Live monitoring offers security for online tests at Thomas Edison State College
Thomas Edison State College (TESC) is one of New Jersey’s 11 senior public institutions of higher learning and one of the oldest schools in the country designed specifically for adults. The college’s 20,650 students, many of them involved with careers and families, live all over the world and favor courses that enable online study and the ability to work independently. The college, which partners with the GoArmyEd and NAVY College programs, has about 45 percent of its student body affiliated with the military as active duty personnel, military spouses or veterans.
The college’s e-Pack™ courses have long enabled students to study independently, with frequent quizzes that gauge each student’s apprehension of the subject matter at the end of each chapter or module.
These low-stakes assessments, administered using the Questionmark assessment management system, measure what students have learned but the quizzes do not count toward their final grade. Students can take these quizzes multiple times, viewing a different set of questions in each attempt. When they answer a question incorrectly they automatically receive feedback on that question, so they can review the material.
The college also needed to run high-stakes assessments for its course midterm and final exams as well as for its TECEP program. TECEP is a credit-by-examination program specifically designed to allow students to demonstrate the college-level knowledge they have gained through their work, personal interests or independent studies. Credit is granted when students pass a comprehensive examination.
Online testing seemed the way to go, but how could the college give its distance leaners the same kind of security as on-campus students experience at more traditional institutions?
“We were using a combination of proctored pen and paper exams and non-proctored online exams through our learning management system,” said TESC Director of Test Administration Maureen Woodruff. “But we wanted to offer all of our students the convenience of online exams in a secure, proctored setting. Providing that type of security to students spread all over the world was quite a challenge.”
The college’s partnership with Questionmark and ProctorU has enabled it to administer proctored exams to students from their home or work computers. ProctorU connects each test taker with a proctor via webcam and audio hook-up. The proctor verifies the test-taker’s identity, initiates the authentication process, troubleshoots technical problems and ensures the student is not using any unauthorized materials or aids.
Woodruff notes that being in direct touch with a ProctorU proctor is particularly helpful to older students who are not as technologically adept as 18 and 19-year-olds. Proctors can work with students on the phone to help them adjust settings and address technical issues before starting a test. ProctorU is currently administering about thousands of tests for the college each month.
The reaction of students has been extremely positive. They have much more control over when they test and more opportunities to test at a time that is convenient for them. ProctorU continues to grow and become the industry standard for online proctoring by partnering with more than 500 other institutions and monitored exams in over 70 countries in December 2013.
In addition, the secure nature of online proctoring has allowed the college to modulate the number of tests and quizzes within each course in order to provide a more comprehensive learning experience. The ability to develop substantial test pools within Questionmark and the knowledge that each assessment will be effectively monitored by ProctorU has allowed the college to merge the best of present-day technology with the age-old process of learning new information and demonstrating proof of that knowledge.