Giving Your First Online TestIt wasn’t too long ago that online testing was for the adventurous, tech-minded teacher. Today, online testing is commonplace in classrooms, and there are plenty of benefits: assessments are automatically graded, feedback is immediate, districts can gather meaningful data from schools throughout the year, and there are significant savings in both paper and photocopy costs.

Online testing also paves the way for entirely new forms of questions, such as those that use audio, video, or other media files, interactivity (such as hot spots and drag-and-drop answers), and adaptive learning. This all sounds pretty good, but for instructors who are new to online testing, it can feel a bit overwhelming.

Here are some tips for getting started on that first online exam.

  • Use “managed devices” when possible. A managed device is a computer or tablet that is “managed” by the school. It’s much easier to guide students through online testing if they’re all using the same device with the same software installed on it. Troubleshooting problems is also easier, and there’s a better ability to simply swap out a device if a technical issue arises.
  • Familiarize yourself with the assessment system. Even if the exams themselves will be created by others (see the next item), it’s important to acquaint yourself with the assessment system being used. Take advantage of training offered by the school or assessment vendor. Or, ask a colleague familiar with the system to give you a quick tour. Training videos are also generally available on the Internet.
  • Creating the exams is the most time-consuming aspect of online testing. If you don’t have to create the questions yourself, consider yourself fortunate. But if this task falls on you, look for ways to reduce that effort until the other aspects of online testing have been mastered. For example, use test questions provided by publishers, or borrow tests created by other teachers. If possible, obtain the test questions in a format that can be imported directly into your assessment system — copying and pasting questions one at a time should be the last resort.
  • Take the exam yourself using the same network and computing devices your students will use. This will help you familiarize yourself with the testing environment and will allow you to work through issues without dozens of eyes staring at you. If the exam settings are incorrect (such as wrong proctor password, wrong availability dates, or other settings) or the questions themselves have problems, you’ll be able to fix these before students encounter them.
  • Use a “lockdown browser” for 6th grade and higher to deter cheating during online exams. Lockdown browsers are available for most learning systems, and they prevent students from accessing other applications or searching the Internet during online tests.
  • Give students a practice quiz at the start of the term. The goal here is to familiarize students with the assessment system, lower their anxiety about the testing process, and work through issues in a low-stress environment. Be especially prepared to deal with login issues (if possible, have a list of usernames and passwords for your students so you can quickly resolve this common issue). Finally, create fun questions for your practice quiz so students come away with a positive experience.

Online testing has significant advantages over paper-and-pencil exams, and it can create a richer learning experience for students. And once you’ve mastered the basics, you won’t want to go back to the old way.

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