Choosing the Best Computer-Based Testing Solution for Nursing Schools

April 26, 2016 Kristen Hicks

So much of today’s nursing profession involves technology. Many hospitals equip doctors and nurses with tablets to update records and stay on top of patient needs throughout the day. Now that electronic health records are a requirement as part of the Affordable Care Act, every nursing student can expect their jobs to involve a lot of time on a computer or tablet once they graduate.

As a consequence, nursing schools have every reason to evolve to incorporate technology into more of their programs. Computer-based testing is a natural extension of that evolution.

Whether your nursing school should embrace computer-based testing is no longer the right question. Beyond its natural place in the growing shift to computer and tablet use in the profession, computer-based testing also brings with it a whole host of other benefits:

If you haven’t implemented computer-based testing at your school yet, at this point, you know it’s really only a matter of time. Each nursing school must address the bigger question: which computer-based testing software should we go with?

5 Computer-Based Testing Features to Consider

Every nursing school is a little different, so what’s right for your school may not be what’s right for another school. Nonetheless, most nursing programs will benefit from a few key features.

  1. Unlimited question banking.

None of your nursing faculty should have to write exams from scratch. Question banking allows instructors to borrow from past tests to reuse questions that are proven to be useful for measuring the knowledge and competencies of their students.

Even better, ExamSoft provides data on the quality of test questions, so the question bank also includes information on how well the different questions in it performed. If the data shows that a question had confusing distractors, you can reuse the question but update the distractors. If there’s a question that too many students had issues with, then you can make a note for future reference not to reuse it.

An unlimited question banking option makes it possible for instructors to help each other and use past data on their own questions to help themselves. You can save time and produce better exams.

  1. Unlimited tagging for rich metadata opportunities.

Each question has at least one job to do, but often many more. When you take time to tag your exams with all relevant categories, computer-based testing software can parse the information each question can provide for you.

For the kind of macro-level data that helps administrators, you should tag every question for the course and program of which the exam is a part. For assessment data that will help students and instructors more directly, you should tag it based on skill sets, topic areas, and even NCLEX-specific learning outcomes.

You can get even more detailed than that if you want. If you tag a question with the specific lecture or homework assignment in which the material was covered, you can see if any of the coursework is falling short of getting the right messages across and rework the course for next year.  

Exam tagging can be a powerful tool. Ideally, you should be able to use it without any arbitrary limitations.

  1. Offline testing for security and reduced tech issues.

Imagine everyone in the class sitting down to a big, important test—one that will have a significant influence on their grades—and then not being able to access the exam due to a problem with the campus network. This scenario is one of the reasons some instructors may be hesitant to embrace computer-based testing, but it doesn’t have to be a concern.

Offline computer-based testing reduces the risk of technical problems interfering with an exam and provides greater question security. If you invest in a solution that uses offline testing, you don’t have to worry nearly as much about cheating or overstraining the school’s network at that crucial moment.

  1. Widespread device compatibility.

Many campuses now support a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) culture. Computer-based testing doesn’t have to involve trekking to a computer lab. Your students can take the test on whatever device they use most frequently—that is, if you get a computer-based testing software that’s compatible to work with a wide range of devices.

Consider what devices your students are using—the list probably includes Windows and Apple laptops, iPads, and even the Surface Pro—all of which ExamSoft supports.

  1. Rich, detailed exam analytics for improved feedback and performance tracking.

Finally, you need your exams to tell you how students are doing—ideally not just in a general way, but in really specific detail. How well is Joan learning informatics? Did John have a hard time memorizing the symptoms for the illnesses you covered in last week’s class?

Once exams are complete, ExamSoft’s comprehensive reporting and analytics capabilities kick in. You’ll get easy-to-read reports that clearly show:

  • The overall performance of the class

  • The areas in which the class as a whole did well and poorly

  • The overall performance of each student

  • The specific areas in which each student did well and poorly  

With that information, faculty members are empowered to provide better instruction to the class and better advising to individual students that focuses on the areas in which they need the most help.

Bonus: Rubrics can bring easier grading and rich analytics to subjective assignments like clinicals.

Exams aren’t the only part of your course that need to do the heavy lifting of assessment. Clinicals, essays, and all other types of subjective assignments given to students should ideally provide the same sort of valuable feedback your computer-based testing solution delivers after exams.

ExamSoft’s rubrics tool can be tagged in the same way objective exams are, so the results of all the assignments your students take on can contribute to a better understanding of what’s working now and what you should do next. When you combine computer-based testing with rubrics, you ensure everyone has a full, 360-degree understanding of performance.

 

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