During my recent Blackboard Basics class on tests in Blackboard I heard a lot about how long it takes to create test questions. Professors shared their frustration about the time lag between clicking on an option (say, adding a unmatched answer to a matching question) and the Blackboard screens reloading. The class agreed that it took two or three minutes a question. That doesn’t sound unreasonable, until you realize that a test can have fifty or a hundred questions, which translated into three to five hours creating test questions.
Thankfully there’s a much faster way to create test questions in Blackboard — by uploading a text file of questions directly to the test. While the steps involved can seem a little tricky at first, the reward of creating one hundred questions in under three minutes is worth it.
1. Create a New File, Preferably with Excel
The process begins by creating a tab delimited text file. There are many ways to go about this, you could type in MSWord, hitting the tab key between sections, then saving as a text file or work directly in Notepad or Textpad. I find the easiest way is to work in MS Excel, where the columns provide clear guidance on where the tab should fall.
2. Insert a Column for Question Type
Start the spreadsheet with a column for the question type indicator. These codes tell Blackboard what type of question to expect on that row. The indicators are fairly logical: MC for multiple choice, TF for true/false, and ESS for essay. A complete list of all the codes can be found on this Blackboard help page.
3. Insert Columns for Test Questions and Answers
In the column after that type your test question. The next column begins the answer. These are coded differently for the different question types. Going back to the examples above, multiple choice (i.e. “MC” in Blackboard code) questions are entered followed by a column for correct or incorrect. True/False (“TF”) questions are followed by the word “TRUE” or “FALSE.” Essay questions (“ESS”) don’t require an answer at all.
Here’s an example of how your final spreadsheet should look:
4. Save as a Text (.txt) File
When you’ve finished entering all the questions, save the file as a text file. The option to look for in the “Save as type” box is “Text (Tab delimited) *.txt”. When you select this choice MS Excel will warn you that the features of a text file are different from those of an Excel file. Ignore that warning and save the file.
When you open your newly saved .txt file in Textpad or Notepad, it will look like this:
5. Upload Your Text File to Blackboard
Now it’s time to go to Blackboard and upload that file. Here are the steps:
- Log in to Blackboard
- Go to your course
- Go to “Course Tools”
- Click “Tests, Surveys, and Pools”
- Click “Tests”
- Click on the name of the test to access the drop-down menu
- Click “Edit test”
- Click “Upload Questions”
- Click “Browse” and select the text file of questions
- Click “Submit”
Depending on the size of your text file you might see a slight delay of less than a minute while the questions are uploaded. When it is done, you’ll see a message at the top of you saying the questions were added, and they’ll appear in the Test Canvas. At that point the questions can be edited or changed the same way you would edit or change any other test question.
Once you get the hang of it, creating test questions this way is much faster and easier than entering them one at a time. Even better, the question files on your desktop can be uploaded to multiple classes and reused as often as you’d like.