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How Do Online Exams Work?

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Posted on October 3, 2018

In any class, from elementary school all the way through post-graduate work, exams are an important part of the curriculum. When it comes to taking online courses, though, administering exams can be tricky.

In traditional, in-person courses, instructors can administer exams in a controlled environment to ensure the integrity of the results. When students are located all over the world in an online class, ensuring that integrity can become more difficult.

How do online exams work? In the past, many online programs have conducted open-book exams with the understanding that students would use all the resources available to them. Educational researchers have found, though, that open-book exams aren’t necessarily beneficial to students .

With that in mind, instructors at a growing number of schools, including here at Columbia Southern University, ensure the integrity of their online exams by using exam proctoring services.

What is an Exam Proctor?

Exam proctors ensure that students don’t use unapproved resources or fail to comply with other standards, such as talking with others. Before any exam, students typically must get approval from their university to use a specific proctor, and proctors must be credentialed.

One option is to take a course with an independent proctor, typically at a local testing center. In some cases, you may be able to take the exam at a local community college or other location with the supervision of a proctor. The proctor will examine your identification, supervise the test and submit certification that you adhered to the standards of academic integrity.

Another option is to take the test using an online service like  Remote Proctor Now , which is an online, third-party proctoring service that monitors test-takers via webcam. There is typically a per-exam fee for this kind of service, and you will need to have access to a computer with a webcam, audio and high-speed internet, as well as the ability to download and install the necessary software. When using an online proctor, you’ll need to show your identification and set up your workspace so that the proctor can see you and anything going on around you.

In-Person vs. Online Proctors

Both in-person and online proctoring options have their pros and cons, and fees for these services can vary according to location and how long the test will take. Here are some of the common advantages and disadvantages for these options.

In-Person Proctor Pros and Cons

  • By taking the test in a neutral location, you are likely to have fewer distractions.
  • The chances of a red flag showing up on your testing report are limited.
  • You are responsible for finding a suitable proctor and testing space. 
  • You are also responsible for setting up a specific time to take your exam.

Online Proctor Pros and Cons

  • You can take the test at any time and on your own computer, provided it meets the necessary requirements.
  • Taking the test from the privacy of your own home can help you feel more comfortable and reduce test anxiety.
  • You don’t have to spend time and money trying to find an appropriate proctor or testing location.
  • Minor disturbances — a pet or child walking through the room or background noise — can cause your exam to be flagged, leading to scoring delays or other issues.
  • You may have to do some rearranging of your workspace to meet the requirements, and the recording of your test session will show your home.

As online learning continues to grow  in higher education, online exam proctoring is going to continue to become more advanced and widely used. Many students are discovering that online proctoring is an attractive option when they need to take an exam for an online class.

CSU is proud to be on the leading edge of this trend, ensuring that not only is the academic integrity of the coursework maintained, but that students are getting as much as they can from their classes .

For more information about CSU’s online degree programs, visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu .

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Online university exam tips for students: How do online exams work?👩‍💻

Suffering with online exam stress and looking for online exam tips? Wondering what is an onlin exam and how do they work?

As university and life adapts to the pandemic, online exams have replaced the normal in person exams.

Whilst online exams may seem more stressful, having to rely on technology, and having to sit an exam from your own home, when prepared for in the right they can be straight-forward and can create a more calming environment than regular exams.

Here’s our complete online exam guide, with online exam guidelines and online exam help for students:

If you’d like to write for our student and graduate blog programme and gain valuable copywriting experience, get in touch below:

What is an online exam?

An online examination is a test taken online by a candidate in order for the examiner to measure the level of knowledge of the participants on a specific topic. This is done by using an online exam platform which candidates can take remotely. The majority of online examinations include answers processing modules, which enable the markers to issue results and grades only moments after the candidates complete the test. This fully automated examination system enables the examiner to present the final results in a much faster and more efficient manner. When taking an online examination, the candidates are required to answer the questions in a pre-decided timeframe. The test window collapses as soon as the online examination comes to an end, and institutions receive real-time reports. The markers first assess the answers and then grade accordingly if it is a multiple choice answer online examination. However, for the online examinations which consist of long-answer type questions where results are not automated, the markers assess the essay answers and then grade accordingly. The final results and grades of the online examinations are then put together and sent to the candidates either by e-mail or on the specific institutions’ website where the original online examination was taken.

How do online exams work?

Online examinations work by having the examiners setting up the online testing environment and uploading the question sets onto a specific online website where the online exam is set to be taking place. On this same platform, the bulk information about the candidates taking the online exam is uploaded, as well as selecting specific time slots, and then sending the online exam link to the candidates through follow up e-mails confirming all of these details. Although it may vary depending on the institutions where the online exams are being taken, generally the candidates need to use this specific link to login and go through a three-step authentication which will then enable them to take their online exam. Online exams are normally recorded and can be heavily supervised for important final years examinations through the use of an artificial intelligence-based invigilator or a traditional online human invigilator. After the candidates submit their answers, their online exams are auto-evaluated to generate a real-time report. The final results and grades can then be customised and shared in PDF or HTML formats to the candidates. After that, an in-depth group level analysis of the overall online examinations can be done and customised as required by the examiners.

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How to prepare for online exams?

1. make sure to go over the online exam guidelines.

To prepare for an online examination, it is mandatory that you read and fully understand the related guidelines. Make sure that you know when the online exam will be taking place, whether during a previously set and agreed specific date and time, or whether the online exam can be taken at any point within a limited time window. Make sure you also know how much time you are given to complete the online exam; and where you are expected to be taking the online exams. For instance in your home, or at another specific location, such as a campus computer lab, and pay attention to any other possible important information that is given by the examiner regarding a specific online exam’s structure. Procrastinating getting in the way of your exam revision? We’ve put together our top tips for  how to stop procrastinating  and focus on tasks better.

2. Know the format of the exam paper

Be informed about the format of the online exam that you are taking, such as what type of questions is the examiner using in the online exam, for example, multiple-choice, fill-in, short answer and/or long answer essay questions or a combination of different types of questions. If the examiner provides the candidates with a practice exam available, make sure you take it and use it to practice for the real online exam.

3. Double-check your technology

Regardless of where you are taking the online exam, whether at home or in a designed computer lab, make sure that you check, as early as possible before you take your online exam, the working status of your computer/laptop to avoid any sudden last-minute issues. Make sure you have all the correct software and hardware, and ensuring that the internet connection and/or Wi-Fi, where you are taking the online exam, is working fast enough without suffering any stuttering or sudden interruptions. It is extremely important that you study the materials given by the examiners during the classroom’s lectures. Even if it is an open book online exam, it is still essential to study and revise so that you know where to find the relevant information without wasting precious time looking through the books in order to find it.

4. Practice online papers

When preparing for the online exam, make sure that you plan your time as a candidate. When you practice your timing skills during a practice online exam, limit the time to the one that is allocated in your actual exam. Do this to determine how much time you will dedicate to each question, for example, if your online exam is one hour long and it is composed of sixty questions, then you will ideally have to spend no more than a minute per question at the most. However, depending on the institutions, you may be allowed to skip a difficult question, and come back to it before the end of the online exam, to avoid wasting precious time completing a difficult question and ending up missing out on answering the later questions. There are some great apps available to help with your revision and practice example questions, we’ve put together out guide to the top  7 apps every student needs during exams .

5. Find an appropriate setting to sit your exam

It is extremely important that when taking the online exam, you are situated in a quiet area of your home, for example your own bedroom or your personal study room. Make sure that you turn off (or set on silence) any notifications from your personal mobile devices, such as your mobile phone or tablet, and switch off completely the television and radio. Inform your room mates, flat mates, and/or family members that you will be taking an online exam and that it is essential that they do not make any noise or cause any distractions that may make it difficult for you to concentrate and focus solely on taking your exam. Depending on when the online exam has been set, decide when it is best for you to take it. You may be required to complete the online exam at a specific time; however, if the online exam can be completed within a limited time frame (such as if it is available for several hours and/or even for a few days), you should choose a particular time that is ideal in terms of suffering from only a minimal risk of distractions, interruptions and/or stress. Exams can bring huge amounts of stress and worry, so it’s important to make sure you’re finding the time to relax and are looking after your mental health. Visit our blog for helpful tips on  how to look after your mental health at University .

6. Gather the important material you need before the exam

Be very organised before taking the online exam, by gathering all the materials that you are allowed to use when taking it, such as personal notes, books, and/or written key information with you ready to use them when you need them. It’s also important to make sure you’re energised and fuelled for your exam by eating the right foods beforehand. If you’re wondering what are the best foods to eat, check out our blog on the  top brain foods for students . Make sure that you are relaxed, concentrated and focused when you have logged into the online exam, ready to complete it within the set limited amount of time.

Online exams can seem daunting at first, but when prepared for in the right ways they can be less stressful than in-person exams, and easier to focus with less distractions around.

If you’re feeling apprehensive about an upcoming university exam, make sure to implement our above exam tips to prepare in the best ways and calm nerves.


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Online examinations: Everything you need to know about going digital

Examination and Proctoring | 10 Min Read

Online examinations: Everything you need to know about going digital

Table of contents.

Online examination, also known as e-examination, enables examiners to conduct exams using the internet or a company-wide intranet for remote candidates. It requires candidates to answer questions within a pre-decided timeframe. The test window collapses once the exam is over, and institutes get real-time reports. Evaluators then assess the answers and grade accordingly. The fully automated system supports objective evaluation and helps generate results faster than in a traditional exam format.

Most online exams include answer processing modules, allowing evaluators to issue results moments after the candidates complete the test. However, evaluators assess the answers in-person for long-answer-type questions where results are not automated. The result of online exams is then conveyed to the candidates via email or published on the institute’s website.

Online Examination Tests_image 1

Types of online exams

With advanced proctoring and custom exam solutions, it is now possible to host a variety of exams using the online mode. A few of the prominent online exam types include:

  • Semester and entrance exams for educational ins
  • Coding/programming assessments
  • Aptitude tests and personality profiling
  • Video interviews and viva
  • Mock practice tests
  • Image-based or media-based online exams
  • Open-book tests
  • Competitive exams and contests

The digital revolution in the education space: How technology is transforming the global exam landscape

The advent of technology has steadily digitized all services and offerings, taking them to the online platform, and education has been no exception. With the ubiquitous high-speed internet and laptops, the pervasiveness of technology has enabled a seamless transition to the online ecosystem.

Universities, schools and various educational institutions have progressed and adapted to Learning Management Systems (LMSs), where software applications track, report, administer and document materials that are shared with students. This teaching and evaluation system facilitates a balanced approach toward imparting knowledge and easy grading of the candidates.

Online exams aim to ensure that assessment givers can undertake the paradigm shift from offline to online processes. The online exam software industry is snowballing, and factors such as convenience, scalability, increased reach, and customization are shaping its adoption. Hence, established evaluation techniques are now nearing saturation and will soon become obsolete. In the following section, we discuss the extent of the spread of online exams in the education sector.

The need for computer-based tests

“Computer-based test” is an umbrella term covering any test given and taken using computers, with or without using the internet. Therefore, online exams are a subset of computer-based tests (CBTs). The benefits of CBTs include:

  • Convenience
  • Adaptive testing with varying difficulty levels
  • High integrity
  • Scalability
  • Auto-grading features
  • Inclusivity
  • Time and energy savings

CBTs are helpful for academic assessment and conducting certification programs.

Using Artificial Intelligence to improve the online test experience

AI’s (Artificial Intelligence) infusion in the education ecosystem has revolutionized higher education. Universities have wholeheartedly embraced the change as AI-based exam technology enables them to:

      a. Advance their curriculum

      b. Offer students greater flexibility in taking exams

      c. Improve the examination experience for both evaluators and test-takers

AI-based exams, also known as AI-proctored tests, eliminate the need for deploying onsite invigilators and provide a cheating-free environment. The AI proctoring software monitors the live feed through the candidate’s webcam and flags or reports any suspicious movement during the exam. Furthermore, AI-based exams make it easy to monitor many candidates simultaneously.

AI-based exam software also equips institutions with advanced solutions like:

  • Image/facial recognition
  • Voice recognition
  • Cheating-prevention measures
  • Advanced proctoring
  • Browser security and lockdown
  • Session reviews

Adopting online exams

The education sector has steadily realized the need to shift to the online ecosystem. The success stories of renowned institutions such as the Indian School of Business and Howard University further underline the importance of online examinations .

We’re being forced to live with a system that we’ve had for more than a century. That’s not necessary. It’s expensive, and it’s subject to all sorts of variables, not the least human failure. That whole system is just out of step with technology, and I think it’ll be consigned to history soon.

David hanson, chief executive of iaps (the independent association of prep schools, uk), on traditional assessments, benefits of conducting online tests.

Benefits of conducting online tests

Reduced logistical hassle

Online exams help overcome the challenge of setting up physical test centers, minimizing resource requirements – time, cost of setting up, and the need for human proctors – speeding up the examination process. Online exams accelerate the admission process in universities, where applications can be screened with minimal resources. The idea of conducting semester exams and various assessments online lends ease and seamlessness to the entire process.

how do online university exams work

Accessibility to remote locations

Online exams have broken geographical barriers and enabled wider reach and participation. Global assessment solutions train universities and education sectors, allowing them to efficiently conduct assessments. In addition, institutions and students can enjoy incredible accessibility and reach with only an internet connection and devices.

Online Examination Tests_image 2

High scalability

Online exams can cater to a broad audience and easily manage vast content. Considering this feature, educational institutions facing a scarcity of time would find it highly convenient to conduct examinations with the least bandwidth wastage. Merely a computer with an active connection and a webcam to take tests makes this possible.

how do online university exams work

Multiple question types

Online exams range from MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions), fill-in-the-blanks, checkboxes to short answers, long answers (that need to be evaluated by the teacher separately), coding simulators, case studies, etc. In addition, online examination platforms support a host of knowledge and application-based questions, enabling examiners to prepare a questionnaire with multiple question types.

how do online university exams work

Exhaustive skill and question banks

Advanced online examination test platforms have an exhaustive library of competencies and sub-competencies, carefully mapped to relevant questions. For ease of use, examiners can choose the relevant skills they wish to test via the exam to frame the questionnaire. This saves examiners’ time and effort.

how do online university exams work

Auto-graded reports

Automated reports do away with human intervention and save notable working hours. A report is a comprehensive approach to a candidate’s performance, with a question-wise and section-wise summary of the attempt, time taken and the difficulty level. Detailed reports are also helpful for students seeking career guidance. With the reports, they better understand their competencies.

Why choose online exams over traditional pen-and-paper tests

How do online exams work, process of an online test.

The online test process usually includes five steps.

Online Examination Tests_Infographic 2

Step 1: System setup 

Examiners or admins set up the testing environment and upload questions to the online exam platform. LMS integration and result configuration also happen at this stage.

Step 2: Test link sharing

Examiners upload bulk candidate data to the platform, select time slots and share the test link with students via email.

Step 3: Candidate authentication

Test-takers use the link to login and attempt the test via three-step authentication. The tests are usually recorded and can be proctored for high-stakes examinations via AI-based or human proctors.

Step 4: Evaluation and report generation

Once the user submits the test, it is auto-evaluated for real-time report generation. The results can be customized and shared in PDF or HTML formats.

Step 5: Analytics

An in-depth analysis of the overall online examination test can be done in the form of group-level analysis and can be customized as needed.

Online Examination Tests_image 3

Monitoring online exams

Online exams are monitored via proctoring technology and classified into three categories.

how do online university exams work

Live online proctoring

A live proctor invigilates test-taking candidates on an online platform for the test’s duration. A proctor can immediately disable the test if a candidate cheats on the exam.

how do online university exams work

Recorded proctoring

Candidates’ audio-visuals and screen-sharing feeds are recorded throughout the test. Proctors review the recorded test, playback, fast-forward, and red flag suspicious activities using annotations.

how do online university exams work

Automated proctoring

An automated proctoring system monitors the recorded feeds using advanced audio-video analytics to detect suspicious activities.

Choosing an online examination software

What is online exam software.

An online exam software, sometimes also debatably known as an online examination platform, enables educational institutions to offer assessments using the virtual mode. Universities, colleges and schools assess students’ learning and knowledge, appearing for their tests using computers and the internet. The examination process remains like the offline mode, barring the fact that the entire exam-giving and taking process moves online rather than given at physical centers.

The first step to choosing the right online examination software involves outlining your specific requirements. That makes it easier to select the software that best suits you. There are several options to explore, but before choosing a vendor, you should consider the following aspects.

  • The vendors’ market experience
  • Their service fee for online exam services
  • The features offered by their online test platform
  • User-friendliness and contours of the software’s user interface
  • The vendor’s clientele and standing in the market

Most valuable features of an online exam platform

It is ideal to choose an online exam platform that promises the following.

  • The provision to create engaging online exams by adding images, text, video, complex equations, etc., to the questionnaire.
  • Ease of use and high test credibility.
  • Support for multiple question types: multiple-choice image questions, multiple-choice text questions, audio-video questions, fill-in-the-blanks, etc.
  • Flexibility to create a comprehensive question bank with a variety of questions as part of online exams. Moreover, it should allow examiners to randomize problems to maintain the uniqueness and relevance of the test’s content.
  • Room for end-users to use tags for their question banks, create new tags and assign the proper tags to each question for analysis.
  • Possibility to set pass-fail rules for exams. For instance, the software should enable the administration to set the time limit and the number of attempts for each question. Also, candidates should be allowed to review their answers before submitting them.
  • Custom styling and personal branding options (white label solutions) to create a lasting impression on test-takers.

How Mercer| Mettl can help

Mercer | Mettl’s online examination platform helps securely conduct high-stakes assessments using advanced online proctoring features . In addition, the tool enables end-users to manage the end-to-end online assessment process. From online registration and test creation to center management, and real-time reporting, the entire process is centered on assisting clients in conducting assessments with the utmost ease.

how do online university exams work

Candidate authentication

The platform eliminates any impersonation risk using multi-factor authentication using OTP, Aadhar/biometric or IP, followed by ID authentication. It also involves facial recognition by taking the candidates’ pictures and ID proof to avoid impersonation.

how do online university exams work

Safe Exam Browser

Mercer | Mettl’s Safe Exam Browser prevents candidates from accessing the internet. Once enabled, this feature detects and ends the test for the examinees who browse away from the test window and open multiple tabs on the browser.

how do online university exams work

AI and human proctoring

It enables monitoring of candidates’ behavior and actions for suspicious activities. With cheating prediction abilities as high as 95%, Mercer | Mettl’s proctoring technologies combine the latest advances in AI-based and remote live proctoring to eliminate the risk of cheating.

Online tests unquestionably become a more efficient medium of assessing candidates ’ knowledge and aptitude. They allow flexibility to educational institutes to create, manage and evaluate examinees effortlessly. With quick assessment and real-time report generation, results can be declared immediately after the students have completed the test. Online examinations have revolutionized the education industry by automating in-person, tedious and cumbersome processes.

How to prevent cheating in online exams?

Educational institutions install an online proctoring software that tracks candidates’ test activity using their computer screens in an online exam. It utilizes webcams to record every detail and harnesses AI to analyze their activities. The online proctoring software data is used to validate the examinee’s identity and maintain the testing environment’s integrity. Remote proctoring ensures a controlled environment where the candidates are under continual surveillance, reducing their ability to cheat. Online proctored examination solves two purposes: eradicating malpractices and reducing the need for many invigilators. The webcam monitors the candidates continually, behavioral alerts notify the proctor of suspicious activities, web browsing tolerance prevents them from switching screens, and a recorded video of the examination is saved for future reference.

How can I do an online exam?

You can do an online exam by clicking on the test link sent by your university. You can select a time slot as per your availability, given an option. You must keep your ID card ready for authentication before beginning the test. Once your registration is approved, you can take your online exam. The minimum upload speed required for: Webcam proctored test: 512 kbps Non-webcam test: 256 kbps You can find the internet speed on the following sites: 1. Bandwidthplace.com 2. www.speedtest.net

How do you write an online exam?

You can write an online exam using an online examination test platform that allows you to seamlessly take your exam. You must follow the instructions, such as clicking your image and verifying it against an ID and OTP, before beginning the test. The online exam occurs in a secure environment. Therefore, you must close all the background websites or applications and enable your webcam for proctoring. Please contact the support team for issues during the online exam.

Originally published March 26 2020, Updated November 22 2023

how do online university exams work

Divyeshwari Singh

Online examination.

how do online university exams work

Highly secure and seamless online examination platform

Online examination, also known as virtual examination, is conducted remotely on a computer with high-speed internet. Like a classroom exam, it is time-bound and usually supervised through a webcam and proctor, making it cheating-free, secure and easily scalable.

how do online university exams work

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What is it really like to take an online exam?

A new development as a result of the covid-19 pandemic is online exams. student anna rees talks through how she did hers and why she thinks they may be better than the traditional exam hall model.

Anna Rees's avatar

The Covid-19 pandemic has altered everyone’s lives significantly and students certainly weren’t exempt. We were unable to return to university and sit our examinations as normal and so many universities resorted to online exams.

In our current global situation, exams might not seem a priority. But, for students, exam stress combined with pandemic stress makes for a pretty hectic time. Here’s my experience with online exams and how they actually ended up alleviating my stress levels.

Find out more

Discover the University of Liverpools' online postgraduate courses

What were my online exams?  

I had three online exams in total. Two were essay-based, where the titles were released on a certain date and we were given two weeks to write the essays.

We were expected to reference as we would for an essay, just on a smaller scale. Our word counts were also reduced to 750 from the usual 2,000 because of the shortened time frame.

My third exam was a multiple-choice exam. I had 37 questions and 1.5 hours to complete them. All three of these exams were open book, but we were still expected to complete them alone, as in a normal exam.

How do you study for an online exam? 

This was something I found quite difficult. I’m going to be sitting at home, surrounded by the entirety of my notes for the year. Do I revise or do I just scramble through my notes to find what I’m looking for when I need it? Luckily, I chose the former. It seemed a good idea to have my notes organised and summarised so that I could access them easily in the exam.

Although I didn’t revise as thoroughly as I would for a normal exam, I made sure to rewrite my notes for the semester, summarising as I went so that I could condense my notes. I then put all my notes on to a Word document, and added a contents page at the top so that I could find what I was looking for easily.

The search bar tool came in handy too. It’s not easy to find a single case study among 100 pages of notes. So, I’d search for the word I needed, and found it quickly.

For me, the key was to be prepared. Make sure your notes are organised so that you can find what you need quickly in the exam. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s online, this does not change the fact that it is an exam.

Tips for studying online and at home for university students 5 revision techniques to help you ace exam season (plus 7 more unusual approaches) Video: Five essential studying tips for students How to stop procrastinating – from a procrastination psychologist

How did I take the exams?  

Perhaps the strangest part of all was sitting down at my desk to take a university exam, in my pyjamas with a cup of tea. If you had asked me my perfect exam conditions (if those even exist), that is how I would have described them. I really benefited from the new circumstances and I was definitely less stressed. There was no big, hot exam hall, intimidating invigilators or hundreds of students alongside you. 

When the essay exams were released, I sat at my computer for the next few hours and did the first exam. It seemed silly to use the entire two-week period when I could dedicate my full attention over a couple of days and get it done. Every so often, I’d go downstairs for a drink or a break, which for me was key.

Don’t expect yourself to do it all in a day, Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? I’ve never been so stress-free in an exam in my life. I can only hope that my exam quality benefited from this too.

In terms of anti-cheating measures, for my multiple-choice exam, they created a bank of questions, so each person had a different test with different questions. This was the only anti-cheating measure that I was aware of, but this might have been different across other exam formats or subjects. We were told that we were trusted not to cheat, but no distinct measures were put into place except for this. 

Online exams or in-hall exams?  

The online exam experience was beneficial for me. I found myself thinking less about having time to get everything down and remembering things, but instead enjoying studying. I felt I had time to read into topics and really study them, rather than memorising things for an exam.

I deem exams to be a major flaw in the education system as they are. I usually find myself cramming so much information in that I don’t learn anything.

My entire schooling, I’ve had to revise a heap of materials to regurgitate them in an exam. And for what benefit? Shouldn’t we be assessed on our ability to use and transform information rather than simply memorising it?

This has led me to praise the online examination system. It was less stressful, less complicated and assessed capabilities beyond memorisation. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I enjoyed taking these exams, but they were about as good as an exam could get. 

Online exams for essay subjects, I can say, work rather well. The scope for cheating is limited anyway, because who can copy an entire essay? There’s also that thing called plagiarism to worry about. Why do students need to sit in an exam hall, costing the university time, staff and money, when they could be sitting it in the comfort of their own homes?

I cannot comment on the effectiveness of online exams for other exam formats, such as maths, where cheating would perhaps be easier. Or for physics, where you are often expected to handwrite equations. However, for essay-based subjects, I fully support the online system for exams. I deem it to be effective, stress-reducing and technologically forward. 

My advice for taking an online exam  

Do not panic, but revise and organise. 

Take time to prepare your notes in the best way for you. Don’t think you can get away with not revising, because you’ll probably just end up making things stressful for yourself during the exam, which no one needs. Find comfort in knowing that you have power over the exam, perhaps more so than you ever have. Stay in your pyjamas or dress up for the occasion. Have a cup of tea or hot water bottle by your side if you need it. Don’t feel like you need to copy the conditions of a normal exam to a tee. This is your exam, be as comfortable as possible so you can do your best.

Other people might try to cheat or work together, but the important thing is to focus on your own work and have trust in your revision. You can do an exam alone in a hall, so you can do it alone at home.

Read more:  How to deal with exam stress

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How Online Exams Work: How to Be Successful in Online Test Taking

Test taking is rarely a student's favorite part of earning a grade for a college course. For some, it brings on major anxieties, whether during preparation or the actual taking of the exam. With online classes , you would think that anxiety level might be a bit less. After all, you are often allowed to take the test at home.

But online exams can hit students with some serious snafus. The major pitfall for many students is not understanding the guidelines and parameters of the test taking procedures. Come test time, students may find themselves unprepared and confused as to how to proceed.

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Good organization is the key to successful test taking. Don't wait till the last minute to read the instructions. Study in advance and then study some more so you have a good understanding of the material you will be tested on. 

Instructors typically send out emails or messages through the test module that explain everything thoroughly. If there is anything you don't understand, get in touch with the instructor and ask for an explanation. Here are some additional tips to help you succeed at your next online exam:

Check your computer

There's nothing more discouraging than turning your computer on to take a pre-scheduled test and discovering your equipment is not working or you have an access problem. As well as you are able, check out your computer ahead of the test. Make sure it's working and that your Wi-Fi connection is available.

Give yourself time to get another computer or travel to an alternative Wi-Fi access point if need be. It's also a good idea to open two different browsers, one to take the test in, and another to look up information (if you're allowed to do so). That way, you won't run the risk of inadvertently closing your exam and possibly losing results.

Find a good spot to take the test

Make sure you've turned off all distractions -- TV, phone, social media, and all notifications. Get the kids and pets settled ahead of time, or find someone to take care of them so that you can proceed undistracted. Gather all the things you will need, including books, notebooks, pens or pencils to work out mathematical problems or to jot notes.

Make sure you understand the test guidelines

Check and recheck the test time and date. Can you take the exam anytime within a certain window of time? How long will you have to complete the test? Go over any additional instructions thoroughly.

If available, take practice exams

Ask your instructor for a practice exam and take it. Ask for any additional recommendations for preparing for the test.

Even if your exam is "open book," you need to be familiar with the material so you don't waste time hunting for it. By having a good mastery of the material, you can organize what you think you will need to know in study notes and in your mind so it's more easily accessible when you're answering exam questions.

Practice good time management while taking the test

If you get stumped on a question, move on to the next one. You can come back and work on the questions that require more thought later.

Use logic when test taking

If you don't know the answer to a multiple choice question, start eliminating. Usually a few of the answers will be obviously incorrect, and may be similar in content or just don't seem to fit. Weigh those that seem closest to what the instructor is looking for, further eliminating as you work through to the answer.

Keep track of time

If you have limited time to take the test, set a watch or clock to alert you 10 minutes or so before your deadline so you will know how much time you have left to complete the test. Also, don't forget to circle back to any questions you skipped. 

Technical problems?

Don't despair, but do take screen shots and notify your instructor right away.

Check and recheck

Give yourself time to check and recheck your work before you submit it. Make sure all questions are answered, whether they're short answer or multiple choice. Remember, you will always get zero credit for the questions you don't answer.

How Online Exams Work: How to Be Successful in Online Test Taking

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How Online Classes Work: 10 Frequently Asked Questions

Some online courses require students to attend and participate at set times through videoconferencing.

How Online Classes Work: FAQ

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Online classes are typically a mix of video recordings or live lectures supplemented with readings and assessments that students can complete on their own time. But nothing is typical about education in 2020 as the coronavirus has forced a sudden migration to online learning with little time to prepare for it.

As the pandemic accelerated, colleges shifted into emergency mode, shutting down campuses in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – the disease caused by the novel coronavirus – and moving academic life online. Education experts anticipate more online classes this fall. For students – whether incoming freshmen, seasoned seniors or returning adult learners – here is an overview of what to know about and expect from online classes:

  • How is an online classroom typically structured?
  • Do students need to attend classes at specific times?
  • Do online classes have in-person components?
  • How do students interact in an online course?
  • What is the typical workload for an online course?
  • How many weeks do online classes run?
  • What are typical assignments in online classes?
  • How do students take proctored exams in online classes?
  • What should students know before enrolling in an online course?
  • Are there ways to accelerate online degree completion?

How Is an Online Classroom Typically Structured?

The structure of an online classroom varies, experts say. But generally, online students regularly log in to a learning management system, or LMS, a virtual portal where they can view the syllabus and grades; contact professors, classmates and support services; access course materials; and monitor their progress on lessons.

Experts say prospective students should check whether a school's LMS is accessible on mobile devices so they can complete coursework anytime, anywhere. They will also likely need a strong internet connection and any required software , such as a word processor.

One important distinction that experts note is that the forced shift to remote instruction that colleges saw this spring due to the coronavirus is not typical of online education . What students are experiencing in an online format as a result of the pandemic is "emergency remote teaching" says Lynette O'Keefe, director of research and innovation at the Online Learning Consortium.

"Emergency remote teaching forces faculty that have planned their semester in either a face-to-face or blended environment to be carried out fully online, and it forces students that were not necessarily expecting to complete their courses online to do so," O'Keefe says.

She expects courses in the fall to be designed for online offerings rather than hastily forced into the format.

Do Students Need to Attend Classes at Specific Times?

Online classes typically have an asynchronous, or self-paced, portion. Students complete coursework on their own time but still need to meet weekly deadlines, a format that offers flexibility for students .

Some online courses may also have a synchronous component, where students view live lectures online and sometimes participate in discussions through videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom. The latter model is the move many professors have made during the pandemic, experts say.

"It's effectively taking a physical classroom model and doing your best to deliver that over tools like Zoom," says Luyen Chou, chief learning officer at 2U, an online program management company.

Do Online Classes Have In-Person Components?

Some online classes may require students to attend a residency on the school's campus before or during the program. The lengths and details of these requirements vary.

Students may complete team-building activities, network and attend informational sessions. Especially in health fields like nursing , certain online programs may require working in a clinical setting.

How Do Students Interact in an Online Course?

If a course has a synchronous component or requires students to travel to campus, that's a good way to get to know classmates, experts say. Students may otherwise communicate through discussion forums, social media and – particularly for group work – videoconferencing, as well as phone and email.

Online learners interact with professors in similar ways, though they may need to be more proactive than on-campus students to develop a strong relationship . That may involve introducing themselves to their instructor before classes start and attending office hours if offered, Marian Stoltz-Loike, vice president for online education at Touro College in New York, wrote in a 2017 U.S. News blog post.

What Is the Typical Workload for an Online Course?

Just like in traditional classes, the workload varies – but don't expect your course to be easier just because it's online. Many online learners say they spend 15 to 20 hours a week on coursework. That workload, of course, may vary between full-time and part-time students. A lighter course load likely means less study.

At Arizona State University 's online arm – ASU Online – students typically spend six hours a week on coursework for each credit they enroll in, Joe Chapman, director of student services at the school, wrote in a 2015 U.S. News blog post .

How Many Weeks Do Online Classes Run?

While some online degree programs follow the traditional semester-based schedule, others divide the year into smaller terms , and graduation credit requirements may vary. ASU Online courses, for instance, are structured as seven-and-a-half week sessions rather than 14-week semesters.

Sometimes students can choose the number of courses they take at one time, while in other programs they must stick to a set curriculum road map as part of a cohort , experts say. Prospective students should determine whether the academic calendar is structured in a way that will enable them to balance work, school and family. They should also know that academic calendars vary by school.

While some schools have decided to tweak the format for fall 2020, most are sticking to the traditional academic calendar to avoid throwing even more changes at students amid the coronavirus pandemic, Chou says. "I think the majority of the folks that we have talked to have elected, at least for this fall, to preserve their semester structures, just in the interest of not changing everything at the same time."

What Are Typical Assignments in Online Classes?

Online course assignments depend largely on the discipline. But in general, students should expect assignments similar to those in on-ground programs, such as research papers and proctored exams in addition to online-specific assignments such as responding to professor-posed questions in a discussion board .

An online course may also require group projects where students communicate virtually, as well as remote presentations. These can be challenging for online learners, who often live across various time zones, Stoltz-Loike noted in a 2018 blog post .

How Do Students Take Proctored Exams in Online Classes?

Not all online classes have proctored exams . But if they do, online students may need to visit a local testing site with an on-site proctor. They may also take virtually monitored exams online, where a proctor watches via webcam or where computer software detects cheating by checking test-takers' screens.

With more classes likely online in fall 2020, experts expect an uptick in online exam proctoring.

What Should Students Know Before Enrolling in an Online Course?

Prospective students looking for how to start online college should visit the admissions page for the school. They should also understand the requirements for the degree program of interest to them, considering that there may be a higher threshold for certain majors compared with general admissions, experts recommend.

While the registration process for online and on-campus classes is often similar, prospective online students should review the course type and requirements before enrolling, experts say. They should also understand the requirements for dropping classes.

Are There Ways to Accelerate Online Degree Completion?

In some cases, it's possible to earn a degree faster.

For instance, in competency-based online learning , students move quickly through the material they already know and may spend more time on unfamiliar topics. In some programs, students may also earn credits for past work or military experience. Some universities even offer a subscription-based model, which allows students to sign up for various self-paced classes over several months.

Trying to fund your online education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for Online Education center.

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‘Sitting exams online, alone and during a pandemic is a huge thing – it’s OK to feel anxious or angry about it.’

Studying solo: how to prepare for online exams at home

How you approach revision can take off some of the pressure when sitting university exams alone and from home

A fter about 17 years in formal education, some university students are being asked to take their final exams online – in a different format than they’ve ever experienced. This comes on top of a pandemic that has already taken a toll on their mental health .

But there are upsides, too. Remote exams are more flexible, more mindful of individual needs, and acknowledge the pressures students are under. Here are some ways students can tailor their revision to make the most of online assessment.

Create a revision routine

First, decide what topics to cover, and what kinds of knowledge or learning the exam is testing. Tutors can help with this, as well as past papers and sample answers.

Once you’ve got your exam timetable, divide the remaining time by the number of topics to create a study schedule. Building routine into your revision is especially important right now, according to Delroy Hall, senior counsellor and wellbeing practitioner at Sheffield Hallam University. “Covid-19 and the pandemic has now disrupted all that [routine], so we have to be intentional in how we manage our lives.”

Hall recommends the Pomodoro technique, too : 25 minutes of study followed by a five-minute break, then repeat. This is helpful if you feel overwhelmed by revision or struggle to stay focused.

Learn concepts – not just words

Start reviewing course notes, marked essays, lecture videos and important source material. But, Hall says, “learn concepts and ideas, don’t memorise lots of text”. Open book exams let you show you know how to apply learning, not what you can remember. But while this takes some pressure off, hunting for sources during a test can be distracting.

One solution is to make summary sheets with key ideas, quotes and analysis. This active revision helps you understand and remember information, and also makes it easier to find what you need during the exam.

Ideally you’ll start revision early, with existing notes to review rather than learning new material. “We’ve got more stress than normal, so you want to do what you can to release that,” Hall says.

Don’t panic if you’ve left it late, though. Make a plan, but prioritise topics by the time available. Hall’s “worry sheet” technique can also help. Fold a sheet of paper in half, and fill one side with things you can control (such as meal times and bed times) and the other with things you can’t (when the vaccine will be ready). Then focus on doing the things you can control, and let the rest take care of itself.

Tackle exam anxieties

Sitting exams online, alone and during a pandemic is a huge thing – it’s OK to feel anxious or angry about it. There are also ways to manage the worries. Try to minimise stress by creating an exam space that is separate from your revision zone: sit at a desk or the kitchen table, for example, rather than in bed.

Check if your university has exam walkthroughs online. These show what the process will be like, from logging in to uploading answers. Try to download, log in and practise using any recommended software in advance. And if you’re worried about not having a computer or internet connection during the exam, ask your university to loan you a laptop, dongle, or other essential kit.

If 24- and 48-hour exams are new to you, go through a dry run of these, too. It’s not about staying at your desk for days. You’ll feel and perform better with a schedule that balances cranking out answers with eating, sleeping and relaxing.

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Creating Online Exams

Implementing online exams creates a new set of considerations for the instructor. Instructors may need to change methods and content to fit the online context, and may have questions about how to administer exams fairly for every student and maintain academic integrity. CourseWorks (Canvas) offers a variety of tools, options, and settings that can help implement exams efficiently and fairly and make the exam experience positive for both instructors and students.

On this page:

Create online quizzes, create online longer-form exams, tailor your exams to individual student needs.

  • Maintain Academic Integrity

Cite this resource: Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning (2020). Creating Online Exams. Columbia University. Retrieved [today’s date] from https://ctl.columbia.edu/resources-and-technology/teaching-with-technology/teaching-online/courseworks/online-exams/

The CourseWorks Quiz tool is best for assessments with questions that list a limited number of answers or options (i.e. multiple choice , true and false , and fill-in-the-blank ). Turn on automatic grading to provide immediate feedback to students and to save time.

  • See instructions on how to Create a CourseWorks Quiz .
  • For the “available from” date and time of the exam, choose when you want students to be able to start the exam.
  • For the “available to” date and time, choose the end time of the exam. Note that CourseWorks will promptly end a quiz that is in progress at that time . For example, a 60 minute exam scheduled to be available from 3:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. will stop firmly at 4:00 P.M., even if some students started at 3:05 P.M. (meaning they lose five minutes they may have been entitled to). For this reason, you might consider giving students some cushion on the “available to” time. Please note that you will need to make the same consideration for students who are entitled to an extra time accommodation on timed assignments. For more information, see the “Tailor Your Exams to Individual Student Needs” section below. 
  • You can assign extra time on the quiz timer to specific students . Please make sure you set up these accommodations before students are supposed to start their exam.

Quizzes can be used in many different ways. To learn more about CourseWorks quizzes please see the rest of the CourseWorks Quiz documentation .

The CourseWorks Assignment tool is best for more complex responses, such as essays, presentations, videos, or multiple files. This tool allows students to submit multiple files as part of their response. It is also a good option if you intend to have students complete paper-based exams at home and they need to upload pictures of their work as part of the submission. 

See instructions on how to Create an Online CourseWorks Assignment

  • Use the description textbox to provide instructions. If you need to provide students with files (e.g. spreadsheets, Powerpoint) to perform the assignment  (e.g. a written math exam), upload these files and link to them in the instructions of the assignment. Note that when you are uploading such files, they should be placed in a restricted access folder to avoid giving students access ahead of time. Directions on how to create and link from restricted access folders can be found in the “Maintain Academic Integrity” section below. 
  • Students can submit multiple files (e.g. Word documents, PDFs, pictures) in a CourseWorks Assignment. You can ask students to type up a response to upload, or write a response with pen and paper and submit pictures of the completed work. 

Assigning different start and end times for individual students can be helpful if:

  • You have students in different time zones. See our Asynchronous Learning Across Time Zones for more recommendations on best practices in teaching across multiple time zones.
  • You have students who need extra time accommodations. For more information on how to best support students in your classes who are entitled to accommodations please contact the Office of Disability Services .

Maintain Academic Integrity 

To encourage your students to value academic integrity in your online classroom, consider the following:

  • Contact your Dean of Academic Affairs and the University’s Office on Student Conduct and Community Standards to ask about academic integrity policies for online learning.
  • In Files, create a folder just for your exam materials.
  • Restrict access to this folder to “Only available to students with link.” 
  • For any files or images you intend to use in your instructions or quiz questions, upload them to your now restricted exam folder.
  • You can now embed these images and link to these files in your quiz or assignment using the linking panel.
  • Template honor code for students to sign on your exams:  I affirm that I will not plagiarize, use unauthorized materials, or give or receive illegitimate help from others on this examination. I understand that content from this exam cannot be shared with others unless given written permission from the instructor. I will also uphold equity and honesty in the evaluation of my work and the work of others. I understand that violating this honor code subjects me to a possible referral to the Dean’s Disciplinary Procedures for academic misconduct. Signed: ___________________________
  • Emphasize to students that the goal of the exam is to help them recognize areas where they can improve. This is particularly important with courses that are pass/fail.
  • Design tests that require unique answers from students, requiring them to craft answers that are based on their own understanding, opinions, and ideas. Doing this prevents students from working together. Some possibilities include having students develop presentations or demonstrations, create fact sheets, annotate an anthology or bibliography, solve a real world problem (e.g., case study), or show their work. ( https://sasoue.rutgers.edu/teaching-learning/remote-exams-assessment )
  • Allow exams to be open-book or open-notes. Open-book exams give student permission to look at outside material, eliminating one possibility of going against the rules. If you choose this option, communicate clearly to students what sources they can use for their exam answers.

Want to discuss the use of AI tools with your students?

See the CTL’s resource “Considerations for AI Tools in the Classroom.”

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Tips for Taking Online Exams

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For some students, taking an online exam is a new and somewhat bewildering experience. They don’t know what to expect, and aren’t certain of the skills and strategies that will enable them to perform at their best. On a good note, many of the steps they’d take to complete an online exam are quite similar to those that they’d engage in as they prepare for an in-class test; however, the online environment does present some differences that warrant a bit of extra awareness and preparation. Many faculty use exam integrity tools like LockDown Browser or test monitoring software. Students should be aware they may need to download and learn how to use tools like these.

In their book  E-Learning Companion: A Student’s Guide to Online Success,  Fourth Edition , Ryan Watkins and Michael Corry provide several recommended steps that students can take in order to succeed on their online exams. We’ve adapted them below. You might want to share these tips with students.

Before the Online Exam: Prepare

  • Read and understand the test guidelines. Be sure you can answer these questions: Will the test take place at a specific date and time, or can you take the exam at any point during a particular window of time? How much time will you have to complete the test? Can you take the test at home, or must you take the exam in a specific location (e.g., a campus computer lab)? Are there any other important, “need to know” factors outlined by the instructor?
  • Know the test format. What kinds of questions will the instructor use on the exam—multiple-choice, fill-in, short answer, essay? Perhaps a combination of various types?
  • Test yourself. If your instructor makes a practice exam available to you, take it! You may also find practice tests in your class textbook.
  • Check your computer. Avoid last-minute problems! Whether you’re using your own computer or one in a lab, verify that it has all the correct hardware and software well in advance of the exam. Also, make sure you’ll be in a location with an adequate Internet location.
  • Study the class materials! Even if the test is “open book,” it’s still important to study and review just as if you were taking the test in a classroom.
  • Plan your time. As you test yourself, limit your time to that which will be allotted for the actual test, and decide how long you will spend on each question (e.g. if the test is one hour long, and you’ll have
  • Carve out a quiet test-taking spot with minimal distractions. Turn off all notifications from IM, your phone, your email, and elsewhere (or, set them to silent). Shut off the TV and radio. Let your roommates or family know that you’ll be taking a test, so that they’re less likely to interrupt you during that time.
  • Determine when you will take the test. You may have to take the exam at a specific time; however, if the test will be available for several hours (or even a few days), choose a time that presents the least potential for distraction, interruption, and stress.
  • Gather all that you’ll need to take the test. If you can have materials such as notes, books, or writing implements with you, be sure that they’re set to go.
  • Take a deep breath! Once you’re logged in, take a moment to relax and get focused.

During the Online Exam: Focus

  • Keep an eye on the clock. You may want to set an alarm to notify you when you have limited time (e.g., 10 minutes) remaining in your testing period.
  • If allowed by your instructor, print and save copies of the test questions, as well as your answers. These will prove extremely helpful if you have technical problems during the test or if you encounter issues while submitting your answers.
  • Don’t leave the test page! If you are permitted to search the web or check other websites for information, do not use the same tab or copy of the browser as you do for your exam—you may lose all your work. Instead, open a second copy of your browser (or, choose a completely different browser), then conduct your search.
  • Technical problems? Don’t panic. But do contact your instructor immediately, detailing the exact problem that occurred and any error messages you might have received. If you can take a screen shot, that is helpful as well.
  • Check your work before you submit it. Ensure that every answer is complete and appears as you intended. Review the accuracy of your answers, as well as your spelling and grammar.
  • Click submit. You should only need to do so once, but if you have a problem, try once more. If you still have a problem submitting the test, let your instructor know immediately, and send your intended answers in an attached document.

After the Online Exam: Review

  • Assess your own progress. How do you believe you did? What questions did you find confusing? Did you have to skip anything? Return to your notes and readings, and see if you can find the answers to the questions that challenged you.
  • Check your grade. In some cases, you may be able to learn your grade immediately. However, exams with written answers will take longer for your instructor to grade, so allow some time to find out your score.
  • Ask yourself how you can improve on the next exam. Did your study strategies work? Did your plan for taking the test online prove successful? Write down your observations and keep them in mind for the next time you take a test. (Watkins and Corry, 183-185)

Reference: Watkins, Ryan and Corry, Michael. 2014.  E-Learning Companion: A Student’s Guide to Online Success .  4th ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

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What Is A Proctored Exam And How Does It Work?


What is a proctored exam, and what is the difference between a proctored exam, a non-proctored exam, and online proctoring?

In this article, we’ll outline the basics of proctored exams, and discuss the implications of moving exams online with digital proctoring services. We will also describe the typical step-by-step process of online proctoring and concerns that students have about this new technology.

What is a Proctored Exam?

A proctored exam is an exam in which there is a person present to monitor and supervise students during the exam.

These proctors will usually authenticate students’ IDs, keep track of time, and watch students to make sure that they are following test guidelines and instructions.

how do online university exams work

Proctors monitor students while they take exams. https://unsplash.com/photos/Z-fq3wBVfMU

Proctored exams vs non-proctored exams.

A non-proctored exam is one in which there are no proctors or supervisors present. This is most relevant in a situation where textbooks are allowed for reference during the exam, and is most common for exams that test problem-solving skills as opposed to memorizing information.

Proctored exams have been the most common, since exams up until now have mostly been on paper in physical classrooms. In these cases, there are usually proctors present to hand out test papers, time the length allotted for the test, and watch students for incidents of cheating.

However, with many students studying and taking exams online , proctoring has moved from supervisors to online proctoring. Online exams can either be proctored (monitored live or recorded) or non-proctored.

Why Schools Are Switching To Online Proctoring

Schools and universities are switching to online proctoring for a number of reasons. The most common reason may be that more students are studying online . This means that regular exam formats are being moved over to online platforms .

In general, online exams save institutions money, while also being convenient for both teachers and students in terms of scheduling a test date and time. Exams online can be taken by students all around the world, instead of gathering in one room. This is especially important for students who are working or parenting, and allows them to partake in exams during time slots that work for them.

With the rise in online test taking, online proctoring is necessary in order to deter cheating and monitor students while they take exams at home.

how do online university exams work

Student takes exam at home: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-gray-shirt-sitting-on-bed-3954635/

How online proctoring works.

Online proctoring monitors students’ exam taking by either supervising over live video or recording exam takers to deter cheating. Below is an overview of what a typical test might look like with online proctoring.

Before the exam

Before the exam, online proctoring programs will check student IDs in order to ensure that the correct student is taking the exam. This process is done either through auto authentication or live authentication.

  • Auto authentication: Generally, students begin by authenticating their identity through taking a photo of their ID and face, answering challenge questions, or entering a biometric signature.
  • Live authentication: Another option is live authentication, in which a live proctor does a face comparison with the student’s ID.

During the exam

During the exam, online proctoring platforms monitor the students in a few different ways. It may include automatic proctoring, record-and-review proctoring, or live proctoring.

  • Automatic proctoring: Automatic proctoring is when students’ environments are monitored for sound and movement.
  • Record-and-review proctoring: Record-and-review proctoring is when the exam is recorded in order to be reviewed once the exam is complete. This means that the student is not being watched during the exam, but it will deter cheating by the knowledge that it can be reviewed.
  • Live proctoring: Live proctoring is probably the most simple method which entails a live proctor, just like in the classroom, but over the computer so that students can take their exam at home .

The Issue of Cheating

With online exams, the issue of cheating is in the forefront. Cheating is easier with non-proctored online exams, and therefore, online proctoring is geared toward preventing cheating by monitoring the students’ environment.

This is done through monitoring students’ computer screens, watching students on video, or requesting a video sweep of the students’ rooms in order to ensure that there are no textbooks or other information available.

how do online university exams work

Online exams comes with a new set of challenges. https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-writing-on-notebook-4145190/

Student reactions to online proctored exams.

Many students have reacted to online proctoring with concern for their privacy in instances where their screens or rooms are monitored.

Though online exams may be more convenient for some students, other students find the necessary online proctoring to be invasive or intrusive.

Students have recounted feeling uneasy about having proctors watch them in their dorm rooms, and have been requested to remove items or decor from the space, shine more light in order to be more visible, and other requests.

How to Prevent Cheating

An alternative to online proctoring can include creating exams that do not require monitoring. By tweaking exams to fit online requirements, students can still take exams at home without invasive proctoring.

Here are a few tips to prevent cheating on home exams.

Randomize questions

If home exams are difficult because students are taking the exam at different times and sharing information, it’s possible to create a question bank. This allows the platform to pull a different and randomized set of questions for each student.

Set a timer

Cheating takes time. It is harder for students to cheat when they have a limited amount of time to answer questions.

Ask problem-solving questions

In general, information-based exams are easier to cheat on because facts can be checked through sources such as textbooks or the internet. However, with problem-solving questions, students are asked to use their own mind to think through problems and use critical thinking tools — something that can’t be found and copied from the internet.

In this article, we’ve outlined and answered the question, “What is a proctored exam?” Online proctoring is used in order to monitor online test takers. By making exams available online, students around the world and with varying schedules can earn their degree online .

Though online proctoring has advantages that allow students to take exams online, many students are concerned with privacy issues and the invasive nature of online proctoring.

Creating exams that cater toward online test takers can ensure the continued use of online exams while deterring cheating.

Related Articles

Privacy overview.

how do online university exams work

Are online exams in higher education the right way forward?

Online exams

Online or digital exams can save lecturers ample marking time, also saving students the hassle of putting pen to paper to demonstrate their knowledge in an area of study. 

While not all universities are not facing this digital movement, Monash University in Australia is scheduled to shift 80 percent of all student exams online by next year. This move would save the university approximately AU$7 million (USD$4.7 million) per annum, according to ZDNet .

“Monash University research, education and business intelligence delivery leader Cliff Ashford said the savings estimate accounts for only marking exams with essay questions and does not factor in the cost of other exams, such as those with multiple choice questions,” said the report. 

Ashford added that getting people to mark essay exams is expensive and highly ineffective as it requires extensive manual data entry, while tracking analytics is non-existent. This is also means exams are exposed to human error. 

The university issues 360,000 exams, the equivalent to 8.5 million sheets of A4 paper or 1,000 trees.

Incremental steps towards implementing online exams

Digital exams to help Monash University save AU$7 million https://t.co/F3TGEKfDVp by @achanthadavong — ZDNet (@ZDNet) August 22, 2019

Monash’s plan to go digital wasn’t done in a jiffy.

Since 2015, the university has been taking incremental steps towards introducing online exams. It started with a small pilot; in semester one of 2017, the university moved 0.5 percent (600 seats) of all exams online, and progressively increased it to eight percent of all exams (10,000 seats) in semester two that same year, and so on.

“This involved building a custom Wi-Fi installation into one of its exam halls and wiring every desk to power and network. Ashford said at this time, the university made the conscious decision to provide laptops to students and have paper backups of exam papers,” said the report.

They also enable students to bring-your-own-devices (BYOD) as the university would not be able to buy enough laptops for every student.

Victoria University Wellington in New Zealand is also said to be experimenting with online exams, where students type rather than write their exams.

According to the university’s website : “The first digital exam pilot was completed successfully in Trimester 1 2019, with a high number of students adopting digital exams. The second pilot starts in Trimester 2 2019. Students in the following courses will take their end-of-trimester exams digitally.”

Over in Norway , the University of Bergen, the University of Oslo and the University of Agder have also adopted digital exams.

While the immediate benefits are appealing, why haven’t more universities embraced online exams?

It may require the help of multiple stakeholders, but the efforts may well be worth the effort and investment when universities save themselves time and money easing the slog of traditional methods. 

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What is an online exam?

An online exam is an assessment where you’ll be given the questions, and you’ll submit answers to them to your department within a fixed time.

You’ll be able to complete your exams wherever you are in the world.

How will I get the exam paper?

Your department will put the question paper on your module VLE site at (or just before) the release time for your paper.

They will also email it to your University email account around the same time.

Your exam timetable will show a release time for your assessment and a submission time.

You can download your paper and upload your answers at any point during the period between those two times.

You don’t need to wait for the submission deadline to upload your completed exams.

Online 24hr exams

These assessments are not meant to take you 24 hours.

Students taking a 24hr online exam are given a 24hr window to complete an examination within a recommended timeframe, for example 1-3hrs (in line with closed examinations).

If you are living in a space where you are able to close a door, sit at a desk in relative quiet, and focus intently on your paper, you should be able to finish the questions in that time.

We recognise that for many students, this may not be possible.

We are allowing 24 hours so that students in multiple time zones, or who have a wide variety of disruptions in their living circumstances, can choose to plan their work accordingly.

You may wish to break your work on the exam into smaller ‘chunks’, to be free to react to caring responsibilities, or simply to pace yourself if you’re not feeling well.

You should be aiming to spend no more time on these exams overall than you would have done in the exam hall. Please remember to look after yourself and, especially, make sure you eat, rest and sleep.

Online (less than 24hr) exams

Unlike a 24hr exam, students are provided with a shorter window for the exam, closer to the nominal length of the exam, but inclusive of time to submit the examination (for example start 9am, finish 1pm).  

Departments will indicate on the cover sheet for each exam how long they would normally expect the exam to take if you were able to focus on it in typical ‘exam-type’ conditions. This will normally be a standard exam duration (eg 1.5 hours, 2 hours, 3 hours).

What will I need to be able to take my exam?

You will need an internet connection to be able to get access to your paper, and to upload it when you’re done.

Most students will also need word-processing software. You can use Microsoft Word, or Apple Pages, or Google Docs, or anything else that will allow you to type, text and create a PDF.

If you are taking an exam where you’ll need to write equations, or draw diagrams you may be asked to hand-write your answers and take pictures of your answer pages to upload using your phone’s camera or the one on another device.

Your department will give you guidance on how to do this, or take a look at  central guidance on using Adobe Scan .

What if I have a Student Support Plan (SSP)?

Online 24hr exams: if you have an SSP that allows you extra time in exams, the extra time will be based on an 8-hour working day, regardless of the ‘nominal’ period of the examination.

So, if your SSP allows for 25% extra time, you’ll get an additional 2 hours (ie have 26 hours scheduled for the 24-hour exam). This will give you extra time in the overall submission window, within normal working hours, in which you can decide for yourself how to organise your work.

You are not expected to use all of this time .

Online exams (less than 24hrs): if you have an SSP that allows you extra time in exams, the extra time will be based on the duration of your exam e.g. 25% extra time of a 2hr exam would bring the total duration of your exam to 2.5hrs.

What if my SSP allows for more than a time adjustment?

If you usually have use of a PC or specialist equipment, you’ll need to provide that for yourself.

If you usually have human support such as a reader, an amanuensis, or a prompter, please contact Disability Services as soon as you are able to make arrangements for this support during your assessments.

Am I allowed to refer to my course books, notes, or any other materials?

We are treating this online examination as a time-limited open assessment, and you are therefore permitted to refer to written and online materials to aid you in your answers.

However, you must ensure that the work you submit is entirely your own, and for the whole time the assessment is live you must not:

  • communicate with departmental staff on the topic of the assessment
  • communicate with other students on the topic of this assessment.
  • seek assistance with the assignment from the academic and/or disability support services, such as the Writing and Language Skills Centre, Maths Skills Centre and/or Disability Services. (The only exception to this will be for those students who have a recommendation for an exam support worker in a Student Support Plan. If this applies to you, please contact Disability Services as soon as possible to discuss the necessary arrangements.)
  • seek advice or contribution from any third party, including proofreaders, friends, or family members.

We expect, and trust, that all our students will seek to maintain the integrity of the assessment, and of their award, through ensuring that these instructions are strictly followed.

Where evidence of academic misconduct is evident this will be addressed in line with the Academic Misconduct Policy and if proven be penalised in line with the appropriate penalty table.

Given the nature of these assessments, any collusion identified will normally be treated as cheating/breach of assessment regulations and penalised using the appropriate penalty table (see AM3.3 of the Guide to Assessment ).

What does it mean if my exam has word limits?

If your department indicates that there is a word limit on a question, or on the exam as a whole, you are required to stick to this.

Your answer shouldn’t be longer than the limit.

What should I do if I have a question about the paper?

Your tutors and department will be particularly careful about checking for errors and omissions to ensure that you are able to complete the paper without needing clarification.

Your department should inform you about how to raise any urgent queries about the paper.

However, out of fairness, no corrections or clarifications will be announced later than one hour after the start of the exam window.

In the event that you find yourself not able to understand a question, or believing that something is missing, be sure to include a note of any assumptions you had to make to answer the question in order to be able to answer it. This could be something like “I’m assuming this is 3x, and not 2x” or “I’m pretty sure this question was meant to refer to the 1860s, and not the 2860s, given that the module is 19th Century Philosophy.”

We will make every effort to make sure this isn’t necessary.

How do I submit my answers?

There will be a submission point on the VLE site for your module.

You should submit your answers to that point in the same way that you would normally submit an essay or other assignment.

You should use this, ensuring you begin the upload with plenty of time in hand before the deadline.

You will also be given an email address to use if you have any problems submitting your paper. You should only use this if the VLE is causing you problems.

Guidance on how to submit an assignment on the VLE.

What happens if I hand my work in late?

Please leave enough time to submit your work before the end of your allocated slot, or you may receive zero on the exam.

If a paper is submitted within 30 minutes after the end of the submission window, it will be penalised by 5% of the total available.

Work received after this time (even 1 second after this time) will not be marked, and unfortunately you will receive a zero on the exam.

If you have trouble submitting your assessment, you can apply for Exceptional Circumstances. ECA claims can be submitted at any time up to 7 days after the online exam window.

It’s important that you know this.

What do I do if I’m unable to do an exam during the allowed time, or my performance is impacted by exceptional circumstances?

Much like any other exam, if you’re unable to do it at the time that’s set, you’ll need to apply for Exceptional Circumstances.

If it isn’t possible to provide evidence of your circumstances, you should submit a claim anyway; but please explain what your circumstances are, and why you weren’t able to get evidence.

We strongly recommend that you attempt your exams if you’re able, but if you are too unwell, or if it really isn’t possible for you to concentrate on your assessments, then you can use Exceptional Circumstances to delay them until the Late Summer Assessment Period (Resit week).

There are risks associated with this, however, as if you aren’t successful in August, it isn’t likely that you will be able to progress to the next academic year on time.

Please see the Exceptional Circumstances affecting Assessment (ECA) policy .

The procedure for exceptional circumstances for online examinations is as follows (please take careful note of deadlines):

  • If you believe your online examination assessment has been affected by exceptional circumstances, as defined under the updated ECA policy, you may submit an ECA claim.
  • If you submit the online exam, you will also be allowed to submit an ECA claim if you believe that exceptional circumstances have affected your performance in the exam.
  • If you are unable to submit the exam, due to the circumstances, you can submit an ECA claim.
  • ECA claims can be submitted at any time up to 7 days after the online exam window.
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A Definitive Guide to Online Exam Proctoring for Universities and Certification Providers

A Definitive Guide to Online Exam Proctoring for Universities and Certification Providers

By Olivia Gomes, Senior Content Marketer at Talview

Originally published on the Talview Blog

Online remote proctoring is trending now more than ever. The advent of remote proctoring helped many universities and learning centres to move pen and paper exams to a completely online process.

This shift in the education sector not only eases the administrative burden of hosting exams every other month but it also enables students to take exams from the comfort of their homes.

Our guide to online exam proctoring covers the following topics:

What does online remote proctoring mean?

Online remote proctoring is a method of online assessment that enables one to host assessments and exams online that can be taken remotely from any location.

The technology helps students take online assessments without having the need for a physical proctor to keep an eye on the test taker in order to ensure the authenticity of the exam.

A proctor is simply an invigilator whose job is to overlook test takers during examinations for the main purpose of ensuring that they don’t cheat.

An advanced remote proctoring software is easily integrable with any Learning Management System (LMS) or website that needs to be proctored and imitates the function of an on-site proctor.

While some see virtual proctoring as a great way of expanding online courses and upgrading the education system with the much-needed technological shift towards eLearning, others see it as an excellent opportunity to put an end to cheating by students in exams.

The boom in eLearning in the past decade has led to increased popularity of many LMSs, social learning programs, course retailers, online course marketplaces, mobile learning platforms, and more.

According to the same marketing studies, the global eLearning market is expected to reach $325 billion by 2025 ( Research and Markets ) from $107 Billion in 2015.

The seamless shift from classroom to online teaching has been made possible through eLearning platforms. Online learning platforms replicate face-to-face classroom environments by allowing teachers to virtually assign tasks, share course material, collect homework, and conduct exams.

What is an online proctored exam?

Online proctored exams can be defined as assessments taken online by students with the help of a mechanism that ensures the authenticity of the test taker and prevents them from cheating.

This is done with the help of either a real-time test proctor present online during the duration of the assessment via webcam surveillance or with the help of AI-led online proctoring software that takes pictures of the test taker at random times during the test to assess later.

Online proctored exams are organized via a computer or mobile phone, and require a stable internet connection, a mic, and a webcam.

Online proctored exams offer numerous benefits: One main benefit is that the candidate is monitored throughout the exam without an actual physical proctor present with the test taker, eliminating the need for a proctor every time you need to hold an exam.

Apart from that, web proctored tests take away the logistical burden of holding physical examinations in schools/universities/learning centres.

The conventional way of conducting assessments comprises booking an exam hall/test centre, informing candidates, supervising the exam, evaluating the test copies, and finally declaring results. With e-learning, most of these processes are deemed redundant.

To get an in-depth understanding of remote proctoring and its different variations available in the market today, you can read our comprehensive blog post on Online Proctoring

You’ll need to understand how online exam proctoring works in order to be able to select your choice of online proctoring software or service to host lessons, lectures, and exams through them.

How does online exam proctoring work?

Online proctored exams are timed exams that are taken online while the proctoring software monitors the test takers’ computer browser activity, webcam video, and audio during the exam.

The data recorded by the proctoring software can be transferred to a proctoring service (a group of qualified professional proctors) for review.

The latest online remote proctoring solutions, however, use Artificial Intelligence to proctor these tests and, hence, require no proctor or third-party proctor services.

The software automatically red flags the test-takers who show suspicious activity during the test like switching browser tabs, or copy/pasting answers.

But before the test begins, the candidate is required to fill in their details like name, date of birth, age, and gender to ensure their authenticity. Then on the authorization page, the test taker is expected to submit ID proof for facial recognition. In the same step, the microphone and webcam are tested to avoid any errors during the assessment.

Once that is done, then the real assessment can begin. These assessments will vary in type depending on whether they are live proctored, or pre-recorded.

For auto proctored exams, the test taker receives a set of questions (in text format) one by one on their screen. These questions are timed, and hence they require the test taker to record their answer in a video at the designated time.

Whereas for live proctoring exams, there is a qualified proctor who looks over the test taker’s live feed and red flags for any suspicious activities in real-time.

Traditionally, remote live proctoring has been used as the safest method of conducting exams remotely, but over time it has proved to be neither scalable nor feasible due to data security concerns . Hence, automated proctoring has become a much popular choice.

Use case #1 – How can schools and universities benefit from proctored exams?

More than 500 universities in the US including Arizona State University, California State University use online proctored exams. Here’s why:

  • Relevant : Generation Z is adept in all kinds of technologies and is accustomed to the fast-paced world. For them, traditional classroom training may seem obsolete and sometimes boring. Thus, adopting eLearning methodologies to teach them would prove to be more successful and would make learning seem more relevant and easier for children.
  • Accessible : The fact that these classes and exams can be taken from any part of the world makes them highly accessible and hence, doesn’t limit the capacity of students undertaking them. Students and teachers don’t have to travel to a designated test center to take these tests at a particular time.
  • Cheat-proof : Since schools and universities are examination hubs, there’s also a lot of scope for cheating during exams. An online proctored test ensures that students cannot cheat, as each test taker must ensure that they’re sitting alone in a room while taking an online exam, along with other rules that are put in place to make online exams cheat-proof digitally. Also, it is very hard to cheat when an unseen invigilator is viewing you constantly via a large video screen, in case of live proctored exams.
  • Student Authentication : Along with cheat-proofing, the authenticity check at the beginning of the test nullifies any chance of impersonation or any other malpractice during the test. Some proctoring services even provide a two-factor authentication to be very sure of who is taking the test. This is one of the major concerns for parents or teachers when it comes to online exams.
  • Convenient: When setting up an online exam or assessment, you don’t need to create a spreadsheet with students’ names and IDs – it’s all available on the proctoring software. Everything can be done with the click of a button.
  • Quick Results : In an online exam, the results are calculated instantly and accurately by the software. In a paper-based examination, the paper evaluation process takes up a lot of time and is also prone to human errors.

Use case #2 – How can learning centers/certification providers benefit with proctored exams?

Massive Open Online Courses like UNE and Coursera also make use of proctored exams for online courses successfully.

  • Self-paced: Online courses are self-paced, and one should be able to complete them at their own pace and convenience. Since the students and instructors don’t interact in real-time, the students can pause and resume the courses whenever they feel like. This ensures that people who are taking up these courses while having a full-time job or other priorities are still able to pursue a course of their choice without having to stress about deadlines.
  • Exams on-demand: If no live proctors are required for testing, students can take the exam at any hour without the need of always having a proctor available.
  • Scalable: Due to geographical limitations, traditional classroom education is very limited in its accessibility. But through eLearning, the reach can be much wider. Remote classes are highly scalable and can accommodate as many students as you want from possibly any part of the world.
  • Growing Demand: By enabling students to take up the course at their own pace, they have become a very popular choice for people wanting to hone their skills or specialize in a certain field. This ensures that the learning centers are always in demand and running.
  • Cost-effective: Since there are no logistical costs, the cost of hiring a proctor, an examination center, question papers and answer sheets, etc., online courses become a more economical alternative that is widely chosen by many.
  • Easy Audits: With the tests being proctored, you will always have recorded proof to present during audits. You won’t have to create paperwork from scratch at the last minute or worry about surprise audits.

Can you cheat on online proctored exams?

Online proctoring tools use algorithms and machine learning to deter cheating by automatically identifying cheating-like behavior during online assessments . The technology tracks and learns student behaviors and patterns during the assessment which helps to track malpractice and cheating during the exam.

To ensure the test is not taken by anyone apart from the person enrolled in the course, online proctoring solutions often use secure browsers.

Certain controls like student authentication, face/voice match and face/voice activity detection, restriction of test access, etc. are enabled such that the test will only begin once the actual student sits in front of his system.

The teachers can decide how much flexibility students have to access certain web pages or applications. Some proctoring services send a trigger when during the exam the test taker is found to switch browser windows or tabs or is copy/pasting from some other browser or document.

It also notices the test takers exam-taking environment to check for any kind of malpractice and if the test taker is in their designated place for the duration of the test.

More so, if you decide to use live proctoring software, that will reduce a lot of these additional steps since a live proctor will be sharing the screen of the test taker.

With these steps in place, online proctored exams are made completely secure and probably more cheat-proof than face-to-face exams.

Are there any privacy concerns?

A smart and reliable proctoring service will provide you with full transparency regarding all the data being used, where it is being used, why it is being stored and how it is being discarded after a test is over.

To ensure that you’re not using a fraud remote proctoring system, the solution should be noninvasive and have privacy protection . It should be legally certified to hold proctored exams on its platform. Hence, you need to do a proper and thorough background check on your proctoring software.

Proctors should not have to access a user’s device and data files to verify test compliance at all. There are many other ways to check and give cheat-proof clearance to the test taker, as mentioned in the blog post earlier.

The security measures need to be integrated and automated to ensure proper compliance and client privacy, while reducing security risks and, in the process, provide a smooth user experience.

This world has morphed into a large online learning experiment, with us testing the limits of education technology. Online proctoring, being one of them, has become an essential part of eLearning and is proving to be a trend that is here to stay. Along with that, as AI in proctoring services becomes smarter, it will continue to make exams easier, handy, and authentic.

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How Do Online Classes Work?

An adult learner discovering how online courses work, sitting at a desk with a laptop.

Whether you’re considering going back to school to start or to finish a degree, online courses are an appealing option, and you may be wondering how online college classes actually work. 

How is Online Different Than Face-to-Face Classes?

You might be familiar with taking a college class in a face-to-face environment in a traditional college setting. The basic premise is still the same online; you’ll have a syllabus to introduce you to what the class – or course – is about and the competencies it will cover. You’ll also learn what materials are required for the course, the types of assignments to expect, grading information, the assignment schedule and academic policies. 

Attending classes on campus may tie you to a traditional semester schedule, limiting opportunities to begin a degree program. Online classes may differ, offering term start dates  year-round. At Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), for example, there are 8-week terms for undergraduate classes and 10-week terms for graduate, allowing ample opportunities to enroll throughout the calendar year. 

What Will Online Assignments Be Like?

Your assignments will be much like what you might expect or have experienced on campus, except they will be virtual. Rather than an in-class discussion, you’ll use online forums for discussion posts and responses. There may be readings and other resource materials, along with quizzes, academic papers, presentations and other assignments pertinent to specific areas of study.

A vast array of resource materials is available through a virtual library, and quite often with 24/7 chat assistance. 

Will Online Classes Be Flexible?

A big difference is that you won’t be attending your online college class at a defined time each week. Instead, you’ll have the flexibility to do coursework when it makes sense  for you within the framework of the course schedule. 

For instance, at SNHU, courses in online degree programs  are broken out by week-long modules with due dates clearly defined each week. You may choose to complete all assignments for that week within a two-day period or chip away at work throughout the week. Depending on whether you're a night owl or an early bird, you can find the time of day that's most convenient and productive for you.

What is the Online College Community Like?

And while the work will be done from wherever you are, you’re not alone if you choose a school that has supports in place to help you succeed. Online students at SNHU work with an admission counselor to ensure the degree program they choose is the right fit . Upon enrollment, an academic advisor is assigned to provide support throughout each course and assist with scheduling, resource advice and lend a hand whenever needed. Adjunct instructors are available throughout each course to clarify information, answer questions and facilitate learning. 

If you'd like to get involved with extracurriculars , there’s an online portal where you can connect with other students, join clubs and participate in activities. Events including SNHU's annual LEADS conference  also allow you to connect with others in the community while also focusing on your personal and professional development.

There are also career advisors ready to assist you whether you're angling for a promotion at work or want to leave your job and find a new one . You can also gain career insights and assistance in building your connections and personal brand with the help of an alumni network . At SNHU, you'll find there are more 130 thousand graduates.

While these supports may not be in place at every school you consider, it’s important to focus on what is meaningful for you – and ensure you select a degree program at a university that has what you need and want. 

How Many Classes Do You Take in College?

How many classes you take depends mostly on you: whether you’ve already taken courses or not, how much time you can commit to school and which degree you hope to earn. 

The number of credits it takes to graduate from college depends on your program:

  • A bachelor’s degree  program typically requires 120 credit hours (or approximately 40 classes). 
  • A master’s degree  is typically anywhere from 30-40 credits, and sometimes up to 60 credits (from 10-20 classes), depending on the program you choose. For example, an MBA – or Master of Business Administration  – may take as few as 30 credits to complete while a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing  could take 48 credits.

If this isn't your first time attending college, you may be able to transfer credits to your new program, altering your timeline and cost to completion. SNHU, for example, accepts up to 90 credits  from previous coursework. You may also be able to finish faster with prior learning credits  obtained through certain certifications, trainings and military education.

Part-time or Full-time Student: How Many Classes is Full Time? 

Two online classes per term is considered full time at SNHU. If you’re hoping to maximize the number of courses you take each term to move faster to your degree, you may be surprised by how manageable two courses can be.

This may be variable at other schools, so it’s important to ask this question up front and understand what constitutes full and part-time – and how your financial aid award  might impact your options.

Are Online Classes Easier?

The best online classes have academic rigor and knowledgeable faculty with expertise in their fields. That winning combination, along with supportive resources and staff, creates a learning environment comparable to what you’d expect in a face-to-face class setting. 

Some classes may feel easier than others for you based on your level of interest, willingness to put in the work and comfort level with what’s required of you in a particular course. If writing is something you absolutely love and a class is writing-intensive, that course may be one you’ll feel really comfortable in. If a course seems like it may be challenging, it’s important to consider what resources are available to assist you in the areas you feel you need additional help.

For example, some schools offer 24/7 drop-in tutoring sessions as well as access to a writing center. Leveraging these resources can help you turn in your best work.

Knowing what supports are in place for you as a student can turn what might have been a difficult experience into a course you may thrive in.  

Success Tips for Online Classes

To do well, it’s important to assess the time you have available for coursework and plan accordingly, leaving yourself some flexibility to pivot as needed if challenges in other areas of your life come your way. Schoolwork may be something entirely new for you, and you could be uncertain about how to maximize your success in a course. 

Here are two tips to help:

  • Managing your time is essential for your success – and there are time management strategies that can help you tremendously, including prepping well for a project, prioritizing tasks and developing a schedule and sticking to it. 
  • Practicing good study habits is another way to boost your learning. Think about how you learn; how you best engage with new information and what sticks and what doesn’t. Be sure to put yourself in an environment where you can best focus and retain information. Ensuring you have ample time to complete your assignments is equally as important. You’ll have a hard time focusing if you’re short on time and feeling stressed  – and when you allow yourself the time you need, you’ll have an opportunity to reach out for help should you get stuck on any part of an assignment. 

While your experiences or concerns may feel uniquely personal, rest assured that others have been where you are now and had the same desire to earn their degree. See what some in the SNHU community had to say about tips for college success . No matter where you’re planning to continue your education, the basic ingredients for academic success are the same.

A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU online program  that can best help you meet your goals.

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Are Online College Courses Worth It?

About southern new hampshire university.

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs . Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU  page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.

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  • Universities

How does online university work?

Posted by Tom Fleming 10/08/2023

Online university provides a valuable alternative to a brick-and-mortar university experience. Common misconceptions about online degrees paint virtual institutions as simple diploma mills, but in reality, they can provide just as much knowledge and gravitas as a mainstream, in-person degree. Just how the online learning experience unfolds can be an area of mystique, however. There’s no need to fear though – Canstar Blue will be breaking down all the confusion around how online courses work in this guide, so if you’re wondering about what’s involved with online university, read on to find out all you need to know.

How does online university differ from traditional university?

Man studying online

The key difference between online and traditional university is where you learn, as the entire university experience is digital. This means that classrooms, tutorials, lectures, group work, libraries and even assessment will take place online. This learning environment also means that in some cases, there is no set schedule for your tutorials or lectures, as you will ‘attend’ the classes when it suits you. The important stuff like the learning content and assessment requirements remain the same, meaning your degree will be almost identical to one earned through a traditional university.

The key differences between online and traditional university are:

  • Lectures and tutorials will take the form of recorded and live videos.
  • Readings, coursework and assessment will be distributed through an online portal.
  • Exams will be proctored, meaning they are timed, monitored and reviewed at a later date.
  • Students submit assessment through the university website or via their student portal.
  • The course is accessible from anywhere, including mobile devices.
  • Students have a loosely structured schedule, meaning there will be deadlines but it’s up to you when you do the coursework and attend lectures.
  • The semester might follow the regular uni schedule or may be divided up into smaller learning units.

If you choose to undertake a hybrid degree, some of your courses will be carried out in person and some online, which isn’t that different from how many university students’ complete university today.

How do online courses work?

Online study uses technology to deliver students a highly usable and accessible virtual classroom. This means that every student needs access to a device that can support participation in the course content, as well as the ability to work on assessment. Before you begin your study, you will usually participate in an orientation where you’ll learn how to use and navigate through your online resources and tools. The most important online resource is your student portal, which acts as an access point for your coursework, assessment and group work. Online universities also place a strong emphasis on discussions and participation. Consistent communication is key, and the 24/7 nature of an online degree provides many opportunities to talk to your professor and other students. In addition, there may be opportunities to pursue in-field experiences throughout the duration of your course, which would take you offline and into contact with other students or experts in your area of study.

What do you need to study online?

Studying online is a flexible and easy way to study, but there are some supplies you can’t live without. Absolute essentials include access to a computer , a reliable internet connection , a web camera , headphones , office software skills and a quiet place to study. Less practical requirements are the ability to stay on task, work without supervision, network under your own steam, forge relationships with staff and manage your time well. It’s important to be honest with yourself about your commitment to online study, and structure your learning, so you get the most out of your online course. However, like brick-and-mortar universities, you’ll be able to get in contact with staff if you’re struggling with anything, so be sure to reach out if you have any questions or need to talk with anyone.

Read more: What are the pros and cons of online learning?

How do I prepare for online study?

Mum studying at home with child

In order to succeed at an online university, it’s important to be prepared. A lot of this preparation will be similar to that required at a traditional university, such as reading the coursework, getting acquainted with your professors, buying the readings and understanding your timetable. However, some preparation is unique to online learning.

To get the most out of your online education you need to:

  • Set up a learning space which is comfortable and quiet. Remember you will be in this space for the entirety of your degree, so it’s important it’s conducive to concentration and productivity.
  • Understand the expectations of your degree; know when you need to participate and when to submit an assessment.
  • Implement a consistent routine of study and breaks to ensure you’re not wasting time or spending every minute at the computer.
  • Organise your year according to the university schedule.
  • Set regular, achievable goals to help you stay on track.
  • Communicate frequently with your cohort and develop an online community of students and professors.
  • Take advantage of your ability to rewind and revisit content to make sure you never miss important information.

Studying online is an adaptable and useful way to get the degree you want, on your terms. Now you know how online university works, and what you will need, you can feel confident in choosing the right online degree. But not sure which university to study through? Check out our ratings for the  best-rated universities in Australia .

Photo Credit: fizkes/shutterstock.com, Ilona Titova/shutterstock.com

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how do online university exams work

Written by Amberton Faculty

How Do Online Classes Work?

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Home Blog How Do Online Classes Work?

  • February 2024

Introduction to Online Course Management Systems

Traditional classes are familiar to many: attending lectures, interacting face-to-face with professors and peers, and submitting hard copies of assignments.

But how do online courses actually function?

Online classes operate through specialized platforms called course management systems. These platforms, hosted on university servers, serve as the bridge between students, professors, and course materials.

While each system may have its unique features, they typically encompass tools for class discussions, announcements, assignments, content delivery, communication, assessments, and grading.

Navigating Your Virtual Classroom

Upon entering the virtual classroom, it’s essential to become acquainted with the platform’s functionalities.

Most online course management systems are designed to be intuitive, allowing for easy navigation and interaction with course materials.

Take the time to explore the various commands and components available.

Whether it’s accessing discussion boards, submitting assignments, or checking grades, understanding these features enhances your online learning experience.

Flexibility and Convenience

Embracing flexibility.

One of the primary advantages of online classes is their flexibility. Unlike traditional classes with fixed schedules, online courses offer the freedom to complete coursework at your own pace and convenience.

With access to course materials anytime and anywhere, including via mobile devices, you have the flexibility to balance your studies with other commitments.

Leveraging Mobile Accessibility

Most course management systems are compatible with mobile devices, allowing you to stay connected and engaged with your coursework on the go.

Whether you’re commuting, traveling, or simply prefer mobile access, this flexibility empowers you to manage your education efficiently.

Engaging in Online Learning

Diverse engagement methods.

Online classes encompass a variety of engagement methods, ranging from written discussions to multimedia presentations. Each course may adopt different approaches to foster student participation and collaboration.

Regardless of the format, embrace these diverse engagement methods as opportunities to enhance your skills and knowledge.

Whether it’s contributing to discussion threads or delivering video presentations, active participation enriches your learning experience.

Academic Rigor and Self-Discipline

Dispelling the notion of online classes being easier, they demand the same level of academic rigor as traditional courses. In fact, the absence of scheduled class times requires a higher degree of self-discipline and focus.

Maintain a proactive approach to your studies, avoiding procrastination and staying committed to deadlines.

By upholding high standards and dedicating yourself to learning, you’ll achieve academic success in online courses.

Considering Online Education

If you’re considering enrolling in online classes or seeking guidance on their suitability for your educational goals, reach out to academic advisors. They can provide valuable insights and support to navigate the online learning landscape effectively.

Contact our advisors at 972.694.4162 or online at [email protected] to explore online education opportunities and embark on your educational journey with confidence.

  • academic rigor , academic success , course management systems , educational guidance , Flexibility in education , mobile learning , online course navigation. , Online education , online learning platforms , self-discipline , Student engagement , virtual classrooms

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Guest Essay

I’m a Neuroscientist. We’re Thinking About Biden’s Memory and Age in the Wrong Way.

President Biden seated in a chair holding a stack of what looks like index cards.

By Charan Ranganath

Dr. Ranganath is a professor of psychology and neuroscience and the director of the Dynamic Memory Lab at the University of California, Davis, and the author of the forthcoming book “Why We Remember: Unlocking Memory’s Power to Hold On to What Matters.”

The special counsel Robert K. Hur’s report, in which he declined to prosecute President Biden for his handling of classified documents, also included a much-debated assessment of Mr. Biden’s cognitive abilities.

“Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview with him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

As an expert on memory, I can assure you that everyone forgets. In fact, most of the details of our lives — the people we meet, the things we do and the places we go — will inevitably be reduced to memories that capture only a small fraction of those experiences.

It is normal to be more forgetful as you get older. Generally, memory functions begin to decline in our 30s and continue to fade into old age. However, age in and of itself doesn’t indicate the presence of memory deficits that would affect an individual’s ability to perform in a demanding leadership role. And an apparent memory lapse may or may not be consequential, depending on the reasons it occurred.

There is forgetting, and there is Forgetting. If you’re over the age of 40, you’ve most likely experienced the frustration of trying to grasp that slippery word on the tip of your tongue. Colloquially, this might be described as forgetting, but most memory scientists would call this retrieval failure, meaning that the memory is there but we just can’t pull it up when we need it. On the other hand, Forgetting (with a capital F) is when a memory is seemingly lost or gone altogether. Inattentively conflating the names of the leaders of two countries would fall in the first category, whereas being unable to remember that you had ever met the president of Egypt would fall into the second.

Over the course of typical aging, we see changes in the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, a brain area that plays a starring role in many of our day-to-day memory successes and failures. These changes mean that as we get older, we tend to be more distractible and often struggle to pull up words or names we’re looking for. Remembering events takes longer, and it requires more effort, and we can’t catch errors as quickly as we used to. This translates to a lot more forgetting and a little more Forgetting.

Many of the special counsel’s observations about Mr. Biden’s memory seem to fall in the category of forgetting, meaning that they are more indicative of a problem with finding the right information from memory than Forgetting. Calling up the date that an event occurred, like the last year of Mr. Biden’s vice presidency or the year of his son’s death, is a complex measure of memory. Remembering that an event took place is different from being able to put a date on when it happened, which is more challenging with increased age. The president very likely has many memories, even though he could not immediately pull up dates in the stressful (and more immediately pressing) context of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Other “memory” issues highlighted in the media are not so much cases of forgetting as they are of difficulties in the articulation of facts and knowledge. For instance, in July 2023, Mr. Biden mistakenly stated in a speech that “we have over 100 people dead,” when he should have said, “over one million.” He has struggled with a stutter since childhood, and research suggests that managing a stutter demands prefrontal resources that would normally enable people to find the right word or at least quickly correct errors after the fact.

Americans are understandably concerned about the advanced age of the two top contenders in the coming presidential election (Mr. Biden is 81, and Donald Trump is 77), although some of these concerns are rooted in cultural stereotypes and fears around aging. The fact is that there is a huge degree of variability in cognitive aging. Age is, on average, associated with decreased memory, but studies that follow up the same person over several years have shown that although some older adults show precipitous declines over time, other super-agers remain as sharp as ever.

Mr. Biden is the same age as Harrison Ford, Paul McCartney and Martin Scorsese. He’s also a bit younger than Jane Fonda (86) and a lot younger than the Berkshire Hathaway C.E.O., Warren Buffett (93). All these individuals are considered to be at the top of their professions, and yet I would not be surprised if they are more forgetful and absent-minded than when they were younger. In other words, an individual’s age does not say anything definitive about the person’s cognitive status or where it will head in the near future.

I can’t speak to the cognitive status of any of the presidential candidates, but I can say that, rather than focus on candidates’ ages per se, we should consider whether they have the capabilities to do the job. Public perception of a person’s cognitive state is often determined by superficial factors, such as physical presence, confidence and verbal fluency, but these aren’t necessarily relevant to one’s capacity to make consequential decisions about the fate of this country. Memory is surely relevant, but other characteristics, such as knowledge of the relevant facts and emotion regulation — both of which are relatively preserved and might even improve with age — are likely to be of equal or greater importance.

Ultimately, we are due for a national conversation about what we should expect in terms of the cognitive and emotional health of our leaders.

And that should be informed by science, not politics.

Charan Ranganath is a professor of psychology and neuroscience and the director of the Dynamic Memory Lab at the University of California, Davis, and the author of “ Why We Remember: Unlocking Memory’s Power to Hold On to What Matters .”

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  • Nurse Spotlight
  • Student Resources

10 Nursing Schools That Don’t Require TEAS or HESI Exam

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Genevieve Carlton

Contributing Writer

Learn about our editorial process .

Published February 14, 2024 · 2 Min Read

Courtnee James

Contributing Editor

10 Nursing Schools That Don’t Require TEAS or HESI Exam

  • Prospective nursing students often take entrance exams to enter competitive nursing schools.
  • Several nursing schools do not require TEAS or HESI A2 scores.
  • These nursing schools typically take a holistic approach to admissions.

Many nursing schools require TEAS or HESI A2 exam scores to admit applicants. Preparing for these exams can be stressful. Thankfully, many nursing schools don't require TEAS or HESI A2 scores.

The Holistic Approach to Nursing School Admissions

Instead of requiring TEAS or HESI A2 exams , some nursing schools take a holistic approach to admissions . That means they look at your grades, particularly on nursing prerequisite subjects like math and science. They may also ask for essays or letters of recommendation to evaluate your application. Some also use interviews to assess applicants.

Some nursing schools may set a minimum GPA for admissions or require SAT or ACT scores. Some programs also require applicants to complete college-level prerequisites before applying.

10 Nursing Schools That Don't Require TEAS or HESI Exams

Which nursing programs don’t require TEAS or HESI exams? Often, accelerated BSN and second-degree BSN programs do not require these tests because applicants have a track record of college-level coursework. And some four-year BSN programs use other factors, such as SAT or ACT scores, as part of their evaluation.

Check out this list of 10 nursing schools that don’t require TEAS or HESI scores to find the best fit for you.

California State University Fullerton

The School of Nursing at Cal State Fullerton offers a traditional BSN, transfer BSN, accelerated BSN, and an RN-to-BSN option.

  • Admission Requirements: Official transcripts; Essay; Letters of recommendation; Faculty interview
  • Program Length: 2-4 years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Available Online? No

Drexel University

The BSN programs at Drexel University , which offer tracks for first-year and transfer students, use a co-op model that includes intensive immersive experiences.

  • Admission Requirements: Essay; Letters of recommendation
  • Program Length: 2-5 years

Northern Illinois University

At Northern Illinois University's BSN program , you can apply without submitting TEAS or HESI A2 scores.

  • Admission Requirements: Official transcripts
  • Program Length: 4 years

Oregon Health & Science University

Earn your BSN at OHSU School of Nursing , which offers an on-campus traditional BSN, accelerated BSN, or online RN-to-BSN programs.

  • Admission Requirements: Minimum 3.0 GPA; Prerequisite coursework; Official transcripts
  • Program Length: 2-3 years
  • Available Online? Yes, RN-to-BSN

Samuel Merritt University

A private health sciences university in Oakland, California, Samuel Merritt University offers a two-year transfer BSN program , which will not require TEAS or HESI A2 scores starting in spring 2024.

  • Admission Requirements: Recommended minimum 3.0 GPA; Two letters of reference; Minimum 60 credits of transfer coursework
  • Program Length: 2 years

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

The School of Nursing at UNC Chapel Hill offers three BSN tracks: a traditional BSN, an accelerated BSN, and a military pathway.

  • Admission Requirements: Minimum 2.8-3.0 GPA depending on track; Completed prerequisite coursework

University of South Florida

USF offers several BSN tracks that do not require TEAS or HESI A2 scores, including a first-year student nursing pathway, second-degree BSN, upper-division BSN transfer, and veteran to BSN program.

  • Admission Requirements: Official transcripts; SAT or ACT scores for freshman nursing pathway; Minimum 3.0-3.6 GPA depending on track
  • Program Length: 16 months-4 years

University of Tennessee Health Science Center

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center's BSN options include an accelerated second-degree BSN or a two-year transfer BSN. These programs don't require nursing entrance exam scores.

  • Admission Requirements: 60 transfer credits or a non-nursing bachelor’s degree; Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Program Length: 1-2 years

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

The accelerated BSN program at UT Health , which admits applicants with a bachelor’s degree in non-nursing fields, does not require the TEAS exam starting with the May 2023 cohort.

  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution; Minimum 3.0 GPA; Online interview
  • Program Length: 15 months

West Chester University

The BSN program at West Chester University admits first-time college students without requiring standardized test scores.

  • Admission Requirements: Official transcripts; Optional SAT or ACT scores

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how do online university exams work

Create a form in Word that users can complete or print

In Word, you can create a form that others can fill out and save or print.  To do this, you will start with baseline content in a document, potentially via a form template.  Then you can add content controls for elements such as check boxes, text boxes, date pickers, and drop-down lists. Optionally, these content controls can be linked to database information.  Following are the recommended action steps in sequence.  

Show the Developer tab

In Word, be sure you have the Developer tab displayed in the ribbon.  (See how here:  Show the developer tab .)

Open a template or a blank document on which to base the form

You can start with a template or just start from scratch with a blank document.

Start with a form template

Go to File > New .

In the  Search for online templates  field, type  Forms or the kind of form you want. Then press Enter .

In the displayed results, right-click any item, then select  Create. 

Start with a blank document 

Select Blank document .

Add content to the form

Go to the  Developer  tab Controls section where you can choose controls to add to your document or form. Hover over any icon therein to see what control type it represents. The various control types are described below. You can set properties on a control once it has been inserted.

To delete a content control, right-click it, then select Remove content control  in the pop-up menu. 

Note:  You can print a form that was created via content controls. However, the boxes around the content controls will not print.

Insert a text control

The rich text content control enables users to format text (e.g., bold, italic) and type multiple paragraphs. To limit these capabilities, use the plain text content control . 

Click or tap where you want to insert the control.

Rich text control button

To learn about setting specific properties on these controls, see Set or change properties for content controls .

Insert a picture control

A picture control is most often used for templates, but you can also add a picture control to a form.

Picture control button

Insert a building block control

Use a building block control  when you want users to choose a specific block of text. These are helpful when you need to add different boilerplate text depending on the document's specific purpose. You can create rich text content controls for each version of the boilerplate text, and then use a building block control as the container for the rich text content controls.

building block gallery control

Select Developer and content controls for the building block.

Developer tab showing content controls

Insert a combo box or a drop-down list

In a combo box, users can select from a list of choices that you provide or they can type in their own information. In a drop-down list, users can only select from the list of choices.

combo box button

Select the content control, and then select Properties .

To create a list of choices, select Add under Drop-Down List Properties .

Type a choice in Display Name , such as Yes , No , or Maybe .

Repeat this step until all of the choices are in the drop-down list.

Fill in any other properties that you want.

Note:  If you select the Contents cannot be edited check box, users won’t be able to click a choice.

Insert a date picker

Click or tap where you want to insert the date picker control.

Date picker button

Insert a check box

Click or tap where you want to insert the check box control.

Check box button

Use the legacy form controls

Legacy form controls are for compatibility with older versions of Word and consist of legacy form and Active X controls.

Click or tap where you want to insert a legacy control.

Legacy control button

Select the Legacy Form control or Active X Control that you want to include.

Set or change properties for content controls

Each content control has properties that you can set or change. For example, the Date Picker control offers options for the format you want to use to display the date.

Select the content control that you want to change.

Go to Developer > Properties .

Controls Properties  button

Change the properties that you want.

Add protection to a form

If you want to limit how much others can edit or format a form, use the Restrict Editing command:

Open the form that you want to lock or protect.

Select Developer > Restrict Editing .

Restrict editing button

After selecting restrictions, select Yes, Start Enforcing Protection .

Restrict editing panel

Advanced Tip:

If you want to protect only parts of the document, separate the document into sections and only protect the sections you want.

To do this, choose Select Sections in the Restrict Editing panel. For more info on sections, see Insert a section break .

Sections selector on Resrict sections panel

If the developer tab isn't displayed in the ribbon, see Show the Developer tab .

Open a template or use a blank document

To create a form in Word that others can fill out, start with a template or document and add content controls. Content controls include things like check boxes, text boxes, and drop-down lists. If you’re familiar with databases, these content controls can even be linked to data.

Go to File > New from Template .

New from template option

In Search, type form .

Double-click the template you want to use.

Select File > Save As , and pick a location to save the form.

In Save As , type a file name and then select Save .

Start with a blank document

Go to File > New Document .

New document option

Go to File > Save As .

Go to Developer , and then choose the controls that you want to add to the document or form. To remove a content control, select the control and press Delete. You can set Options on controls once inserted. From Options, you can add entry and exit macros to run when users interact with the controls, as well as list items for combo boxes, .

Adding content controls to your form

In the document, click or tap where you want to add a content control.

On Developer , select Text Box , Check Box , or Combo Box .

Developer tab with content controls

To set specific properties for the control, select Options , and set .

Repeat steps 1 through 3 for each control that you want to add.

Set options

Options let you set common settings, as well as control specific settings. Select a control and then select Options to set up or make changes.

Set common properties.

Select Macro to Run on lets you choose a recorded or custom macro to run on Entry or Exit from the field.

Bookmark Set a unique name or bookmark for each control.

Calculate on exit This forces Word to run or refresh any calculations, such as total price when the user exits the field.

Add Help Text Give hints or instructions for each field.

OK Saves settings and exits the panel.

Cancel Forgets changes and exits the panel.

Set specific properties for a Text box

Type Select form Regular text, Number, Date, Current Date, Current Time, or Calculation.

Default text sets optional instructional text that's displayed in the text box before the user types in the field. Set Text box enabled to allow the user to enter text into the field.

Maximum length sets the length of text that a user can enter. The default is Unlimited .

Text format can set whether text automatically formats to Uppercase , Lowercase , First capital, or Title case .

Text box enabled Lets the user enter text into a field. If there is default text, user text replaces it.

Set specific properties for a Check box .

Default Value Choose between Not checked or checked as default.

Checkbox size Set a size Exactly or Auto to change size as needed.

Check box enabled Lets the user check or clear the text box.

Set specific properties for a Combo box

Drop-down item Type in strings for the list box items. Press + or Enter to add an item to the list.

Items in drop-down list Shows your current list. Select an item and use the up or down arrows to change the order, Press - to remove a selected item.

Drop-down enabled Lets the user open the combo box and make selections.

Protect the form

Go to Developer > Protect Form .

Protect form button on the Developer tab

Note:  To unprotect the form and continue editing, select Protect Form again.

Save and close the form.

Test the form (optional)

If you want, you can test the form before you distribute it.

Protect the form.

Reopen the form, fill it out as the user would, and then save a copy.

Creating fillable forms isn’t available in Word for the web.

You can create the form with the desktop version of Word with the instructions in Create a fillable form .

When you save the document and reopen it in Word for the web, you’ll see the changes you made.


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