Dr. Beth Ennis is an ExamSoft client, and graciously agreed to share her experiences with implementing and using our testing and analytics platform with our blog audience.
Several years ago, our physical therapy program received a grant to provide iPads for each of the students entering the school. Initially, there was discussion around whether a specific tablet would be mandated, or if the students would be able to select their own. However, at the time, the Apple store had many more possibilities for educational applications than any of the other contenders, and we ultimately decided upon iPads. It was a year later that we chose to use Examsoft for testing, allowing a single device deployment for all students across the program.
Initially, student opinion was about 50-50 on taking their tests on the iPad. However, we discussed the fact that the biggest test they will ever take will be on a screen, and formatted very similarly to the tests they take on their devices. While there are still some students who say they would prefer to write on the test, we make a point to discuss the benefits of practice testing in this format as preparation for their board exam. Students are given scratch paper to write on (which is collected after the exam), and they are allowed to use certain testing features (such as strikethrough) that will be part of the board exam as well. Currently, the students are comfortable with the program, and most appear to enjoy using it.
We have had a few stumbling blocks, related to the iPad specifically. The first was specific to
user concerns: we had to develop policies to put in the syllabus related to downloading, adequate power and memory prior to exams, and creating penalties for non-compliance. The faculty came up with standard language to be used in every syllabus to ensure consistent enforcement.
The second stumbling block came with the release of iOS8. ExamSoft uses Airplane Mode and Guided Access on the iPad to create a secure environment for assessments. When iOS8 was released, there was a glitch with Guided Access that disabled it. This was not an ExamSoft issue, but the only fix for quite a while was either don’t update, or do hard resets of the iPad until it worked (which did not always fix the problem). Fortunately, we had several spare iPads in the department, and were able to push additional downloads when Guided Access could not be used on the student’s personal iPad.
Finally, we realized making sure the students kept the iPad up to date with new versions of the SofTest-M app was going to be an issue. In order to keep everyone’s device updated, our program keeps track of which version is being used by each student, so targeted emails can be sent to remind students to update.
While there will always be concerns of students forgetting devices, breaking devices, or not downloading in time, these are all handled with wording in the syllabi that spell out penalties, and paper tests uploaded into the database can easily be used at the last minute if needed.
So far, so good, and tomorrow is another day.
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