“Why should our kids sit endlessly in front of a computer, and take a standardized test?”
Many teachers query frequently. Several ask, “Why should kids opt for a test administered via a computer.”
“Students just don’t feel comfortable,” is a common argument. “If a student is not proficient with computers, and if he has bad typing skills, it hurts his confidence in himself,” is another.
Here, we list some of the most commonly cited problems with computer based testing
In the course of last two years, many schools have postponed, or abandoned computerized end of year tests, citing technical issues. Students had to restart computers due to issues like freeze-screen; while some had to change computers during the test.
These malfunctions have created a lot of test-anxiety, and increased the time that students required to complete their respective tests. Moreover, these malfunctions resulted in an increase in the over-all test-administration time.
Longer screen hours
This problem is more specific to the end of the year testing. Students have to sit continuously and for longer duration during an EOY test. They cannot get up, or take a walk while a test is on, they have to face the screen and answer the questions. Moreover, they have to do so repeatedly during the Examination window.
Math, ELA, Science… every subject has its own EOY test, and every test has multiple modules. The screen time is considerably high. This multiplies the incidents of test anxiety. The experience is not only tiresome for their eyes; it is an extremely exhaustive experience too.
Surfing between questions
Current testing-formats present every question as a block. Students get to see one question at a time. If someone wants to skip a question (just momentarily), else if they wish to review a preceding question, they press the next/previous buttons.
It may seem simple to an adult, but it isn’t so with children. End of year tests are the most important exam of their school year, and a single complexity can easily become a source of test anxiety.
Paper based tests were easier, and were comparatively comfortable. Students could easily surf among questions, review answers, and could make changes swiftly. It shouldn’t be a surprise, if students are found avoiding reviewing their answer sheets, or changing the incorrect responses.
Paper based testing or Computer based testing?
The query is, “Should our kids opt for a paper-based test or opt in for computer based testing?”
The benefits of computer based testing
Digital citizenship is a reality. Our students spend the majority of their time online, and use digital tools to complement every aspect of their daily life. It isn’t just logical, but has become necessary to test their skills via digital media. Following is a list of major benefits of using computer based testing.
The graphical interface
If there is something truly hateful in paper-based testing, it is the monotonous nature of the test. It tests only a few set of skills, and one needs to be a master of reading and writing to express their views.
However, with a graphic interface, you have the option of dynamic presentation of the test content. Plus, a single question can be delivered to different students at levels most suitable to their capabilities.
Dynamic tests like SBAC learn from student responses, and change the difficulty level of succeeding questions.
Such adaptive testing environments help create a comprehensive picture of student growth, and help us measure students for more basic skills like, cognitive and perceptual performance.
The mobility of tests
One great advantage is the freedom of space. Unlike old times, students don’t have to sit in a single room for a specified amount of time; computer based testing allows them the choice of space and time. Students can take tests from any location, and at any suitable time.
The greatest beneficiaries are students with disabilities. Students, who cannot reach the testing premise, can take tests from their homes or from other designated locations.
Quick scoring is one of the major benefits of computer based testing. Majority of results can now be delivered immediately, and with least chance of error. Although the analytical and written questions take time to analyze, the majority of test items can be scored quite quickly.
GRE has reduced this time from six weeks to about ten-fifteen days.
Better student responses
Graphical interface allows students to express their conceptual understanding in ways, impossible in a hand-written format. Digital writing reduces their dependency over writing skills, and allows them more space to express their learning.
Lower administrative costs
Standardized tests are presented in the same way to all the students. Moreover, they reduce the time required to score and analyze student responses. Quantitative questions are scored immediately by the computer, thus reducing the chances of human errors.
Analytical responses too can be scored really quickly. In whole, delivery and scoring costs of computer based testing are lesser than paper-based testing.
The high level of student anxiety can be dealt with easily by implementing proper preparation and practice sessions. Simulated testing environment (like, practice exams and online learning environments) prior to live testing, can help reduce student anxiety drastically.
As we wrote earlier, Digital citizenship is a reality. The number of people using technology is growing exponentially. Effective college and career readiness, necessitates testing via digital media.
What are your views regarding computer based testing? Do you like it? Have you faced any-problems while delivering a computer based test? Do share with us, we’d love to know?