Best Practices for Online Exams


  1. Provide students with all the exam information ahead of time:
    • Date, time, and duration of the exam
    • Where will they access the exam?
    • What learning technologies will be used for the exam and invigilation (if any)?
    • What equipment is required (e.g. laptop, webcam, mic, etc.)?
    • Who should they contact if they experience technical difficulties?
  2. Recommendations for students:
    • Use a wired Internet connection if possible. Verify that you have a stable network connection before starting the exam.
    • Close all other applications on the computer that are not required for the exam.
    • Do not use the browser’s back and forward buttons to navigate an exam.
    • Do not wait until the last minute to submit the exam.
    • Have more than one browser downloaded on your computer. (Refer to this page for a list of Canvas supported browser.)
  3. Create a practice exam with a similar format as the actual exam (e.g. exam settings, question types, invigilation method, etc.) and ask students to complete it beforehand. This allows students to know what to expect and also identify any technical issues early.

  4. Create a Zoom session for students to join during the exam if they have questions or experience technical difficulties. This allows them to speak to someone immediately.

  5. Identify students who have special accommodations (e.g. A&D students) and ensure the exam availability dates and time limit have been adjusted for these students. Contact Skylight LT if you would like us to review your settings before publishing.
    • Instructions on how to set this up in Canvas Quizzes/Assignments can be found on our Canvas FAQs page.
    • Instructions on how to set this up in WeBWork can be found here.

  6. Add additional time to your exam to account for the time required to complete integrity pledges, identity checks, scan/upload files, etc. For example, if the exam should take 60 minutes to complete, provide students with an extra 10-15 minutes of buffer time.

  7. For large enrolment courses, stagger your exam start times (e.g. by section, lab, last name, etc.) by at least five minutes apart to reduce load issues.

  8. For exams that have lots of embedded images, attach a PDF of all the images (labelled properly so students know which image corresponds to which question) in the event that the embedded images do not load for the student. Ask students to avoid using Safari.

  9. Test drive your exam by completing it as a “student”. Contact Skylight LT if you need assistance with adding additional “test users” to your course or set-up a separate Canvas sandbox site for testing.

  10. Avoid making changes to your exam while it is in progress as that can affect students who have already started.

  11. Check the grade posting policy for your exam to ensure your grades are not set to automatically release to students after submission or when grading is completed. Changing the grade posting policy to manual will allow you to review the grades before posting them.

  12. Have a contingency plan in place in the event the learning technology fails. Please share and coordinate your contingency plan with Skylight LT so we can assist you.

Additional Resources for Online Exams:

Last updated on: April 8, 2021

Learning technology support

If you have any questions or if you would like to report an issue regarding a learning technology, please don’t hesitate to contact us at For in-person support, please join our LTRs at one of our drop-in sessions.