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Timed online assessment tasks using the Moodle Quiz

Note: This article is part of the collection, Moodle Quiz.
Note: For specific guidance relating to the setup of UOW online exams, please reference the IMTS Knowledge Base Article  Recommended Quiz Settings for Online Exams in conjunction with this resource. 

Online assessment tasks are commonly made available to students at the beginning of a teaching session, and then have a due date and time to ensure that students are adhering to the time limit specified for the assessment task, as per the subject’s assessment schedule.

However the focus of this article is on implementing an online assessment task that requires a shorter and clearly defined start and stop time, usually within the same day. This type of online assessment task mirrors the time constraints of a face-to-face assessment task where the timeframe for the assessment task is usually no more than a few hours. The Moodle Quiz Activity is a useful tool for setting up a timed online assessment task, providing the functionality of a quiz-style of tasks (with numerous different question types). For further information on what question types are available in a Moodle Quiz and the educational use cases for each, please refer to the Moodle Quiz question types article.



Providing instructions to students

Providing students with clear and succinct instructions is key to a successful timed online assessment task. The instructions need to help students understand both on what they are being assessed (content) and against (criteria) and how to undertake the assessment (how to navigate the quiz activity).

Some key points to consider when providing instructions are:

  • Students should not use browser navigation to move between pages in the quiz; instead, they should click the Next page This helps to ensure that any answers to questions on that page are saved by the system before moving to the next page.
  • Students should click the Finish attempt… button on the final question page and the Submit all and finish button on the summary of attempt page to ensure that all answers provided are submitted.
  • Try to minimise circumstances where students may need to navigate away from the quiz in their browser once they have started. Accessing other files, websites, or Moodle resources during the quiz could result in a loss of entered text in written response fields. 
  • Suggest to students that they prepare handwritten notes, as copying and pasting answers into the text fields in the quiz can be problematic and may potentially result in students losing any text already entered in the field.
  • To preserve bandwidth and minimise the risk of losing data due to computer crashes or freezes, encourage students to turn off or disconnect any unnecessary devices on their home network, and additionally close down any applications running on their computer other than the browser software being used to access the quiz.
  • Where possible, provide students with a practice run in advance of the assessment task date and time; this helps students familiarise themselves with using the Moodle quiz activity in addition to subject content. Further information about this can be found in the article Providing online assessment practice opportunities.

A detailed version of these instructions for navigating the assessment task in the quiz activity could be communicated to students via the Announcements forum in Moodle, emailed to students' UOW email address, or via a message via SOLS at least two or three days before the assessment task.

A suitable place for a shortened version of these instructions is the Description field of the quiz activity. This will ensure that the instructions appear before the students attempt the quiz, and also at the top of every page within the quiz. To do this:

  1. Click on the name of the quiz activity or resource you have previously created.
  2. From the Actions menu, select Edit settings.
  3. Enter the instructions in the Description text box.
  4. Click the Save and display button. The instructions are now displayed above the Attempt quiz now button, and will be repeated at the top of every page in the quiz.
    Quiz Instructions Page

Quiz activity settings relevant for timed assessment tasks

Note: For general information on creating a quiz and setting it up, please refer to the Moodle Quiz article. This section will focus on settings relevant for timed assessment tasks, in particular:
  • Restricting access
  • Setting the quiz timing and grace period
  • Quiz pagination and navigation.

To access the settings page of your quiz activity:

  1. In your subject site, click on the name of the quiz to open it.
  2. From the Actions menu, select Edit settings .

Restricting access

If you have additional resources (such as data sets) that students will need to refer to during the timed assessment task, you can use the settings in the Restrict access section to control visibility of these resources. This allows you to pre-set the visibility options for these resources well in advance of the assessment task time.

Note: Avoid manually using the ‘Show/Hide’ functionality to control student visibility of any resources associated with the timed assessment task. This action can impact on system performance during times of high load.

To implement access restrictions:

  1. Expand the Restrict access section and click the Add restriction button.
  2. Click the Date button.
  3. Use the dropdown menus to set the required date and time. Moodle uses 24-hour time, and the two date-related options are:
    1. Make the resource available from a certain date and time
    2. Make the resource available until a certain time.
Note: The time zone will be set to Sydney time (Australian Eastern Standard (or Daylight) Time (AEST/AEDT)) by default. If your students are located in a different time zone, they can edit their user profile to show times in their own time zone.
  1. Adjust the access restriction type:
    1. If you would like the resource to be visible to students but greyed-out (not clickable), leave the eye icon as-is. This recommended setting allows students to see that there is a resource file associated with the assessment task, but it will not be clickable until the set date and time.
    2. If you would like the resource to be completely hidden from students, click the grey eye icon so that it changes to have a strike through it. The resource will still appear to teaching staff in your site, but not to students until the set date and time.

Setting the quiz timing and quiz behaviour when time expires

Set the open and close times for the quiz. Note that the quiz will be visible, but not clickable until the set date and time.

  1. Expand the Timing section and check each of the Enable checkboxes.
  2. Set the date and time that the quiz should open using the dropdown menus. Alternatively, click the Calendar icon to select a date.
  3. Set the date and time that the quiz should close using the dropdown menus. Alternatively, click the Calendar icon to select a date.
Note: It is good practice to set your close time for approximately 5-10 minutes later than what the time limit covers to account for students not starting their attempt of the quiz at the exact time that the quiz becomes available.

For example, if you have designed a quiz to have a duration of one hour:

  • Set your open time, e.g. 9:00
  • Set the time limit to one hour
  • Set the close time to one hour plus 5-10 minutes after the open time, e.g. 10:15.
  1. Set how long students have to complete the quiz once they begin by entering a value in the Time limit text box, selecting a unit of time from the dropdown menu and clicking the Enable checkbox.
  2. Decide what action the system should take when time expires on the quiz by selecting an option from the When time expires dropdown The options are:
    1. Open attempts are submitted automatically – this is the default and suitable for most timed assessment tasks.
    2. There is a grace period when open attempts can be submitted but no more questions answered – this will give students extra time to submit their open attempt within a certain timeframe, without giving them extra time to complete the questions. This option may provide an opportunity to deal with technical or connectivity issues should they arise.
      1. If you select this option, the Submission grace period field appears; click the Enable checkbox and specify a period of time during which students may still submit the open attempt after the time is up.
      2. Note that there has historically been some student confusion about the use of a grace period, so clear communication to the students about what it allows and the importance of clicking the Submit all and finish button on the final page of the quiz is vital.
    3. Attempts must be submitted before the time expires, or they are not counted – the attempt remains unsubmitted, and is therefore not available for marking.

Quiz pagination and navigation

For timed quizzes the recommendation is to split the quiz questions across multiple pages where possible. The reason for this is because if all quiz questions are displayed on one page and the student encounters a technical issue (e.g. an internet disconnect, computer problem, or there is an unforeseen Moodle issue), their responses may not have been saved. Each time a student clicks the Next page button in the quiz, it will save their responses from that page.

To set the pagination:

  1. Expand the Layout section and from the New page dropdown menu, select the number of questions you would like to display to students per page.

In the Layout section you can also set the navigation option which determines how students move through the quiz. For a timed quiz, the recommendation is to set the navigation method to free rather than sequential. This replicates the functionality of a traditional face-to-face timed assessment, where students can skip over questions to come back to later on, and supports student expectations of free navigation.

To set the navigation:

  1. Click Show more…
  2. From the Navigation method dropdown menu, select Free.
  3. Click the Save and display button.

Preview the quiz

For timed online assessment tasks it is important that you preview the quiz after you have created and set it up, to ensure that it is working as expected, that adequate instructions have been provided, and that questions and answers are displaying as expected. This is particularly important if you have imported questions, as if the import file is not formatted correctly, this can create problems with the questions and answers.

To preview the quiz:

  1. In your subject site, click on the name of the quiz to open it.
  2. From the Actions menu, select Preview.
  3. You can now navigate through the quiz. Note that if you see errors on a question, you can fix these by clicking the Edit question link.


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