Select Page

When giving an exam, we want things to go smoothly. Oftentimes there are situations that arise that cause problems for both instructors and students. We have found that selecting force completion on exams and quizzes in Blackboard is one of those instances. So, what is force completion and why does it cause so many issues?

Check out the connection between this article and Academic Integrity in “So what is the ‘Best Practice’ for exam settings if I want to prevent academic integrity issues?”
Check out the connection with Academic Integrity!

So, what is force completion and why does it cause so many issues?
The description of force completion is a little misleading and unclear. This has caused some issues when instructors are selecting exam and quiz options.  Blackboard describes force completion in the following manner:
“Students must complete the assessment the first time it is launched if Force Completion is selected. Students may not exit the assessment and continue working on it at a later date. The Save function is available for students to save the assessment as they work through it, but they may not exit and re-enter the assessment. If you enable the Force Completion option, it is noted and explained to students at the top of the assessment. If you do not enable Force Completion, students may save their progress and complete the assessment at another time.”
In theory, that sounds good – if a student exits out of the test, they cannot go back in. They cannot, for instance, leave and check something on the internet, look at the questions and study some more, etc. This sounds like it would prevent academic integrity issues.
However, what this really means is that when you have that option checked, students must complete an exam in one session (i.e., a single launch of the exam). For example, if a student launches the test and works on it for sixty minutes, the student had one session.
But, in reality, this also means that if a student’s internet connection changes or there is a network problem, if the student closes their browser, the computer or browser crashes, or any other problem occurs after clicking “begin” on the exam, they would require a second session to continue the exam, which is not possible with force completion selected. This means that they lose access to the test and cannot complete it. The biggest culprit is unstable wireless connections. 
It is also worth noting that some wireless networks can be disrupted by a microwave oven! If someone is heating something, there could be network interference and the wireless network crashes. We see this in campus buildings around lunch time.
From the student’s perspective, the page will still be in their web browser, they see the exam and can continue to take it, BUT they will not be able to submit anything for a grade.
We do not recommend using Force Completion. Instead, we recommend that you set a timer and combine that with Respondus Lockdown Browser.
Can't I just allow “Multiple Attempts” which should solve the problem?
Multiple attempts is not an effective mediator to the force completion trouble. The problem is, although a student can re-start the exam, they must re-start from the beginning. So if a student got to the 14th of 15th essay questions and it force completed, they would get a second chance or attempt but this would NOT save their previous exam. And if the exam is timed, they likely would not have time to redo the entire exam. Multiple attempts are used to correct mistakes or for students to start fresh from the beginning. It will not allow them to pick up where they left off.
So what is the "Best Practice" for exam settings if I want to prevent academic integrity issues?
Academic Integrity Connection
The primary recommendation is to leave force completion unchecked. Instead, we recommend that you (1) set a timer and (2) combine that with Respondus Lockdown Browser.
  1. In the test options, go to the “Set Timer” option and specify how long you want them to be able to work on the exam. For example, if you have a 60 minute exam period, and will use the first 5 minutes to introduce the exam and get people started, you might set it to 55 minutes. This will ensure that they can not go back to the dorm afterwards and finish it. If you use the timer, you can also have Blackboard automatically submit the exam at the end of the timer. If you do not set a timer, then it is possible for students to continue to work past the 55 minutes. It is possible to see when they go over time in the access log in the exam information.
  2. If you set a timer and also use Respondus Lockdown Browser, this will prevent students from being able to access other material or looking at other places on the internet while in the exam. Respondus Lockdown Browser is an internet browser (like Chrome, Firefox, or Safari) that does not allow the student to access ANYTHING on their computer EXCEPT Blackboard. So if they have music running, have other browsers open (Chrome, etc), or word documents pulled up, it forces them to close those applications before they are able to access the exam. If a student leaves the exam early, they must type in a reason why.  You can then go into the Respondus tool and see who left the exam and returned to it later.


What if I have a CEA Student who requires extra time on an exam?
Some students require additional time to take an exam, such as CEA students and those with documented accommodations. It is easy to set exceptions to the timer and access in Blackboard in “Test Availability Options.” This allows you to allow individual students or a group of students to have extra time, different availability dates, a different number of attempts, etc.