Universities test out e-testing scenarios (NY Times)

Some forward-thinking colleges believe testing students via computer could free up more academic time for teaching and better play to individual learning strengths, The New York Times reports.

Some of us are morning people, most alert after a full night's sleep. Others hit intellectual stride post-dinner or mid-afternoon or during the early morning hours. The point being that our bodies have their own health rhythms, that affect our creativity and focus at different times of the day.

That consideration is at the core of new e-testing services being opened by several U.S. universities in a bid to evaluate the impact of electronic assessments on testing scores, according to an article in The New York Times.

Here's the scenario: Let's say your anatomy mid-term examination is scheduled for the middle of the afternoon, which is exactly when your brain says you need a nice nap. The chances that you will perform your best are average at best. Now, say that your professor decides to hold a regular class and instead let you take the examination on a certain day or days, via a computer in a secure and proctored e-testing assessment lab. You can pick the period of time during which you decide to take the test. Just to make sure that some students don't take the test early and then tell everyone else the answers, the questions are comparable, but not the same for everyone.

According to The New York Times story, the motivation is twofold. To play to individual student's best potential performance times and to free up more classroom time for teaching. Not to mention the fact that it sort of eliminates the potential for errors in marking due to really bad penmanship.

The Times quotes Angela Linse, executive director and associate dean at the Schreyer Institute for Teach Excellence at Penn State University:

"This idea of paper-and-pencil testing is so embedded in what we do that we think about it as what we should be doing. But if you get that more sophisticated software, you can get at what students know and how well they know it. Anything that's going to help faculty do that in a better way is going to be widely used."

Over time, this is sure to become standard operating procedure as far as testing goes in higher education, which will definitely impact student performance. Hopefully for the better. Although it does mean that students will be asked to handle more tests and assignments on their own personal time. (Perhaps preparing them for life in the corporate world?) Because of the investments it will take, though, I wouldn't count on this becoming the norm for elementary or high-school education for many years to come.

Who knows, maybe one day children and young adults will have no idea what a No. 2 pencil is or why it used to be so important.

(via The New York Times)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com