Assessment: Moving physical submissions to online


This article offers advice on how to convert physically submitted assignments, in-class tests, presentations and oral exams to online submission or delivery.

The University Board for Teaching, Learning & Student Experience (UBTLSE) agreed that, for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 academic years, all coursework should be submitted online, except in a small number of cases where online submission is technically not possible or is not consistent with the fair assessment of the work.

Section 6.9.1 of the Assessment Handbook and associated Annex 2 were revised to reflect this change in policy for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 academic years.

The Teaching & Learning Framework 2022-24 states: “Wherever possible, coursework should be submitted online, except where online submission is technically not possible or is not consistent with fair assessment of the work”

In all cases, contact your Programme Administration team regarding the set-up or to advise about any changes to online submission points.

In changing the mode of submission, note there may be other considerations such as anonymity, moderation and multiple marking.  These are outlined at the end of this article.

To see a quick summary refer to the Table: Types of physical submission, and online alternatives (Word doc) and then see the information below for more detail.

  1. In-class Tests
  2. Written work that can be Word processed
  3. Written work that can be word processed but needs to include handwritten equations, notation or diagrams
  4. Handwritten work
  5. Duplicate submission
  6. Physical objects
  7. Groupwork written assignments
  8. Presentations and oral exams
  9. Other considerations


In-class Tests

Convert to: Blackboard Tests

In-class tests should be taken online, where feasible, in anticipation of any changes in circumstance that affect students’ ability to take the in-class test in a physical classroom. Exceptions would include practical lab-based tests. 

Tests should be set up within the Assessment section of the module on Blackboard.

Is your test suitable to become a Blackboard test?

Most in-class tests can be converted to Blackboard tests.  Blackboard tests allow the use of around 20 question types, including

  • Multiple choice
  • Multiple answer
  • True/False
  • Matching
  • Calculated formula
  • Short answer/essay
  • File response.

Table: Test question types and the Blackboard equivalent (Word doc)


  • Images can be incorporated into questions.
  • For tests where students must identify physical objects, for example plants or archaeological remains, consider if it is possible to use high quality images or videos of the objects instead.
  • Where a correct answer has been specified in advance, Blackboard will mark students’ attempts automatically.
  • Be aware that some of your questions may require modification to work successfully online using the question types available.
  • Where students are required to handwrite answers or submit files as the answer to a test, the file response question type can be used. If the timed element of the test is not critical, consider using a Turnitin or Blackboard Assignment submission point in a similar way to a normal assignment hand-in. 
  • Provide a practice Blackboard test in advance of the real in-class test to allow students to experience what they need to do and uncover any potential issues ahead of time. Include examples of the question types you intend to use. These do not necessarily need to be real questions. This is especially important if students need to prepare and submit files.
  • Managing and supporting in-class tests is the responsibility of the School, with help from your Support Centre.
  • For quality assurance, you should:
    • Take the test to check for any formatting errors and mistakes in question settings or answers.
    • Have separate people set up and check the test.

Recommended settings for Blackboard Tests

Where possible, the recommended setting should be used. If you are unsure what settings to select, please seek advice.

See Recommended settings for Blackboard Tests for In-class Tests 2020-21 (Word doc)

How long should the test be available?

While in-class tests require students to be present at a set time, this will not always be possible in current circumstances.  You may have students studying in different time zones across the world and/or UK-based students with other time demands or clashes that make it impractical to take a test within a short time window.

For this reason, we recommend tests are made available and are open for a longer period that allows student to take the test at a reasonable time in their time zone.  You can still set a time limit so that, regardless of when a student starts the test, each student has to complete the test within a given time.

Time the availability of  your test so that support is available from the module teaching team and Programme Administration team during the period when students are taking it. Tests should normally be set to open and close within core working hours, where possible.

Where students need to prepare digital documents as part of their test, for example scan handwritten answers, increase the time limit allowed to take the test to accommodate this additional step.  In cases where the test availability does not accommodate all of your students, please contact the TEL team for advice.

Security and integrity of tests

To safeguard and reduce the opportunity for collusion, all or a combination of the following is advised, where practical:

  • Randomise the question order, where question order is not required.
  • Randomise the order of answers to questions, for example MCQ’s
  • Use question pools to present a randomly selected set of questions to each student from the pool.
  • Set a timer to complete the test. (Individual extensions for extra time can be set for specific students requiring adjustments for SpLD.)
  • Restrict when the test is visible to students in Blackboard.
  • Only allow a single attempt.
  • Do not release the results of the test to students before all the students have completed the test.
  • Provide a separate test for students in different time-zones, using different questions.

Releasing marks and feedback

  • Module teams should decide if students get feedback on their test, and when it is released.
  • Feedback will be released to all students on the course at the specified time.
  • For all automatically marked in-class tests, for example MCQs, marks and feedback should be set to appear after the end of the test, once all the students have completed it.
  • For tests which require staff to mark some or all questions, marks and feedback should not be made available until marking is complete.


  • Ensure that your online test is accessible for students with disabilities.
  • Be aware that Hotspot and Ordering question types have low levels of accessibility and are unsuitable for students with physical disability.
  • Avoid using streamed media and video in the test if students are studying in a country that blocks certain content or they have a slow internet connection.
  • Ensure images and diagrams have suitable ‘alt text’ descriptions.
  • Make suitable alternative arrangements to take the test, if students have limited access to the internet at the time the test needs to be taken.


  • Schools should arrange support for tests within the School.
  • Tell students how and who they should contact if they have an issue when taking the test.
  • Identify who is going to respond to and be responsible for handling student queries before, during and after the test.
  • Students should have a communication channel to contact support should they lose internet connection and be unable to email.
  • Clearly communicate the details of the test and any specific instructions.
  • Students should take tests using a laptop or desktop computer wherever possible. They should not use the mobile Blackboard app as test questions may not display correctly.


Written work that can be word processed

Convert to: Electronic document

Submission using: Turnitin Assignment

Treat this type of assessment as coursework and require students to submit to a Turnitin assignment (unless otherwise specified within the School / Department).

Time limited: If you need to impose a time limit – replicating the situation in an in-class test – use a Blackboard Test: essay, short answer or file response question types.


Written work that can be word processed but needs to include handwritten equations, notation or diagrams

Convert to: Electronic document

Submission using: Turnitin Assignment

Images or scans of handwritten equations can be inserted into Word documents.

Exception: where it is important to be able to provide feedback by annotating the equations or diagrams, use a Blackboard Assignment.


Handwritten work

Lab books, log books, field notebooks.

Convert to: Electronic document

Submission using: Blackboard Assignment

Students scan their physical documents or notes and submit to a Blackboard Assignment.


Blackboard is the preferred option as

  • it is easier for students to submit files of scanned material
  • it accepts a wider variety of files types that can be viewed on-screen directly within Blackboard, making it easier to mark online.
  • Turnitin doesn’t generate a similarity report of scanned material.

However submission to Turnitin also possible, where for example the teaching team have developed a Turnitin Rubric for the assessment, or Turnitin is the only assessment tool used in School.

Turnitin may also be the preferred solution if it is essential that work is marked anonymously.

When setting up Turnitin assignments for this type of assessment, Programme Administrators will need to select ‘Allow any file type’.

We are updating our student guidance, but this will be very close to the guidance provided on scanning work for Take Home Exams.

Equations, scientific notation and diagrams

Convert to: Electronic document

Submission using: Blackboard Assignment

Students scan their physical documents and submit to a Blackboard Assignment.


Duplicate submission

Where you currently ask for a physical submission and an online copy of a document, for example, a dissertation, the physical submission is not necessary.


Physical objects

Convert to: Photographs/video of object.

Submission using: Blackboard Assignment


Convert to: Images of object inserted into a written component of the assessment, and submit to a Turnitin Assignment.

Groupwork written assignments

All group work should be submitted to a Blackboard Group Assignment.


Presentations & Oral Exams

Does your presentation need to take place as a live event?

If so, you can run the assessment using either Teams or Collaborate.

If not, ask your students to record their presentation and submit it via YuJa to a Blackboard Assignment.

See Online submission: presentations for detailed guidance on live online presentations, and various forms of recorded presentation.

Some considerations:

  • are these individual or group presentations?
  • how long will the presentations be?
  • will they be just a video of the students talking?
    or Powerpoint slides + audio of the students talking?
    or Powerpoint + audio + video?
  • are the videos being submitted purely for purposes of assessment, so only visible to markers?
    or do they need to be shared with the class as a whole? (in the same way as all students would see in-class presentations)

Whether Individual or Group, uploading to YuJa then submitting to a Blackboard assignment provides a reliable workflow for students and markers.


Other considerations

Anonymous marking

When it is necessary to mark work anonymously, use Turnitin where possible, rather than Blackboard assignments.

Internal moderation – anonymous and named

You may need to reconsider if internal moderation is practical in the following scenarios, as they are complex to manage operationally due to the technical limitations of the tools:

For full details of how to conduct marking to facilitate internal moderation online in each tool, please see



Table: Types of physical submission, and online alternatives (Word doc)


Getting further help and support

To get clarification or to talk through specific questions or queries about converting your coursework.

Contact TEL by emailing or raise a ticket via the DTS Self-Service Portal.

Page last updated on September 20, 2022 by andyturner

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