Technology and Testing: Let’s Focus on the Learning

In the New York Times article To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test, January 21, 2011, Pam Belluck discusses the recently published research by Professors Karpicke and Blunt that found that testing students did more to foster recall than other forms of studying techniques. This is a very valuable research piece that should be brought into the frequent discussions about teaching and testing methods.

Alternative Modes of Assessment – Why?

Every week I hear about schools and professors changing the way they test students. Most of the institutions with whom I interact are building or growing distance learning programs. The term “alternative modes of assessment” is bantered about frequently among faculty and administrators involved in distance learning. What are these modes? Rather than traditional tests and quizzes, some faculty are using more open-book exams, papers, and the use of portfolios.

Our company’s work focuses on enabling online students to test from home with the same integrity as traditional classroom exams. In the past, most of our existing customers required that their online students go to a test center, travel to a campus, or find a human proctor to prevent cheating. Why? Because the institution needed to properly authenticate the identity of their online students.

Student Authentication

Many distance learning programs have not yet chosen to put a process in place to prevent cheating and authenticate the identity of an online test-taker. It is mostly those institutions that discuss and promote alternative modes of assessment.
It’s difficult to debate the value of education, personal improvement, and accountability. Schools want to protect their brand and proudly confer degrees to deserving students; employers want to hire qualified workers; and, students want their degree and education to mean something.

Hopefully, Professors Karpicke and Blunt’s provocative research will help shift the focus of the testing discussion to learning outcomes and results. Traditional testing may not always be the best way to assess student knowledge and promote learning. Alternative modes of assessment are worthy of focus and consideration. That focus should be on what is best for the student regardless of whether the student is in a classroom or online at home.

Focus on Learning

Technology continues to provide greater access to education and provides new ways to teach and learn. We should not ignore valuable testing methods because technology has provided greater access to education. We should focus on how technology can deliver learning and testing efficiently and effectively. Use alternative modes of testing when it helps the students learn, not when traditional testing methods seem difficult to deliver with integrity. Technology has already and will continue to solve that challenge.

Douglas Winneg, CEO

Software Secure

Leave a Reply