Monday, October 11, 2010

Are online tests student centered?

At the university I teach, we have a learning managment system that allows us to create online tests for the content we teach. I administered a multiple choice/short answer midterm using this online component. As an instructor I loved it! The multiple choice questions were instantly graded, but I had to manually grade the short answer questions. The system allowed me to conduct an item analysis to determine the most frequently missed questions and the response. I thought it was great. . .
When I asked students about the experience, they were not as thrilled as I was. Granted, the technology didn't necessarily cooperate that day we took the midterm as it kicked students out of the test. It did save their answers so nothing was lost; it was just a nuisance.The students didn't mind the multiple choice questions; however, the short answer questions didn't provide enough space for them to write. Some students preferred to have written everything out given a paper and pencil. I was shocked. I thought for sure this 'net generation' would prefer to take a computerized test which allowed them to read the questions from a screen and type (instead of hand write) their responses.
What is an instructor supposed to do? I felt I was meeting my students' needs, but in the end, I was only meeting some of their needs. I'm curious to know your thoughts/experiences. I look forward to hearing your thoughts regarding online testing. What the pros/cons? Does it meet students' needs or not?


  1. As a student I do not mind taking multiple choice tests online. However, with short answer and essay questions I prefer to use paper and pencil. I think it is more of a comfort zone issue for me. Up until I graduated high school all of my tests were taken on paper. I also am not very fast at typing. The simple fact that I am slow at typing stresses me out when I have to take an online test with short answer and essay questions. Maybe you could have multiple choice part of the test online and the short answer part on paper and pencil.

  2. I am a good example of a student who is in this "new world" of technology and it is hard for me to adjust to learning via online resources. I prefer to have papers/assignments/tests/etc. on paper so I can see in front of me as to what I need to do, and it is easier to have something on paper. It takes me alot longer to complete certain tasks online because I feel I may over analyze something, or simply become more stressed. With the testing I think multiple choice questions would be fine to do online, but when expected to type an essay question it can be more convenient to others to have that part of the test written...this way they can also go back and see (in front of them) what mistakes they can fix. This is a great example of how every student learns differently..and it can be challenging to accomodate.

  3. Billie,

    I know in classes I've taken through the university that you are always going to have students that have different preferences. I think the only way to really take this into account is to allow students to take the test using whatever method they are more comfortable with. I know this means extra work for the teachers but our main emphasis is student achievement. However, great attempt at online testing.