Assessing Students Online

This short guide introduces you to how to make the best use of Blackboard and other resources PolyU offers when subject assessment will be partially or fully switched to online mode. We hope that this guide can help you to find out the assessment format(s) that will work in your context and students, so that learning and teaching are not compromised if online is the preferred choice or during a time of class cancellation.

The ideas introduced in this guide mainly focus on PolyU’s Blackboard Learn and the software Respondus 4.0 which you can freely install on a home or office computer according to the campus-wide license.
What can I use to create online assessment tasks?

In a non-Blackboard environment, you can of course ask students to email you their work, if practicable, for online formative and/or summative assessment, or you can use spreadsheets to store and release grades to students. In Blackboard, however, you can use quite a number of tailor-made functions for almost every aspect of the assessment lifecycle, depending on the assessment tasks you think are appropriate for online delivery. We will focus on Assignment, Turnitin Assignment, Test, and Importing Questions offered by Respondus 4.0. These are most useful for creating online assessment tasks and are common enquiries from PolyU’s colleagues in this area.

How do these functions work?

The Assignment tool provides you an easy way to assess your student online. You can electronically give grades and feedback to students on an individual or a group basis, depending whether you set up this assessment task as an individual assignment or a group assignment. The Assignment tool has the Assignment Files area where you can attach files relating to your coursework in different formats (e.g. docx, pptx, pdf, jpg). Students can attach files in different formats for their assignment submission as well.

Turnitin Assignment

The Turnitin Assignment tool is another assessment function that integrates the plagiarism detection and prevention services of Turnitin into the Blackboard Assignment. You do not have to register for a Turnitin account to use the Turnitin Assignment tool but you do need to have a Blackboard course. You can get Originality Reports and Similarity Indices through using the Turnitin Assignment. Furthermore, it allows you to access GradeMark, a powerful feedback tool.


The Test tool provides you 17 question types in Blackboard Learn ranging from Multiple Choice Questions to Opinion Scale and Likert Questions to support you creating online quizzes and tests. The main difference between the Test tool and aforementioned assessment functions in Blackboard is that the Test tool needs to be ‘deployed’ to the Content Area you want to display to students. The Test tool also gives you more statistical information about your quizzes and tests and their effectiveness. If you want students to have individualized assessment tasks, you can personalize your quizzes and tests by setting up a random block of test questions.

Importing Questions offered by Respondus 4.0

Respondus 4.0 is a third-party tool for simplifying the creation and management of Blackboard-supported questions. If you are interested in using the aforementioned Test tool but are tired of creating Blackboard-supported questions one by one, Respondus 4.0 provides you a quick way of importing questions, for example, from Microsoft Word to the Blackboard-supported format. This saves a great deal of your time in publishing your existing questions to Blackboard for assessing students online.

What can I use to grade online assessment tasks?

Once you have created the online assessment tasks in Blackboard, you can use the functions available in Blackboard’s Grade Center to grade students’ work, to give feedback, to store students’ grades and more. Again, based on the common enquiries from PolyU’s colleagues in this area, we will focus on Grading Tasks, Rubrics and Viewing Grades by Students that hopefully will be most useful to you.

How do these functions work?
Grading Tasks

Grading in Blackboard can be done in several ways. A rule of thumb is that grades are given automatically when the assessment tasks (e.g. MCQ tests) can support automatic grading; whereas manual grading is required for other assessment tasks that cannot be graded automatically. You can go to the Needs Grading page to assign grades to assessment tasks or you can assign grades in Full Grade Center. No matter which way you manually grade students’ work, you can include feedback in the format of text, audio or video, as you deem appropriate for students.


Depending on the assessment requirements of your course, you perhaps need to use rubrics for grading. The Rubrics tool is the course tool that helps you define the level of achievement with respect to grading criteria for your assessment items. You can define the setting if you wish to display the rubrics to students before or after completing the assessment tasks.

Viewing Grades by Students

To complete the lifecycle of online assessment, the final thing you need to draw students’ attention to is how they can access their grades once you are ready to release them. The My Grade tool is the tool students use to see their grades. You cannot access it if you are logged in with your instructor account. To access as a student, you can try to search an email sent by “support, blackboard [ITS]” titled “Requested Blackboard subject web site has been created” to find out the student account for your course. If you cannot find that email, you can request your student account via ITS HOTS.


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