LSU’s medical school had already set the groundwork for using computerized testing by requiring all students to own laptops. The school’s Computer Assisted Learning Committee sets the specifications for these laptops, ensuring that the computers run the same operating system, the same software, and all on identical hardware. When the LSU course directors selected Questionmark Perception as the software on which to administer exams, this standardization made it easy for a computer support team to install the Perception browser on each of the students’ machines.
Lorusso uses Perception to deliver pathology exams to all of his 175 students at the same time. On exam day, the students come to the laboratories, plug into the network, and then log on with the Perception browser. Using Perception offers Lorusso a huge advantage. Instead of trying to reproduce detailed images on test booklets, Lorusso can now put high resolution images on the computerized test. In addition to these static pictures, he also uses video clips and flash animations in the questions. The program enables him to include drag and drop questions that ask students to identify specific spots on a picture or to drag a label to a specified location. None of this would be possible with a paper exam.
Paper exams also limited the possibilities for questions. Now, rather than having four choices on a multiple choice question Lorusso can include as many as nine or ten choices. Perception also enables him to include fill-in-the-blank questions that can also be automatically scored, a big time saver. Lorusso and his team learned, however, that they must be careful when creating fill-in questions because the answers can come in various permutations. For example, if the question is, “How many days are there in the week?” the answer could be “7” or “seven.” Now he tries to plan more carefully ahead of time to anticipate the problem.
Using computerized testing also enables LSU to randomize the questions. Every student gets the same exam but all of the questions come in a different order, resulting, essentially, in 175 different tests. Even the choices are randomized. That makes the tests much more secure and greatly reduces the temptation to cheat.