Kirkwood Community College


In today’s job market, surgical technicians are in large demand, and community colleges are struggling to offer surgical technician programs to a large base of students. Kirkwood Community College, a multi-campus community college in Iowa, addressed the demand by offering surgical technician courses to remote campuses via a distance delivery program. Faculty located at the college’s main campus developed courses that could be conducted over a statewide fiber-optic network where students and teachers interacted through real-time video conferencing. Quizzes and tests were web-based assessments authored by faculty at the main campus and delivered to students at each remote campus. Questionmark was the software tool used to develop and deliver the quizzes and tests.

While Kirkwood had a great deal of experience offering distance-delivered courses, the college had less experience with offering assessments over the web to remote locations. The first time a course was offered, a number of security issues arose related to the standardized administration of assessments across the multiple remote campuses. The surgical technician faculty worked through the issues and implemented both software and procedural solutions to improve the delivery of the course quizzes and exams. This case study will provide detail on both the security issues encountered and the solutions implemented that made the distance delivery of surgical technician courses a success.

Security Requirements

Quizzes and tests offered through the distance-delivered surgical technician courses needed to meet a number of security requirements, as described below:

  1. All quizzes and tests needed to be authored and controlled by faculty at the main campus to ensure identical quiz and test content across all remote locations.
  2. The delivery of quizzes and tests should be standardized across the remote locations to ensure that student experiences were comparable and that differences in test delivery did not cause differences in student performance.
  3. Quiz and test questions should be locked-down or protected so that students could not easily share the content of questions with their peers.

Security Solutions

Faculty easily met the first requirement by using Questionmark to build the assessments. Only surgical technician faculty at the main campus with access to Questionmark authoring tools could create, update, and publish the quizzes and tests. All students received the same quizzes and tests throughout the surgical technician courses.

The second requirement posed a number of issues. Test center facilities and proctor procedures were not the same across the remote campuses. For example, in some locations, students launched their own quizzes or tests from a link on computer desktops without proctor supervision, whereas in other locations proctors launched quizzes or tests for the students. Main campus faculty, after learning about some of the differences in administration modified the process for launching quizzes and tests. First, the faculty enabled a proctor password feature in Questionmark that requires a test proctor to enter a username and password before a quiz or test can be launched for a student. This prevented students from launching their own tests without proctor supervision. Second, the faculty developed written procedures for test proctors at remote locations so that expectations for test delivery were very clear.

The third requirement, preventing students from sharing question content, was met in three different ways. First, surgical technician faculty required the quizzes and tests to be administered under the Questionmark Secure Browser. The secure browser prevents the student from accessing a standard browser tool bar or leaving the browser window while taking a Questionmark test. While working in the secure browser, students cannot surf the Internet, launch other applications like word processors or email programs, or print the question content. Second, the surgical technician faculty authored the Questionmark quizzes and tests to administer questions randomly. If two students sat down at adjoining workstations to take the same quiz, the two students would not receive their questions in the same order, greatly limiting their ability to share answers. Finally, by requiring that the tests be administered in a proctored setting, students were monitored while they tested, which limited their opportunities to share content.


Ensuring control of quiz and test content, the standardized administration of quizzes and tests, and limiting students’ ability to share question content were the security concerns for the surgical technician’s courses. These concerns were met with a combination of software settings and manual proctor procedures.