There is no question that technology is changing education. Teaching and evaluating students is no longer restricted to the four corners of the classroom. It can happen anytime and anywhere with the aid of computers and the internet.
It is not surprising then that more and more educators are gradually transitioning from traditional methods to more practical, technological solutions. Practical not only for them but more importantly for the students taking the courses and evaluations.
In 2014, the Florida Department of Education gave a survey to students after taking end-of-course evaluations. The results showed that more students preferred computer tests over paper (53% of the students agreed to that statement). Another study in 2017 Saudi published in the International Journal of Information and Education Technology presented the opposite result. Here, only 42.5% prefer online over paper exam, which is still a considerable portion of the survey population. But while that may be the case, 77.5% of the total examinees liked the fact that they are able to receive results and feedback automatically after taking the test.
So although the current data on whether students generally prefer online or paper tests are still inconclusive, these studies give us an idea about the advantages of one over the other in their perspective.
Below are 7 reasons to consider when deciding whether to incorporate online methods to your teaching and evaluation, from the perspective of students.
1. Getting test results immediately give students peace of mind
It has been documented that students experience stress and anxiety while waiting for exam results. With online exams, except for certain tests like essays, students can know their test results immediately resulting to less anxiety and pressure which affects their learning capability in the long run.
2. Immediate feedback supports formative assessment method
The timing of feedback matters. Research tells us that feedback are most effective when done immediately after or as close to the production of work as possible. With data readily available and neatly presented, educators can know immediately which topics are difficult to grasp and can adjust their focus on the topic or the individual as the case may be. This is the principle behind formative assessment, a method proven to increase learning much more than purely summative assessments.
3. Students can take the exam anytime, anywhere
Of course, this depends on the parameters set by the teacher, say, whether or not the access is restricted to a certain IP address or timeframe. Nevertheless, online exams have the option to eliminate those restrictions, with the possibility of taking the exam from anywhere using any device such as phones or tablets, and the timeframe adjusted from hours to days.
4. Fun and interactive with the use of multimedia, simulations
Online exam tools can incorporate multimedia such as videos or recordings in the examination itself. Try that on paper. Multimedia is known to engage students in learning, and consequently in assessments. Visual and auditory learners are more focused on the test because of those stimuli rather than just long string of words and sentences page after page, which strains the brain.
5. Students can take the exam in a more comfortable environment
The typical classroom is not designed for comfortable learning and examination. The hard chairs, harsh light and close proximity to other students add discomfort to an already discomforting situation. It may not seem much, but shifting positions because of the hard chair, the classmate tapping their pen against their desk three rows over, and noisy air conditioner takes away from deep focus and disable students to access deep memory and interrupt creative flow.
6. Avoid commute that adds stress and saves money
Commuting is stressful for everyone, including students. The traffic, the noise, all add to test anxiety, the dread students experience prior to taking exams. Traditionally, students are advised to arrive at the place where exams will be held an hour prior, just to give the brain a time to calm down and prepare for the test. Imagine the time spent in commute, which takes anywhere from minutes to hours, being used instead for study and review.
7. Technology easily accommodates students with disabilities
Online exams offer alternative assessment methods to persons with disabilities. For example, students with problems with motor skills can, instead of writing, simply touch the screen for the answer. Voice to text is also a viable option for essays, et cetera. The possibilities are endless.
Growing up with technology, younger generations are all but experts in using devices such as laptops, phones, and tablets. They are digital natives. The use of these devices as part of their daily lives developed familiarity and comfort, arguably much more than paper and pen. This association with technology may provide for a more relaxed and engaging exam method.
Indeed, online testing has its own share of criticism regarding security and confidentiality but most, if not all systems, has its own security in place to prevent breach. From the first line of security that is the users’ name and password, comprehensive exam softwares add other measures including notification when candidates copy and paste or take a screenshot of the page. Questions can also be randomized or drawn from a database to further obstruct attempts to cheat the system.
Given its demonstrated effectiveness, online testing proves to be an invaluable tool in modern education, benefiting both educators and students alike. It’s safe to project that in the next decade, most exams will be conducted with the use of technology. Where it stands, it is far from perfect, but the studies being conducted regarding the matter continues to support this advancement, with most conclusions indicating that the positive outweighs the negative effect of this method. Either way, the technology is here to stay and it’s up to educators to find the most effective way of incorporating this method in their profession.
Wall, J. E. (2000). Technology-Delivered Assessment: Diamonds or Rocks? ERIC/CASS Digest. Greensboro, NC: ERIC Counseling and Student Services Clearinghouse. (ERIC ED446325)