Randomizing and Differentiating Assessments in Blackboard

Exams worth 20% or more of the course grade which use the multiple choice and/or short answer (less than two sentence) format should be designed to foster an environment of academic integrity through differentiation. This may be addressed through the use of Blackboard tools such as Test Pools, randomization, and group differentiated assignments.

Types of Assessment and Differentiation

There are two main types of assessments which may include multiple choice and/or short answer questions: Tests and Assignments. Here is a brief overview of both including screenshots of what they look like deployed in a course.



Tests (Blackboard support overview of Tests creation) take place entirely within the Blackboard website. Tests using the multiple choice and/or short answer format may take advantage of the randomization feature in order to provide a unique assessment for each student with little to no extra work.



Assignments (Blackboard support overview of Assignment creation) allow students to submit a document in response to a prompt, such as a PDF containing multiple choice and/or short answer questions. In order to provide differentiated assessments using the Assignments assessment type instructors will need to create multiple versions of the Assignment and create groups of students to assign to different Assignments. We strongly recommend using the Test assessment type rather than Assignments for exams which use multiple choice and/or short answer.

How to Differentiate Assessments

This section will illustrate methods to provide differentiated assessments using the two tools outlined above.

Differentiating Tests

Tests offer multiple levels of differentiation and randomization, allowing you to create 'pools' or groups of questions which may be deployed in multiple tests, as well as the ability to randomize question and answer choice order.

Test Randomization Options

The order of questions can be randomized from the Test Options page, accessed either during deployment of the test, or from the deployed item's 'Edit Test Options' menu option.

To randomize questions select Randomize Questions under the TEST PRESENTATION section and press submit at the bottom of the page after making your changes/selections.


Building a Pool

  1. On the Control Panel, expand the Course Tools section and select Tests, Surveys, and Pools.
  2. On the Tests, Surveys, and Pools page, select Pools.
  3. On the Pools page, select Build Pool.
  4. Complete the Pool Information page and select Submit.
  5. To add questions, you can use Create Questions, Find Questions, and Upload Questions.

When you select Find Questions, you can choose from existing tests in your course and any tests you've imported from other courses.


Random Blocks

When you create a test, you can use random blocks to be sure each student receives a different version of the test. Random blocks draw questions from pools only.

  1. Access the test. From the Reuse Question menu, select Create Random Block.
  2. In the pop-up window, select the check boxes for one or more pools.
  3. Select the check box for at least one question type to include. All questions that meet the criteria appear.
  4. Select Submit. The Test Canvas appears and displays a success message. The random block of questions is added to the test.
  5. Select Number of Questions to display to access the pop-up box and type the number of questions you want students to see. Select Submit.
  6. Select Points per question to access the pop-up box. Type a point value. This point value is assigned to each question in the random block. You can't assign separate point values for individual questions in the same random block. So, you may want to only include questions of approximately the same difficulty.
  7. Select Preview questions that match selected criteria to expand or collapse the list of questions. You can view and edit individual questions.

Differentiating Assignments

Creating Assignments

To differentiate assignments you will need multiple deployed assignments, each with a different prompt/exam document. If you need more information about the process of creating an exam, please see creating assignments in Blackboard and the article Best practices in assignment creation. In order to create another version of an assignment for differentiation:

  1. Edit your prompt/exam document to create another version which has different questions
  2. Create a second version of the Assignment, ensuring all options are set to be identical to the original, uploading the differentiated version of the document to this one.

Group Creation

  1. Open the Groups item from the Users and Groups section of the Course Management toolbar.
  2. From the 'Create' menu, select the Random Enroll option under 'Group Set'.
  3. Under 'Group Information' set visibility to 'No'.
  4. Under 'Membership' select Number of Groups and set to the number of different versions of the assignment (usually 2) and Distribute the remaining members amongst the groups.
  5. Press submit, you will then see the resulting groups.

Group Management/Enrollment

Since the groups only enroll currently registered students on creation they will need to be re-populated each term once all students are in the course. 

  1. Open the Group Sets section of the Groups page.
  2. From the options menu for the exam group set, select Edit Group Set Membership.
  3. Select Randomize Enrollments and then Randomly enroll only student users from the menu this brings up, press Submit to randomize the enrollments, and then Submit again at the bottom of the page Group Set Enrollments page to save the group enrollments.


Using Adaptive Release to Assign per Group

The Advanced Adaptive Release tool will allow you to assign each group to a different Assignment, without allowing them to view the other group's version.

  1. Select the Adaptive Release: Advanced option from the options menu of the assignment.
  2. Select Create Rule, give it a name (ex: Group 1) and press Submit on the Add Rule page.
  3. From 'Create Criteria' select Membership.
  4. Select the group number that corresponds to the group specified in your rule name, press the right carat/arrow icon to move it to the selected items column, and then press Submit to save the rule criteria and OK on the next page.
  5. Repeat this process for the subsequent versions of the assignment and appropriate groups.