Online Exam Guide

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How do I use this guide?

This guide a quick resource for designing, building, and administering online exams. Each section includes links to additional resources.

Design your exam

Keep this question in mind when planning your assessments: What type of assessment would give learners the best opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned?

Decide if you will hold an exam

Assessments should be designed to give learners the best opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned. Exams are a common form of student assessment. At times, an alternative form of assessment might give students a better opportunity than a traditional exam to demonstrate what they have learned. For this reason, many instructors are using alternative forms of assessment to support and evaluate learning. Alternative forms of assessment may be particularly helpful in online courses where a traditional invigilated exam may not work in the same way as an in-person course.


Learn more about alternative forms of assessment. If you would like to talk about assessment options, contact LTSI to book a consultation.


Different exam formats

If an exam is the best way for students to demonstrate their learning, there are several online exam formats to consider:


  • Traditional Timed Exams: Students have a time limit to write the exam.
  • Flexible Start Time Exams: Students have a time limit to write the exam but can choose when they write their exam within a given window, such as a week.
  • Open Book (Same day or Multi-Day): Students have a larger amount of time to write an exam and can use specified materials. For example, an open book exam can last 24 hours to 1 week.

Learn more about different types of online exams and their relative advantages.


Note: Instructors should maintain the form of assessment indicated in their course syllabus, and as reflected in the exam schedule.

Design for accessibility

From the beginning, design your exam using principles of universal design for learning (UDL). Learn more about Universal Design for Learning. Students bring diverse understandings and different lived experiences to your assessment. Using UDL when designing your assessment can save time, create flexibility, and can support higher quality learning of your course content.


Exams created with accessibility in mind can help you meet the needs of many diverse learners. As you develop your exam, think about the technical requirements for those who use assistive technology (e.g., webpage code that is easily read by screen readers), as well as user interactions and visual design (e.g., font size, contrast, and instructions). Learn more about creating accessible course content.


In situations where accommodations are required, plan in advance how you can address accommodations. Learn more about supporting students with accommodations during Brightspace exams.


Contact if you have questions about improving the accessibility of your assessments or to access supports for setting up accommodations in Brightspace. You will be connected with a Learning Experience Designer who can provide guidance and support in designing accessible online learning activities and assessments.


Keep this question in mind when choosing your assessments:

What type of assessment would give learners the best opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned?

Academic Accommodations

Academic accommodations still apply in online exams. Here are a few things to consider in order to meet these requirements.

Review students' letters of accommodation

Instructors can find students’ letters of accommodation by logging into the Center for Acessible Learning Online Instructor Services (CAL). CAL recommends students release their letters prior to an exam, with enough time for instructors to plan for the accommodation(s) and communicate with the student how the accommodation(s) will be applied.  

Please work with students to determine how their accommodations apply to your assessments. Questions about specific accommodations should be directed to the CAL Advisor appearing on a Letter of Accommodation. Alternatively, contact 

If a student provides little or no notice about an accommodation, it may not be possible for you to support it in time for the upcoming exam. Students are advised of this possibility by the CAL. In this event, you can also reach out to and we will do our best to provide urgent assitance.  If possible, you can also set up short-term time extensions following these steps prior to the exam start time.

Set up academic accommodations in Brightspace

If your exam is an online synchronous, timed exam in Brightspace, you can set up appropriate access and submission times for students. 

Additional resources:

Inform students their accommodations have been addressed

In the days leading up to your exam communicate with students who have accommodations. 

  1. Reassure students that their accommodations have been addressed in the exam and / or that their additional time has been added.  
  2. Let students know how they can confirm for themselves that their accommodation has been applied. 
  3. Ask students to contact you immediately if they believe their accommodation has not been addressed. 

Tips for accommodations in unidirectional exams

Uni-directional exams refer to online exams in which students are required to proceed in sequence from first to last question and are not able to navigate between questions. This page provides recommendations for uni-directional exams, including how to effectively provide accommodations when required.

Support Academic Integrity

Consider the different ways to support academic integrity in online exams

Support academic integrity

Take some time to review UVic’s Academic Integrity Framework which provides an overview of the factors that impact academic integrity.


As you prepare your exam, these resource might be helpful:

Consider if invigilation is required

Depending on the format of your exam, you may wish to consider whether invigilation will contribute to a better assessment experience. Learn about approaches and tools for online exam invigilation, including LockDown Browser and Zoom in the Online Exam Invigilation Guide


New Support! The Online Assessment Room (OAR) is a bookable Zoom invigilation service for online exams where students are unable to attend their regular class / exam time. The OAR can be booked for students who require an alternative arrangement to accommodate extended time, a distraction-reduced environment, time zone, illness, etc. Instructors teaching both in-person and online courses can book the OAR for students provided that assessments can be administered online (e.g. Brightspace, Crowdmark, Word document). Time permitting, LTSI can assist in transitioning a paper-based exam to online equivalent.


Set up your online exam

There are many different ways to give an exam online. In Brightspace, instructors often use the Quiz tool or the Assignments tool. Crowdmark can be used for submission of hand-written work (now with auto-graded multiple choice).  Learn more about these tools and exam invigilation options below.

Review our ‘step by step’ guides (with recommended settings)

Brightspace Quiz

Timed and flexible start time quizzes containing different types of questions from multiple choice to long answer.

Brightspace Assignment

Best for open-book assignments that allow students to submit text responses or files.


Remote assessments allow submission of scans or images of written work, documents and mutliple-choice.

Review and test your exam

Always carefully review and test your exam. In Brightspace, you can see what your students will see by previewing your quiz or completing it while impersonating the demo student. Check whether everything is in order, such as questions and answers, question pools, submission views, and more.

Communicate with students

Whichever format you choose, ensure that you clearly communicate processes and expectations to students by sending them an email, creating an Announcement in Brightspace, adding a slide to your Zoom lecture, or creating a post in MS Teams.


Set up a practice exam

If you opt for a timed or flexibly timed exam, consider offering your students an ungraded practice exam to reduce exam anxiety. In addition to the usual exam stress, students (and you) might be anxious about how the exam will work in Brightspace. Setting up a zero-stakes practice exam allows you to set the requirements as you would a real exam, get feedback on any issues experiences by the students, and give them a sense of what to expect. It is an anxiety-reducer for everyone. Contact for help setting up a practice exam.

Sample exam communications for students

Review sample communications for different types of online exams (timed exams, flexible start time exams, open book).

Be sure to tell students:

  • when they will take the exam (time, date, and duration)
  • the format of the exam (timed, flexible, same-day, or multiple-day)
  • where they can find the exam in Brightspace 
  • which materials they can and cannot use during the exam
  • if you will be available to answer questions during the exam and how they can reach you,
  • what to do in case of a technical problem or unexpected interruption
  • any other specific instructions for the exam including how to submit
  • any procedures / penalties for late submissions
  • about the UVic Academic Integrity Policy (and provide a link)
  • if you will hold an ungraded practice exam

Have a contingency plan

Technical difficulties are always a possibility, even with multi-day, open book exams. It is important to have a back-up plan in case this happens, particularly if you have chosen to give students a timed exam taking place at a specific time.

Note: in the situation where most or all students are unable to write or complete an exam due to technical difficulty, it’s recommended to inform the chair of your department as soon as possible.


General tips for all exam types:

  • Tell students in advance how you will communicate with them during the exam & how they can communicate with you. For example, will you open a Zoom room for questions? Do you want them to email or call you?
  • Post a Brightspace Announcement if something goes wrong with the exam (e.g, if there is a delay with starting the exam, etc.)
  • Provide students with contact information for technology support during the exam: Computer Help Desk for Students
  • You can reach out to LTSI for live support during exams at LTSI Support for Instructors

Quick solutions:

Below are some quick solutions for technical issues that may be encountered during any kind of exam.

Students can't find the exam


  • Check the start date/time and end date/time for your exam (under restrictions > availability)
  • Check if your exam is hidden / visible (under restrictions > hide from users)
  • Email students or post a Brightspace Announcement explaining where to find the exam. For example, if you are using the Quiz Tool, give students these instructions “Click on Course Tools in the blue navigation bar and click on Quizzes. Find the quiz named “NAME OF EXAM” and click to enter the exam


Student temporarily loses access to the exam

Power outages, internet connectivity issues, computer/browser crashes can happen. Follow the steps below to help a student regain access (if possible) during the exam.

  • In advance, tell students to contact you as soon as possible if they experience and interruption. Also, ask them to contact the Computer Help Desk  if they experience an error or technical issue that needs to be resolved. Note: Some students might be able to email immediately using a smartphone and data, but others might need to wait until their internet is back online.
  • Let the student back into exam. Students will not be able to re-enter an exam if the end time/date for the entry window has passed. There are two options for re-admitting students
    • Delete the end time and date. Even after the exam is underway, this will allow any student who loses access to re-enter the exam.
    • Provide special access. If it is important to you that you manage re-entry to the exam, you can leave the end time/date setting for the exam and create special access for an individual student. Once students start a timed quiz, their time continues to count down even if they are not active in the quiz. Special access will allow you to provde extra time to account for time lost.

    Students unexpectedly cannot complete the exam

    This issue might arise if the student experiences an unexpected interruption that lasts for the duration of the exam.

    Your options include:

    • Allow the student to complete the exam at another time. Give the student an additional attempt on the quiz using special access. Set the availability to a time that works with the student’s schedule.
    • Allow the student to complete the exam as a flexible start time exam. Give the student an additional attempt on the quiz using special access. Set the availability to a time and date that works with the student’s schedule.
    • Ask students to submit their work via email. If technology is not working, be prepared with an alternative. For example, have a PDF copy of th exam and ask students to submit via email. Altenratively, provide students with a word document and ask students to add their answers (e.g. in text, images/scans, or other format) in an assignment drop box. 
    • Provide the student with an alternative assessment. For example, multi-day essay, presentation, or oral exam.

    Contact your LTSI Faculty support team to discuss options for your exam ( ).

    NOTE: If multiple students experience exam failures, it’s recommended to contact the chair of your department.  

    About this post

    This post was last updated:

    September 25, 2020

    We acknowledge and respect the Lək̓ʷəŋən (Songhees and Esquimalt) Peoples on whose territory the university stands, and the Lək̓ʷəŋən and W̱SÁNEĆ Peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.

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