A Creative Approach to Student Assessments Amid the Pandemic
In March and April 2020, Testing Services was poised to administer over 6000 exams. However, with just a few weeks’ notice, the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to nearly every single one. The country-wide lockdown closed our entire campus at a critical time, forcing faculty to find new ways of teaching and assessing student understanding.
With a condensed timeline, we needed to:
- Move all exams online
- Educate faculty and students on new requirements
- Ensure academic honesty within remote testing and learning
Building a foundation for remote testing
Our most pressing problem was administering all those exams in a reasonable time frame without physically gathering.
With just weeks to prepare, our Testing Services Coordinator, Cameron Reimer researched processes, training and technology that would help instructors to clear this hurdle. In short order, Cameron and his team were able to shift focus and support remote testing for numerous courses to help keep the school year moving forward.
However, because of that tight deadline, there was not enough time to enforce a monitoring system to ensure academic honesty.
Implementing AI monitoring technology
With one set of exams finished, Cameron and his team set to refining the system.
After much research, they found a variety of possible solutions to help instructors maintain integrity throughout online assessments. The spectrum ranged from simple remote viewing programs to tech that would completely lock down student’s browsers during exams, record video of testing sessions, and even track eye movement.
Balancing security and privacy
While the most complex programs offered more security, they also brought up concerns about violating student privacy.
After much consideration, the testing services team settled on Respondus Monitor, a middle-ground option balancing both security and privacy.
The program worked by locking a student’s browser during testing and allowing remote viewing via the student’s webcam, but without a live proctor watching them as they wrote.
An agreeable alternative assessment
Though there were still concerns about students accessing other resources (such as mobile devices), Respondus Monitor received mostly positive feedback from both staff and students.
- The freedom to take their exams in the comfort of their own home
- The ease of use as it’s a fairly straightforward download and start-up process
- The sense that they still retained some control over the testing environment
- Maintaining a personal connection with their students
Communicating clear expectations
One of the most pressing concerns with such a shift in protocol was ensuring scholastic integrity. Instructors were used to a controlled testing environment, and this new system offered fewer resources to make sure students acted appropriately.
With a challenge this big, we needed more than a technological framework to see real success. Through open communication with students and faculty, we were able to create clear expectations within everyone’s roles to build a route forward.
Shifting the focus
Instead of focusing on the punishment students could face if they were caught cheating, we emphasized the importance of individual responsibility.
A large part of this discussion involved making sure faculty and students were on the same page about what was and wasn’t appropriate during a test, as well as the real-world consequences of dishonesty.
By incorporating both the limits of Respondus Monitor, along with treating students as individuals responsible for their own integrity, we were able to alleviate some major concerns of faculty and students.
Providing our faculty resources to succeed
While Respondus Monitor offered a powerful tool, our instructors also needed specialized support for their students and classes.
Lending an ear and expertise
Our Learning Experience Designer, Lexi Schaerz, has spent years working through alternative assessments. When the pandemic forced a pivot, she was well-positioned to help faculty deal with the fallout.
Though she had plenty of ideas and tools at her disposal, often her solution was to sit, listen and provide feedback to instructors as they brainstormed and worked their way through to their own conclusions.
As Lexi continues to support instructors in their effort to recreate classes, tests and assessments, she hopes to develop alternative assessment methods that:
- Take into account students’ strengths and weaknesses
- Move beyond standardized testing for more inclusive options
- Make college classes more relevant to the workplace
One of the major changes she was able to roll out is the Student Core Competencies, a comprehensive assessment tool based on the merits of a student’s professional, employment and life skills.
Rebuilding a well-rounded alternative assessments environment, remote and otherwise
Though the pandemic has caused much grief, we are dedicated to rebuilding our systems to make classes more useful for students through creative solutions for our faculty.
Together, we’re bound to rebuild a stronger, more inclusive assessment system that goes beyond the classroom – literally.