What purpose do tests serve

Open book exams via Moodle

An online variant for a written exam that is particularly suitable for the possibilities offered by the current technical infrastructure at Ulm University is theOpen book exam. Since the use of aids is explicitly permitted with this type of examination, there is no need to supervise students while they are working on the examination tasks ("proctoring"). Identity is determined via the Moodle login, the students confirm with a declaration of independence that they have completed the examination themselves. The test can be carried out particularly well in Moodle using the "Task" activity. The time-controlled release of the examination tasks as well as the time limitation of the submission are easily possible with this activity.

The examiners make the decision as to what the online alternative for an exam looks like. It is important to uphold the principle of equal opportunities: "The requirements for the competencies to be tested in terms of the content and degree of difficulty of the alternative form of examination must be comparable to the form provided for in the examination regulations or in the module handbook for the examination in question" during the Corona crisis of Department II).

Hints and tips for Open Book exams in Moodle

1. What are open book exams?

Open book exams (also known as open book exams, take home exams or suitcase exams) are exams in which the examinees are free to use aids such as books and scripts, online resources, calculators, application software, etc. These types of exams are available both face-to-face and online. The examination tasks usually require transfer services from the examinees, the mere questioning of verifiable knowledge does not make sense.

2. How do open book exams work in online format?

In general, there are the following phases or work steps:

  1. Compiling the exam tailored to learning objectives and content
    (see below: Which tasks are suitable for open book exams and which are not?).
  2. Report the exam or change the exam format via your examination coordinator to the study office (see also here). Select the "Written draft" format here.
  3. Provision of all relevant informationso that students can prepare for the exam in a meaningful way
    (see below What information must the examinees receive in advance? and What information is still useful for students?)
  4. Provision of the examination tasks at a specific point in time known to the examinees in advance
    (see below: How can Open Book exams be provided in online format?)
  5. Time to work on the exam questions by the test items. A period of 8-24 hours has proven itself here
    (see below: How can examinees take Open Book exams? and What processing time is recommended for Open Book exams in online format?)
  6. Submission of the solutions at a specific point in time known to the examinees in advance
    (see below: How can the processed examination questions be handed in?).
  7. If necessary, an additionalBuffer periodin the event that individual students have technical problems with the submission. For example, regular submission by 7 p.m., but submissions are still accepted until 8 p.m. Candidates should definitely report in this buffer period at the latest by telephone or email if they have technical problems so that alternative options for submission can be discussed if necessary.
  8. Correction and evaluation of the submitted solutions
    (see below How can the submitted solutions be assessed?)
  9. Handover of the exams to the study administration office forArchivingin the student files. Please note: during the current examination period, the examinations must be available in paper format! (see below: How do the exams have to be archived?)

3. Which tasks are suitable for Open Book exams and which are not?

Your students have to take the exammostly transfer payments e.g. solving unknown problems (providing evidence, calculating unknown problems, drawing logical conclusions, working on case studies), the switch from a face-to-face exam to an open book exam is not time-consuming.

Unsuitable for open book examson the other hand, they are tasks that are close to textbook knowledge and require the students to reproduce knowledge they have learned by heart or to simply transfer a traceable solution. In the situation of an open book exam, in which aids may be used and sufficient time is available, solutions can be easily looked up if necessary. You should rather avoid such tasks in your Open Book exam. If your exam consists mainly of such tasks, the switch to an open book exam is associated with more effort. In this case, please consider carefully whether a short-term change in the examination format is reasonable for students.

Should the examination questions be ahandwritten editing (e.g. because formulas or chemical equations have to be written or electrical circuits have to be sketched), this is not a reason for exclusion from an Open Book exam. A handwritten solution can be submitted by the examinees as a scan (also: photo scan).

Do you need inspiration for possible tasks in open book exams?

Our colleagues have put together profiles for examination tasks on this very good and clear website, which are also suitable for the open book format. With your permission we were allowed to adapt these profiles for the University of Ulm:

  • Submit text with everyday examples: Ask your students to submit an example from their everyday life according to a specific scientific theory or concept and to justify this reference in writing.
  • Evaluate definitions instead of defining them: Present your students with a definition with the task of evaluating them. The task could be, for example, to point out the essential components or to explain controversial elements. Alternatively, you can also specify several definitions and the students make a reasoned decision as to why one is better than the other.
  • Concept map: Let your students create a logical network of central terms of a text or several texts or a specific topic.
  • Developing solutions to case descriptions: Present a case study or an example from practice that the students have to work through systematically.
  • Cause and effect diagram: Ask your students to create a graphic representation of causes and their effects or of problems and their causes.

4. Do I have to apply for a separate Moodle course for my Open Book exam?

No, as a rule you should integrate the activity "Assignment" for the Open Book exam directly into your existing Moodle course. In the event that only certain people (registered candidates) should access the examination activity, it is recommended that you create a group (eg "Exam participants") and only add those people who are registered for the examination to this group . In the settings for the activity, select the appropriate group under "Requirements". This means that only registered candidates can access the examination activity.

5. How can Open Book exams be made available in online format?

The examination tasks must be available to the examinees at a time announced in advance. Here it is advisable to organize this time-controlled via Moodle.

With theActivity "Task" in Moodle you can provide the task as well as collect the solutions in a time-controlled manner. This option is therefore particularly recommended. Upload the tasks and other resources directly in the configuration of the "Task" activity (see Figure 1). Examples of typical files:

  • Cover sheet to fill out according to the requirements of the Study Administration Office.
  • PDF with the work instructions and tasks.
  • PDF form or Word file in which students can write the solutions directly on the computer.
  • PDF to print out for handwritten editing.
  • File that is to be processed further with a special application program.

Enter the date and time of the Start time of your Open Book exam (see Figure 2). The task can only be opened by the student at this point in time.

Alternatively It is of course also possible to provide the exam tasks and other resources for the exam as a separate file (s) in Moodle. Here, too, it is possible to time-control the availability via the requirements in the settings. In this case, we recommend that you place the file (s) in Moodle in close proximity to the submission point (usually the task activity).


6. How can examinees take open book exams in online format?

How the examination questions are processed depends entirely on the type of question and your specifications, e.g .:

  • Handwritten solutions, which are then submitted as a scan / photograph.
  • Editing in a word processing program, either without a template or in a file provided by you. In this case, the submission is ideally as a PDF.
  • If the tasks require that certain aids or software be used, it is important that you point this out to the students in advance so that they can prepare the necessary work equipment.

Please note: We currently advise against using the "Tests" activity in the Moodle at Ulm University. Here it is not possible (or only with a great deal of effort) to archive the students' answers in such a way that the requirements of the examination office are met.

7. How can the processed examination questions be handed in?

We recommend that you submit the examination questions via the Activity "task" to organize in Moodle. This enables you to use the Submission period to be timed (see Figure 3).

  • Start of delivery is the time from which solutions can be submitted. As a rule, this should coincide with the start of the Open Book exam.
  • Due Date is the time by which the examinees should submit their solutions at the latest. Submission is also possible after this point in time, but the submission will be marked as late.
  • The "Last submission option" is the point in time from which the submission of solutions is no longer possible.

A Buffer period between the due date and the last option to submit is a useful strategy for dealing with any technical difficulties that may arise during the submission. Students should submit their examination performance before the submission time marked as the due date. The submissions are still accepted during the buffer time (i.e. they did not automatically fail), but you must contact you at the latest during this time (by phone or email) if you have technical problems with the submission.

In the Delivery settings for the task activity we recommend the following configuration (see Figure 4):

  • Dispense button must be pressed: Yes
    Students can first upload a draft, but correct it if necessary. After pressing the submit button or when the processing period has ended, processing is no longer possible.
  • Declaration of independence must be confirmed: Yes
    In order to be able to submit their solution, students must tick a declaration on independence. A pre-formulated text is available in German and English (see here).
  • Retry editable: Manual or Never
    Once a solution has been released, it can no longer be changed. The “Manual” option enables individual students to process the information again on request. This option can only be granted to persons with lecturer rights in the course.

8. In what form can the examinations be uploaded?

Of course, this very much depends on the types of tasks you ask in your exam. With regard to the requirements that you set, please note that you should not assume any skills in the exam that have not been practiced beforehand. If, for example, your students have always worked on exercises by hand in the semester, you should not ask for calculations, formula drawings or circuit diagrams to be made using a formula editor, LaTeX or certain software.

In the task activity in Moodle, text can be entered online and one or more files can be uploaded. Since submitting text responses as a file upload is both less error-prone and easier to process for archiving in the study administration, we recommend that you do not use online text input.

In the event that your students print out the exam tasks and (should) process them by hand, they need a printer and a scanner or a smartphone with a scanner app. In principle, it would also be possible to combine photographs of the edited pages in one document, but a scanner app has the advantage that the perspective is automatically rectified here and several pages are combined into one PDF document. You can find an overview of free scanner apps for Android, iOS and Windows phones here, for example.

In addition to submitting the scans, we recommend that you also request that the students send you the originals by post or hand them over to the university. If for any reason the scan is not clearly legible, you can also access the original. You can still easily check via the submitted scan that no changes have been made here compared to the release version.

9. Can I also use the Test or H5P activity in Moodle for an Open Book exam via Moodle?

Many types of quiz questions in the Test or H5P activity have the advantage that they can be evaluated automatically, so it takes less time to correct them. However, for the current exam period, we do not recommend using this activity for the following reasons:

  • In order to archive the examination in the student files in the study administration office, it is necessary that the examination questions and the answers given by the students are available separately for each examination participant. It is currently not possible to export the data from Moodle according to these requirements "at the push of a button". The test records must be printed out individually for each person; the time required for this is unreasonably high. No solution can be implemented for this in the current examination period.
  • Especially with the H5P activity, it is relatively easy to access the underlying code and thus the correct answers stored in the system. The H5P activity is therefore not suitable for examination purposes but only for exercises and self-tests.

10. What is the recommended processing time for Open Book exams in online format?

We recommend a processing time between eight and 24 hours between the publication of the tasks and the final submission of the examination.When switching from a face-to-face to an open book exam, the submission date should be scheduled for the original exam day. In principle, longer processing times are also possible, but please bear in mind that your students usually have to take additional exams during an examination period.

Please do not allow the processing time to be too short. Note that an open book exam in online format places different demands on the examinees than a face-to-face exam. The assignments have to be downloaded and are not available in advance; the students may not have a quiet workplace or a computer at any time of the day. A sufficient buffer period should also be planned for any technical delays that may occur. We therefore recommend that you set the processing time at least two to three times as long as the written exam would have taken in person. At the same time, however, you should point out to your students how long you should allow for concentrated work on the solution.

11. Are shorter processing times also possible?

A 1: 1 implementation of the processing time as in the face-to-face test in the lecture hall (plus a few minutes more for calling up the tasks and uploading the solutions) is in principle technically possible. In particular, if your exam also contains tasks whose solutions could in principle be read, the strategy is to shorten the processing time so that it is not possible to research the correct solutions in terms of time.

However, should technical difficulties arise during the short processing time of the examination, especially when downloading (and possibly printing) the examination questions or when uploading the solutions, it is hardly possible to react to them. We therefore advise against such a variant of the Open Book exam.

12. What information must the examinees receive in advance?

In any case, please provide the test participants with the following information about the Open Book exam in advance:

  • In what form does the exam take place? -> as an open book exam
  • In which processing period does the Open Book exam take place? Please state the beginning and end and, if applicable, a buffer period. Also state how much time it should take to concentrate on the examination tasks.
  • How do students get the examination papers? Describe clearly where you will provide the tasks.
  • Which formal requirements do the solutions have to meet? Please also provide a cover sheet according to the requirements of the study administration office. It also makes sense that you make specifications for the file names (e.g. "Last name-first name-examXY"). If several files can be submitted, it is important that the candidates write their names in each document (so that it can be looked up in a printout, not just in the file name).
  • How are the solutions submitted? Describe how and where the solutions should be submitted. Also point out the format in which the students should submit the solutions (e.g. as PDF). Also draw attention to the submission deadline again.
  • Which aids can be used?Please note: Restrictions do not make sense when examining in online format, as you cannot check compliance.
  • Which tools have to be used? For example, does a printer have to be available so that tasks can be handwritten, do the students need specific software to work out the solutions? Do handwritten solutions have to be scanned or photographed?
  • Indication of the need for independent processing the examination tasks and, if applicable, the consequences of attempting to cheat.
  • Where can students turn if they have questions or technical difficulties? Provide a contact option that students can contact with questions, e.g. an email address or telephone number at which they can be reached. Rocket Chat is also a quick contact option.
  • What happens when students have technical difficulties? Determine by when and how you would like to be contacted at the latest if students are unable to submit their solution due to technical problems. Think in advance how you will react to typical problems (e.g. sending examination questions / submissions by email if there are difficulties with uploading or downloading).

13. Which information is still useful for students?

In addition to the purely formal information, it is generally useful for examinations to present the requirements of the examination transparently. If you know what to expect in the exam, students can prepare effectively and are more likely to achieve the relevant learning objectives of the event. In particular, the following questions enable students to prepare effectively for the exam:

  • Which topics are part of the exam?
  • Which preparatory materials should be worked through? E.g. literature references, exercises, recording videos, scripts ...
  • What are the requirements / types of tasks in the exam? E.g. free text questions, case studies, construction drawings, descriptions of strategies / approaches, drawings, derivations, evidence ...
  • Notes on assessment: Weighting of the topics / types of tasks and, if applicable, the contribution of the examination to the overall grade in the module.

14. Is there an example of the information given to the students that I can use as a guide?

We would be happy if you would like to provide us with your (anonymized if necessary) info text! Please send us your examples and we will add them here.

For this fictitious example we assume an info mail (ideally sent via the "Announcements" forum in your Moodle course).

Dear students,

Due to the pandemic situation, the "Philosophy of Science" exam will not take place in person this semester but as an open book exam via Moodle. This does not change the day of the exam.

You have on Friday the February 19, 2021 from 9 a.m. the possibility to download the exam questions. You can either print out the tasks and edit them by hand or type them into a template in Word. You can find a PDF or optionally a Word file for download in the activity "Examination of Philosophy of Science 19.02.2021" in the "General" section at the top of our Moodle course for the lecture philosophy of science.

In order to write the exam on the computer, you need word processing software with which you can open and edit files in .docx format (e.g. Microsoft Word). The upload takes place as a PDF file. If you want to answer the exam questions by hand, you will need a printer. Scan your solutions with a scanner or a scanner app on your smartphone and upload the solutions as a PDF file. The file name of your submitted solution must be "Last Name-First Name.pdf".

Please submit your solution no later than February 19, 2021, 6 p.m. as a PDF file via the activity "Theory of Science Examination February 19, 2021". The concentrated processing of the examination tasks takes about 90 minutes. Please start early and don't upload your solution at the last minute. Please note: Submission is still possible between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., but in this case your submission will be marked as late by the system and, like submission by email, can only be accepted if you contact me by 6 p.m. at the latest have set.

Should technical difficulties arise, I can be reached during the entire period by email (first [email protected]). If necessary, write me a telephone number where I can contact you. Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. I can also be reached by phone at 0731-50-32168.

You may use aids (e.g. script, instructional videos, textbook) to solve the examination tasks. However, collaboration with other people is not permitted. You have to work on the examination questions personally and are not allowed to use any outside help. Submitting your solutions is only possible after you have confirmed the declaration of independence. Attempts to cheat lead to failure of the exam.

The written exam will cover all subject areas of the lecture or chapters 1-8 in the lecture notes. The tasks require that you apply your theoretical knowledge to application examples by assessing or interpreting examples, sketching your own procedures and drawing conclusions from given data and classifying and justifying them theoretically. To answer the exam questions it is necessary that you write a short text. To prepare for the exam, work through chapters 1-8 from the script as well as the textbook chapters listed in the script under "Exam preparation literature". The questions and case studies at the end of each chapter in the script as well as the quiz questions in the Moodle course offer exercise opportunities.

A Question time for the exam will be on February 5, 2021, 10:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. offered for the lecture via the BigBlueButton room in the Moodle course. From 5th to 12th February 2021 you can also use the activity "Open Book to try out" in the Moodle course. Please use this voluntary activity to ensure that technically everything works.

Good luck with your exam preparation!

15. How can I test or practice the procedures in an Open Book exam with my students?

To ensure that students are comfortable with the procedures in the Open Book exam, it is recommended that you provide an opportunity to test that everything goes well before the exam date.

  • If you create a task in Moodle that corresponds to your planned Open Book exam, note the same settings for submission as for emergencies. The processing time for testing can of course vary.
  • If one or more documents (the tasks, cover sheet, etc.) have to be downloaded, provide one or more documents in the same file format and instruct your students to download and open these documents. If necessary, programs required for opening can be installed in advance of the test.
  • If certain application programs have to be used to process the examination tasks (e.g. CAD, Matlab or similar software), provide a sample task on which students can try out how to use the software, save it in the required file format and upload it to the exercise task in Moodle.
  • If it is necessary (or alternatively, as an alternative to electronic processing), to solve the examination tasks by hand, please ask students to upload a scan of a handwritten task over the exercise task.

16. What options are there if individual students do not have the technical means to take the Open Book exam?

If it is not possible for individual students to take the Open Book exam - e.g. because they do not have a suitable internet-enabled device, printer or stable internet connection - please enable these people to take the exam, taking into account the hygiene measures in examinations at the university to write. The principle of comparable examination conditions must be taken into account, so students must not have any advantages or disadvantages if they take the examination in person.

17. What happens if students do not submit their solution on time?

After the submission deadline has expired, no more solutions can be accepted; the examination is given a grade of 5.0. Should the timely submission be due to unforeseeable events (e.g. failure of Internet access or technical systems), this must be reported during the processing time of the examination. In this case, submission by email may be an alternative that can be discussed individually with the students.

18. How can the submitted solutions be assessed?

There are various options for correcting and grading the exams, which you can choose from, depending on your Open Book exam and your work style. Please note: Regardless of how you rate the solutions, it is necessary that you hand over the solutions submitted by the students to the Student Administration Office in printed form (i.e. on paper).

  1. Paper & Pencil Rating: To correct the exam by hand, download the submissions and print them out. You can download all donations in a zip file. To do this, open the Task activity and select "Show all submissions" below (see Figure 5). On the page that then opens, you will see a selection field at the top ("Assessment process"), please select the option "Download all submissions" (see Figure 6). The download process should now start automatically. You can now print out the individual submissions and correct them by hand as usual from the face-to-face exams.
  2. Electronic assessment on a tablet with pen input: Another way to correct and grade student submissions is to correct the downloaded submissions on a pen-enabled tablet. PDF submissions are particularly suitable for this. Please do not forget to save the corrected files.
  3. Correction in the PDF editor in Moodle: Moodle offers the option of annotating a submitted solution, which has already been submitted as a PDF or in an Office file format, directly online in this document. How this works is described in detail here. Please note that this option will not work if your exam consisted of a PDF form.

You can find more information on correcting submissions in the task activity in the e-learning portal under Help and Tips for Moodle.

19. How do the examinations have to be archived in the Student Administration Office?

In order to archive the examination performances, it is imperative that the examination papers of all candidates are available in paper form with the examination cover sheet!

The study office records the completed exams in the student files of all participants. Up to now, written exams at Ulm University have been written face-to-face and on paper, with very few exceptions. The examination papers were then scanned in by the examination office; a barcode on the cover sheet of the examination enables them to be automatically stored in the correct student files. An automated filing of electronically available examinations is not provided in this system, manual filing is not possible due to the high number of exams. In the current examination period (winter semester 2020/21), no alternative can be implemented that would allow files to be automatically and correctly stored in the student files. Therefore, it is still necessary that you - even if the exam was taken online - print out the examination results and hand them over to the study office in paper form.

Everyone involved is aware that this represents an increased and - in view of the fact that the printouts will eventually be digitized again - also seemingly unnecessary effort. The financial and human resources to remedy this during this review period are not available, however, so unfortunately nothing can be changed in the process at the moment.We ask for your understanding.

20. Are there times or days when Open Book exams are not allowed to be scheduled?

The kiz uses regular maintenance windows in order to be able to provide you with the IT systems of Ulm University in a stable manner. Please note that at certain times the infrastructure for Open Book exams (i.e. in particular for downloading the examination questions and uploading the solutions) may therefore not be available for a short time. The start and end of your Open Book exam should not be in the following periods:

  • Working days between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
  • Wednesdays between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.
  • Fridays between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.

In general, we advise against taking an exam at the weekend. On weekdays, the kiz can act more quickly in the event of technical difficulties.

21. How can I prevent attempts to deceive?

It is part of the nature of the Open Book exam that the use of any aids is permitted. Technical possibilities to prevent the use of unauthorized aids and / or to monitor students during the exam they are working on at home ("proctoring") are currently not available at the University of Ulm. Restrictions on the resources allowed are therefore not advisable.

The examination performance must represent an independent performance of the respective student. The fact that students do not work with each other or with third parties when solving the examination tasks cannot be checked during the processing process - just like when writing a term paper or thesis. The activity "Task" in Moodle offers the option in the submission settings to request a declaration of independence (see above: "How can the processed examination tasks be submitted?"). Please activate this option. In order to be able to submit their solution, students then have to tick a declaration on independence. A pre-formulated text for this is available in German and English (see here). Please point out clearly to students the need to work on the examination tasks independently and also what consequences there may be in the event of attempted deception.

If, while correcting the exam, you discover that there have been attempts at fraud, i.e. students did not process the exams independently, this will result in failure of the exam. If you discover that more than half of the exam participants are attempting to cheat, the exam must be repeated by all persons registered for the exam under controlled conditions (i.e. under supervision in presence).


Texts and images in this article are under the Creative Commons license CC BY 4.0

Indication of source for further use:
"Open book exams on Moodle" by Tatjana Spaeth (Ulm University), licensed under CC BY 4.0

Further help and information on Moodle

Moodle demo courses

  • Demo course lecture

    In this course we have put together typical content and activities for a lecture:

    Demo course lecture

  • Demo course seminar

    Here you will find helpful activities in Moodle to support your seminar:

    Demo course seminar

  • Demo course internship

    Typical situations of an internship can also be mapped well in Moodle:

    Demo course internship

Moodle self-study courses

  • Moodle basics

    In this course you will get to know the basic settings of Moodle and receive tips for creating your Moodle course.

    Moodle basics for beginners

  • Online teaching as an alternative to classroom teaching

    In this course we have activities, content and advice for the Use of Moodle in typical teaching formats collected.

    Moodle as an alternative to classroom teaching

  • Moodle course: Competence Center eEducation

    This course provides information about that Offer from the eEducation competence center in the medicine.

    Competence center eEducation

  • Moodle opportunities

    In this course you will find all Moodle functions listed once so that you can find out how they work before using them.

    Moodle opportunities

  • Teaching and learning with digital media

    In this course you will find both didactic tips and hints as well as very practical Instructions and tools for creating and editing digital media (texts, images and videos).

    Teaching and learning with digital media

Links and resources

  • E-learning portal

    On the e-learning portal of the University of Ulm you will find a lot of instructions on Moodle and other topics of online teaching (e.g. legal questions).

    E-learning portal

  • kiz info page on emergency operation

    Here you will always find the latest developments and offers on the tools and platforms that are provided and technically supported by the kiz for online teaching.

    To the website

  • Moodle Docs

    The official Moodle documentation provides detailed descriptions of all Moodle functions and activities.

    Moodle Docs

  • Moodle 2 tools for trainers

    Overview of Moodle activities and corresponding educational goals.

    Moodle 2 - tools for trainers

  • Learn Moodle 3.7

    YouTube channel with English videos - German subtitles are also available.

    Learn Moodle 3.7

Help and support in the subjects

Contact the Digitization helpers from your subject.

You are in constant contact withZLE andkiz and coordinate online teaching.

At technical problems and questions please write to the helpdesk.

At didactic and organizational issues please write to the ZLE team


Tatjana Spaeth
Center for Teaching Development

This article is under aCreative Commons License
All information about the license