We have a platform where students can take an online assessment anytime and anywhere. We offer this online assessment mainly for English, Science, and Math subjects.

The students need to activate the laptop security checks like web camera, microphone, and screen sharing to flag cheating as part of the school requirements.

Use case

Students need to take the online assessment on our platform during the pandemic as the physical classes are suspended.


  • NCEA students (High school)
  • Age: 14-17 yrs old
  • Main device: Laptop
  • Screen resolution: 1440 x 900px (Based on the Google Analytics)

Technology requirements

  • Chrome browser only
  • The user should stay in one browser tab only. Navigating or opening a new Chrome tab will be flagged as cheating.

Assessment PDF

The school teachers use the same PDF for the print and digital versions, and we do not have control. Some PDF documents have tiny font sizes which makes them hard to read.

Online assessment

The online assessment has a time limit and it depends on the teacher to set it.


I have conducted a usability test with five participants and found out that they struggle to read the PDF question sheet on the left column of the screen.

According to our education department, it is good to have the PDF open together with the answer sheet on the right column.

I have checked with our engineering department if we can hide the PDF thumbnail on the left nav panel to give extra space for the user to read, but they said this is a default render from the Chrome browser, so there is nothing much we can do at this point.

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Proposed solutions

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Solution 1

Slide-in panel on the left We can slightly increase the readable area of the PDF while maintaining the visibility of the answer sheet, but it does not entirely solve the problem.

Solution 2

Slide-in panel at the bottom It shows almost half of the screen. You can read the PDF and fill up the answer sheet, but it will be pretty tight.

Solution 3

Full-screen slide-in panel It shows the PDF, and students can read it, but they need to open/close the panel while answering the sheet.

Solution 4

Students can see their tasks, PDF, and answer sheet together. They can drag or hide the panel (Similar to Powerpoint), but this will be a nightmare for the engineering team. We do not have the resource to build like this.

Other solutions?

I am just wondering if anyone has a better solution for this problem.

  • Hi Constantino, thanks so much for all the effort and detail you've put into your question. One question for you - does the hamburger menu at the top collapse the thumbnails, leaving just the PDF? And if so, does the PDF typically become large enough to read and more easily interact with?
    – Izquierdo
    Feb 9, 2022 at 22:37
  • Hi, yes the hamburger menu will collapse the thumbnails but students are not aware of it as they focus on reading the PDF content. I tried reading it without the collapsible thumbnail but it is still hard to read it, unfortunately. Another issue I found out that the PDF content is used for printing and teacher uses the same pdf for this online assessment which means that the font size is much smaller. Feb 10, 2022 at 0:19

1 Answer 1


The goal is to maximize the amount of space for the PDF, which seems to have a high level of detail and dense tables. Thus, I think your best bet would be to take a pattern from the unmoderated user testing playbook and show one question at a time, taking up a little space as possible with a collapsible panel. You could use a small overlay with "Previous" and "Next" buttons, and allow your students to review all of their answers at the very end before finally submitting.

PDF with small panel overlay showing one question at a time

Please test for accessibility with any of these dual PDF/screen patterns unless there are alternative materials being provided to students with vision disabilities.

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