tests tool in the Guidance for Designing and Running Online Assessments handbook as it is an advanced feature requiring significant planning and time to implement.


→ Managing Submission Issues (click to expand)

If a student has issues submitting we would advise them to contact the module instructor in the first instance. Please do not advise students to contact the IT Service Desk directly for issues such as resetting or deleting assessment attempts; this needs to be done by the module instructor(s) as they manage the assessment settings in a module.

We strongly recommend therefore that if there are submission issues due to account/access problems etc. with an individual student, please accept the submission via email as proof of submission until the issue is resolved. If an instructor cannot resolve the issue themselves, the instructor can contact us for advice via More details on managing assessment issues are available in the last pages of each of the handbooks above.


Student encounters an issue -> Student contacts the module instructor -> Instructor checks the details -> Instructor resolves the issue or provides alternative submission options -> Instructor cannot resolve the issue in Bb -> Instructor (rather than student) contacts for advice

→ Notice Regarding the Turnitin & Blackboard SafeAssign Similarity Reports (click to expand)

It is important to note that the similarity scores for Turnitin or Blackboard SafeAssign reports are not a measure of plagiarism within a piece of work but represent where there are similarities to other sources (journals, essays, books etc.). A submission with a high similarity score might be satisfactory once the bibliography, cover sheet etc. are accounted for whereas a submission could have a low score but could be heavily paraphrasing other sources without citation. Lecturers should advise their students not to focus on getting the similarity score below a certain percentage as there are many other dimensions to correctly citing sources. Example advice from the Turnitin website.

Similarity Reports typically generate after 15-30 minutes for first submissions but may take longer during peak assessment periods; resubmissions take 24 hours to generate and cannot be expedited. Therefore, for some assessment types with tight deadlines it may not be practical for students to see the score before the submission deadline so design your assessment with this in mind.

→ Information on How Students Can View Scripts in Blackboard

Each of the guides above for the respective technology (Blackboard assignments, Turnitin in Blackboard, and Blackboard Tests) covers how students can view their submission, grades and feedback once you make these available in your Blackboard module. Please see our page for students for examples from the student's perspective once you make these available. For queries regarding specific Blackboard workflows, please email us at .

→ Hiding Provisional Grades

Each of the guides above covers how to hide grades and feedback for a specific tool. You should also hide the Total Columns in the module's grade centre where required (via the down arrow at the top of the column -> Edit Column Information -> scroll to the bottom, Show this Column to Students: No and Submit) as grades from other columns feed into the total so students could work out their grade. Essentially, any column that needs to be hidden should show a circle with a line through it; however for some tools like Turnitin and Tests, you may also need to check their settings around when grades & feedback are released (see the guides above for full details). For queries regarding specific Blackboard workflows, please email us at .

Module Mark Entry & Progression Guides

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to common queries will be added based on queries received to IT Services; please check back here regularly for an updated list.

→ How to Password Protect Tests in Blackboard

To learn how to password protect a Blackboard Test while trialling it, please see the “Test Availability and Due Dates” (Section 2) of our tests guide.

To remove a password from a test, go back into Edit Test Options for the Test and untick the password checkbox field when required before the Test would begin to allow students to access the Test.

→ What is the academic honour code statement I can include in my assessment instructions?

Honour Declaration

I understand that by participating in this exam/assignment I agree to the following:

  • I am fit to undertake the exam/assignment
  • I acknowledge and accept that this assessment may be reviewed by anti-plagiarism software.

I declare that all work I submit is my own and has not been taken directly from the Internet or any other source. I have read and understand the College policy on plagiarism.

→ How to set Blackboard module content to be unavailable

You can hide/make unavailable specific module content before an online exam or assessment takes place if needed. Click the down arrow next to an item and select Hide Link (for items in the left-hand menu) or Make Unavailable (for items within a folder).

You can test that the content area is now hidden from the students enrolled in the module by using the Student Preview button which will show you how the student is viewing the module. Please see the quick guide on adding content to a Blackboard module for more details.

Note: you should not make the overall module unavailable if students are taking the test in the same module as the material.

→ Staff Module Enrolment

Academic or Admin staff who require enrolment onto modules within Blackboard to create or assist with online assessments can find specific information on how to go about this at our VLE enrolment page.

→ Guidance on how to setup the procedure for School staff supporting the exam to communicate with each other before, during and after the exam.

The specifics around what online technologies a school or department decide to use before, during and after an online exam or assignment is ultimately up to the School or department themselves.  

But there are some technologies available, such as Microsoft Teams app (part of the office 365 portfolio available to all staff with their TCD credentials) which allows team chat, screen share, video and Audio calls on a range of devices between school staff members. More information at .

Email, SMS text and Mobile Phone, WhatsApp: Standard email might also be used but doesn’t have the same real-time impact as an online chat facility. Standard work mobiles might also be used to reach out when immediate input from staff is required. WhatsApp might be used but sensitive college data/information would not be recommended over this medium.

→ How to access and try out the Online Exams Practice Module for students

IT Services have created a practice module for students to practice submitting attempts using these tools. Click on the link under Institutional Announcements after logging in to Blackboard to access this. More Detail at

→ Guidance on how Schools might communicate with students on the day of and during the exam

Ultimately, it is up to the academic department or school to decide on what electronic communications to use on the day of and during the exam.

Blackboard does allow instructors enrolled on the module to communicate messages to students using the Blackboard Announcements tool.

Schools and Departments should trial run their exams and fine tune how communications between the school, exam lecturers and students will take place as outlined in our staff guide hand books which can be found at

→ How to release the exam to students at the designated exam date and start time

Whether it is a 1.) Test quiz, 2.) a blackboard assignment or 3.) a Turnitin Assignment, you will find instructions to answer this specific question around setting a specific exam release date and time in the technology guide handbooks further up this page.

→ How to monitor the progress of student assessment submissions within Blackboard during the exam

Monitoring the progress of students during an online exam or during the time period students have to submit a Blackboard assignment or Blackboard Turnitin assignment is done via the Grade Center within Module Management section of the module. Specific advice on this is contained within the Section “Handling Submission Issues” in the handbooks further up this page.

→How to monitor, record and manage any technical issues as they arise during the online exam or assignment

Items to consider when trying to manage a range of students completing tests online or submitting Blackboard assignments or Blackboard Turnitin assignments are covered in the guide handbooks under section “Handling Submission Issues”

The School or Department must consider forms of electronic communications which will allow a student who requires assistance or clarification before, during and after the exam to be able to communicate with relevant staff in the school or dept. This may be by email to a specific address, etc, the school or department need to decide what is the most appropriate solution.

It must be remembered that students submitting assignments or online exams may experience technical issues in some cases and an approach should be in place to deal with those scenarios at school or department level.

→ How to close the exam at the allotted exam end time

You can set a due date for a Blackboard Test, Assignment or a Blackboard Turnitin assignment with a display after and until period of time in the case of a Blackboard Test to end the exam. How to do this is outlined in the handbooks above for the individual technologies used.

→ How to check the Gradebook in Blackboard to ensure that all attending students submitted

The School Admin or Instructor(s) who are enrolled on the specific module, can prepare a list of enrolled students who are sitting an online Blackboard Test, Assignment or Blackboard Turnitin Assignment to compare against the list of students who have completed. Check the individual handbooks above for more details on each technology.

→ How to create a Proforma Answer Book

The easiest way is to use Microsoft Word to create the Proforma Answer Book with the relevant paragraph topics that the students need to answer and space provided after each to allow the students to complete the answer book. An explanation of the different sections to the answer book and what question sections need to be answered and instructions about upload to specific assignment within the relevant module.

Students should regularly save as they type in their answers or have autosave turned on and working in Word to ensure that they don’t lose any written answers as they go along. Once the answer book is completed, the student then should upload their answer book to the relevant assignment section within Blackboard for that assessment.

If marking anonymously, you should also check that the template is not set to save identifiable information (via File -> Info -> Check for Issues -> Inspect Document -> Remove All for Document Properties and Personal Information). Save the template and check that under File -> Info it is not saving personal information such as Author and Last Modified By.

If other types of answer books are needed that require mathematical equations created in a different file type, careful consideration to how the student will be able to provide the content within the relevant answer book is important and whether this file type is accepted by Blackboard, see .

→ How to set up Blackboard Tests to auto submit once exam time is up

This topic is covered in the Section 2 “Setting the options in a Blackboard Test” of the tests handbook above. You will need to consider whether this fits with your test requirements however; see the handbook for more details.

→ How to setup Blackboard Assignments/Quizzes to remind students of the requirements before the exam starts.

You have options here either to use the announcements section of Blackboard to advise students of how the online Exam or Assignment is to be conducted. You can also add information to the Description fields within an assignment or Test which will be seen just before the student begins the assignment or test in Blackboard.

→ Is there information on the anonymous marking options for assignments and tests?

Please see the links below on the Blackboard & Turnitin websites. However, there are a number of considerations regarding anonymous marking depending on your workflow; for example, whether the submissions are graded directly through Blackboard or whether they need to be exported. For advice on the different options around anonymous marking please contact the Teaching & Learning IT team via

Blackboard Assignments - Anonymous Marking

(For Blackboard assignments, you will need to ensure that the anonymous assignment is included in Mark Centre Calculations (via Edit Column Information) before anonymous assignments display in the Needs Marking queue. You should also hide the Total column from students (via Edit Column Information) if entering provisional anonymous grades as scores from the assignment will feed into this total column. Please email if you need more advice on this process)

Blackboard Tests - Grading with Usernames Hidden (Partial Anonymity)

Turnitin Assignments - Anonymous Marking

Note: you cannot bulk download assignments/results for Turnitin if the submissions are still anonymised since the files would have information identifying the students.

→ I am having issues bulk downloading/exporting assignment files & results

There can be a few reasons for this:

For Blackboard assignments: if the files are very large (for example, containing a lot of images), you may not be able to download them all in one go. Instead, try downloading submissions in batches.

For Turnitin: if anonymous marking is enabled, the options to bulk export submissions/results will not be available as the results sheets etc. would contain identifying information. After the post date passes, results and feedback are released to students and the bulk export options will then in turn be made available.

→ How do I grant individual students extra time?

Blackboard Assignments: There is no specific setting to give additional time to some students; instead when a submission is uploaded after the Due Date it is marked as Late but it is up to the instructor to decide whether this affects the mark as there is no automatic deduction for late submissions.

Turnitin Assignments: There is no specific setting to give additional time to some students; instead when a submission is uploaded after the Due Date it is marked as Late (as long as you have allowed late submissions when creating the assignment). It is up to the instructor to decide whether this affects the mark as there is no automatic deduction of marks.

Blackboard Tests: If needed you can provide certain students with test availability exceptions under the Test Options; for example you could allow a particular student additional time to take a test.

More details on each of these options are available in the associated handbooks at the top of the page.