Questionmark Ensures Test Integrity at Onondaga Community College
Onondaga Community College Department of Nursing, a two-year program located southwest of Syracuse, New York, realized as early as 1996 that it had to change the manner in which it was testing its students. While the department had been giving exams in the conventional paper and pencil way, the National Board of Nursing began delivering the National Licensing Examination for Registered Professional Nursing (NCLEX) via computer. Since part of Onondaga’s mission is to prepare its graduates to take that exam so they can be licensed as registered nurses, faculty in the program realized it must begin using computerized testing also. Onondaga began with Questionmark for Windows, which enabled the department to not only move students to computerized testing but also provided those learners with immediate results with their accompanying feedback and remediation, if necessary.
As part of a complete computer and software upgrade to Windows XP, the nursing program subsequently switched to Questionmark. Test security is always a major concern in any student population. Students take the exams on a dozen machines in a non-proctored computer lab with video camera surveillance. Questionmark Secure Browser enables the department to essentially “lock-out” the computers, denying students the ability to access either the Internet or word processing programs that might enable them to obtain answers to questions unfairly.
Pamela Ryan, chairperson and professor in the Department of Nursing, also likes the feature that enables students to log onto an Internet URL where the test resides, while maintaining the kind of security the department requires.
“Students who work in a local hospital are allowed to take the exams in a secure setting at that facility,” she said. “They might not be able to come to campus when the lab is available. By using Questionmark Secure Browser we were able to deliver the tests securely at this remote location.”
If nursing students fail their first attempt at the exam, they must take it again. Onondaga doesn’t want to deliver the exact same test, so Ryan appreciates the feature in Questionmark that enables her department to randomly select from a block of questions for each topic. This feature also further guarantees test integrity because students can’t easily share questions with their peers. Students are able to take the tests a total of four times, though the second failure requires a meeting with the lead teacher and subsequent remediation.
The department uses over 100 exams on Questionmark, testing on all the nursing courses it offers. The program enables the faculty to create their own questions and makes it easy for the department office administrator to input them – all online. In addition, the program runs on the school’s server and is maintained by the in-house IT department – a real cost saver. The department is moving to Questionmark Secure to gain further security by disabling the capabilities to start new applications as well as task switching.