Thursday, November 07, 2019

On-line Testing for Continuous Assessment

The biggest issue for me and many others about on-line education is assessment. The security and integrity of the assessment is paramount - this is easy to implement in an exam hall with Invigilators watching your every move, but not so on-line. Proctoring a test is not so easy - software is the only way to go? For end of semester/year exams, some institutions will insist on students attending the College to sit the exam in the traditional exam hall. Others will assess learning outcomes with assignments and projects, thus avoiding formal tests. 

Some companies, like ProctorU (not used in NCI), offer an "exam security" system to provide "Online proctoring to advance your learning and testing program. Validate knowledge. Reduce costs. Expand access.". Here's how it works:

It sounds so simple and easy to use - right? 

According to TestReach, there are several (12) "Benefits of Online Assessment" - these include:
  • Exam Candidates are used to Digital
  • Reduced Administrative Burden
  • It’s More Environmentally Friendly
  • Increased Security
  • Flexibility to Take Exams Anywhere
While I agree to a certain extent with the benefits listed, there are a few factors not taken (directly) into account. First - taking a test is stressful! Adding in extra security stuff adds to this stress. We are not yet in an age where everything is digital, most adult learners today have sat almost all of their tests to date at a desk and chair in an exam hall. Secondly, despite clear guidelines for technical requirements - not all students are prepared correctly for on-line tests. Macs are different than PCs, internal and external webcams are different, lots of different operating systems and browsers are used. Throw in varying RAM and broadband speeds, and you have extra levels of stress - particularly for students taking a test for the first time. Despite appearances, not all students "are used to Digital", and for me there has been no reduction in administrative burden. 

I am satisfied that end of semester/year exams can be managed securely - we have been doing this in NCI for a few years now. Continuous assessment is another matter - I need to be fully convinced that setting up a one-hour in-class test is secure. I now favour looking at alternative methods of continuous assessment such as weekly graded lab work, small carefully selected projects, presentations (on-line live, or a recorded video), use of personal GitHub sites for programming, and publication of assignments such as the creation of Dashboards on-line in the likes of Tableau Public. 

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