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Instructional Support

Outreach Credit Programs

Best Practices - Exams

Examinations are a fundamental form of assessment, but pose particular challenges in distance education. Outreach Credit Programs is committed to assisting faculty to ensure the greatest possible academic integrity in assessing students' achievement in courses delivered at a distance. A high standard of quality and integrity can be achieved through the exam design, a variety in types of assessment exercises, the protection of the exam from redistribution, and ultimately, the requirement of proctored exams where necessary.

UW Outreach School continues to explore technological, pedagogical, and policy strategies toward the goal of enhancing the security and integrity of student assessments.

Examination Support Services


Best Practices in Online Exams

Academic integrity in online exams can be enhanced by wise exam design and controlled management of the examination experience.

Best Practices

  1. Expect honesty. Through the syllabus, and elsewhere, communicate policies and obligations of academic honesty, and the consequences of dishonesty. Include reference to university regulation(s), and Student Code of Conduct
  2. Define dishonesty. Be clear in what is permitted and prohibited when taking an online exam, and the consequences of violations.
  3. Compose exams as open-book, open-notes. A prohibition on books and notes during an exam is easy to make, impossible to enforce. The temptation is too great for some students, who will have an unfair advantage over the scrupulously honest.
  4. Include questions beyond factual recall, e.g. problem solving, interpretation, application, or conclusions. 
  5. Create question pools from larger test banks, to create randomized presentations of questions for each student.
  6. Limit time, of the exam access period (days that students can access the exam), and of time in exam (permitted time to complete the exam).
  7. Schedule the gradebook release date - the date on which students can review the graded exam - after the end date of the exam access period. 
  8. Provide multiple formative and summative exams, tests, and quizzes throughout the term.
  9. Provide a diversity of assessments: exams, papers, projects, presentations, journals, etc. 
  10. Revise tests periodically. Ugh, what an effort, but the revisions only need to be enough to undermine sharing copies or memories of an exam. 

Combating Cheating:


Collaborative exam taking Limit time; randomize questions; review times students take exam; review exam statistics for common incorrect answers; written, application, or problem solving questions; proctoring
Prohibited materials (books, notes) Limit time; questions requiring conclusions, interpretation, problem solving, etc.; proctoring
Downloading or capturing exam for redistribution ExamGuard; question pools; withhold correct answers from graded exam
Unauthorized test takers Proctoring; course design incorporating multiple assessments 



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Hricko, M., & Howell, S. (2006). Online assessment and measurement: Foundations and challenges. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing.

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Krovitz, G.E. (2007). Ways to prevent cheating on online exams. Educator’s Voice, 8(6). Retrieved May 2, 2011, from

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Rohrer, E. (2006). Creating quality multiple choice questions. Educator’s Voice, 7(5). Retrieved January 30, 2008, from

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Waite, J. (2007). Weekly quizzing really works! Online software makes it easy. Tech Directions, 66(7), 16-21. 

Williams, J.B., Wong, A. (2009). The efficacy of final examinations: A comparative study of closed-book, invigilated exams and open-book, open-web exams. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(2), 227-236. 



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1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3274

Laramie, WY 82071

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