Lunchtime Webinar: Using tests in the VLE

Our lunchtime webinar on Friday 12 February 2016 was on ‘Using Tests in the VLE’ and went through the what, why and how of using VLE tests for formative assessment alongside weekly face-to-face sessions and other module content. Watch the recording of the session below or scroll down for a written summary. The session focused more on the pedagogic rationale for using VLE tests as opposed to paper-based or other methods and wasn’t technical training on setting up tests. Links to technical guidance can be found in the ‘Further Resources’ section and E-Learning Development Team members are available to book for individual or group training on setting up tests.

Watch recording


What can VLE tests be used for?

The VLE’s test tool can be used for both formative and summative assessments, although the majority of the examples shown in this post are ways in which VLE tests have been used to formatively assess students.

Tests can be set up as part of a flipped learning model where students are presented with materials in advance of a class and need to pass a test in the VLE to show that they have understood the materials before attending the session. The example from Chemistry in the Case Studies section below is a good example of this.

Tests can be used to help students’ practice their skills and test subject knowledge to complement weekly reading and other activities, and it is possible to set up mobile compatible tests to give students the flexibility to study wherever they like on whichever device they prefer.

VLE module content can also be structured around tests – meaning that new content isn’t released to students until they have achieved a certain pass mark on a test. An example of this in practice is the university’s Academic Integrity Tutorial, which does not allow students to progress to the next section of the tutorial until they have achieved a 100% pass mark on the previous section.

Why use VLE tests? What are the benefits?

The reduction in marking workload when teaching large cohorts is an obvious benefit. Most of the question types can be marked automatically because, as an Instructor, you will have entered pre-defined correct answers. However, it is important to note that the effort is front-loaded in terms of setting up good tests and this can be seen as a drawback. There is some support available in the form of ‘Rapid Response’ grants. The tests from the Language and Linguistics case study below were set up with the help of Rapid Response funding; the department were able to hire some postgraduate students to help with populating the VLE tests, taking some of the burden away from teaching staff. 

From the learner’s perspective, the tests provide instant feedback and you can allow students to take the tests multiple times to keep practicing skills or testing their knowledge. With question types such as the ‘short answer’ question, you can provide model answers so students can compare theirs with examples. There are also a variety of question types you can use to facilitate higher order thinking skills so that tests are not just designed to enable factual recall. For more advice on the types of questions available, visit the technical guide to setting up tests in the ‘Further Resources’ section below or contact us for further advice.

VLE tests also provide easy reporting and analysis of student responses and allow you to monitor the quality of questions through statistical analysis.

How can tests be used and how have they been used at York?

You can put a test anywhere you want in a content area on the VLE. You could add a separate link on the left menu of your VLE module to link students to all of the tests in one place, or you could add tests into a content area alongside resources that fit with the topics covered in the test, as in the example shown in the screenshot below.

Screenshot of VLE module showing tests within a content area alongside other resources.

Click image to enlarge

It’s possible to set up ‘question pools’, which are banks of questions that can be used on a number of different tests. You can then draw questions from multiple pools onto one test by adding what’s called a ‘random block’. This would be an effective way to put together a test with varying levels of difficulty and you make a test progressively more difficult by drawing questions from different pools.

Screenshot of question pools

You can also write questions so that students have to make use of other resources both within and outside of the VLE in order to be able to answer. It could be questions based on a key reading for that particular week, some case study materials as part of problem-based learning activities or a question that requires them to provide evidence of working it out before they answer. The ‘short answer’ and ‘essay’ question options can be used to facilitate more in-depth activities, although these question types do need to be manually marked so this is something to be taken into consideration when putting tests together. To see some examples of how VLE tests have been used effectively, have a look at the case studies below.

Case Studies

The following Case Studies show how the VLE’s test tool has been used in different ways across different disciplines at York.

York Pedagogy

This webinar focused a lot on individual module use of VLE tests. However, it is important to consider the way formative assessment is designed into the programme as a whole. The work that is taking place as part of the roll-out of the York Pedagogy places a lot of emphasis on student work and how formative activity is the defining process of learning. For more information about this work and the research that has informed it, visit the York Pedagogy web pages.

Further Resources

To see our upcoming lunchtime webinars or watch recordings of our webinars from last term, visit our Staff Development page. If you have any questions about using VLE tests please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at

Blog featured image courtesy of Steven S. on Flickr.


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