Teaching & Learning

Best Practices for Online Quizzes

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Moving from paper-and-pencil quizzes to online quizzes brings many benefits to students, instructors, and the institution. However, instructors may be concerned about offering online exams for fears of test security, especially for high-stakes quizzes. Some fear a scenario in which students are no longer using the information provided by the instructor to enhance their learning but rather online sources, such as Quizlet, to achieve the high marks they desire. An Inside Higher Education article (McKenzie, 2018) quoted a student’s tweet, “Today I graduated and I couldn’t have done it without God and Quizlet.” In this post, we will talk about some strategies that can be used to enhance quiz security.

Read “Dos and Don’ts of Quiz Creation”

FOCUS published a blog post for best practices for quiz creation. It talks about how to ensure effective assessments of student mastery in course learning objectives via quizzes. Refer back to that post for suggestions about creating effective quizzes.

Use publisher test banks (PTBs) carefully

Creating your own questions is time-consuming. Using PTBs sounds like a good idea. However, research (Cheng & Crumbley, 2017) indicates that students may use PTBs as well, and student use of PTBs can impair fair evaluations of student performance. Therefore, it is better to develop course-specific question banks instead of overusing PTBs. Or, at least do some adaptations.

Update your question banks periodically

Even if you develop questions for the course, it is still possible that students may share the questions via learning tools, such as Quizlet and CourseHero. As discussed in the article mentioned at the beginning of this post, using these learning tools is a controversial issue in higher education. One strategy is to add new questions to existing test banks every time you teach the course so that every semester you will have an updated question pool. It will reduce the chances that students will have the exact same questions from past courses.

Randomize questions and shuffle the order of answers

Use the question banks in Canvas to randomly pull subsets of questions from multiple question banks. Thus, every student will have a different set of questions in the same quiz. At the same time, you can shuffle the order of answers to make it harder to memorize the questions. When you enable shuffle answers, make sure you adjust answers like “All of the above” or “None of the above.”

Use quiz settings to maximize security in Canvas 

The Canvas quiz tool provides some settings to enhance quiz security, such as question groups, time limit, availability, access code, IP addresses filter, question navigation, and LockDown browsers. Check out Canvas’ article “Quiz Settings to Maximize Security” and their webinar “Feel Secure about Your Relationship with Quizzes” on how to use quiz settings to maximize security. 

Use project-based assessments as an alternative to exams

While you are making your online quizzes more secure, we also suggest using project-based assessments as an alternative to exams. By using project-based assessments, students will have the opportunity to apply their learning in real cases instead of putting the effort into studying for the exams. As always, if you need assistance to implement online quizzes or come up with some ideas on project-based assignments, you can always contact the CTL for help.


Cheng, C. & Crumbley, D. L. (2017). Student and professor use of publisher test banks and implications for fair play. Journal of Accounting Education. 42, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaccedu.2017.12.001 

McKenzie, L. (2018). Learning tool or cheating aid? Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/05/14/professors-warned-about-popular-learning-tool-used-students-cheat

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