iPads in Higher Education: Maintaining Exam Security in a BYOD Culture

January 14, 2015 Kristen Hicks

Some faculty members may still find students’ fiddling with smartphones in class distracting, but tablets are a different story. Tablets, especially iPads, have been embraced in higher education throughout the country since they were introduced into the market a few years ago. The educational benefits of iPads include the following:

• They’re portable enough to use in out-of-the-classroom learning situations.
• They make it easier for students to create audio and video recordings in the field.
• Their portability makes studying easier in a variety of contexts—students can do some of their reading on a long bus ride, for example.
• Students can keep all of their textbooks in one place and save money on them as well.
• They prepare students for one type of technology they may need to know in their future professions.
• They make delivering exams easier.

Some schools believe in the benefits of iPad use so much that they’ve made having an iPad a requirement for each enrolled student. Those who follow education news have seen many stories about schools embracing widespread iPad use for students. Noteworthy results include the following:

• At UC Irvine, medical students’ scores on the national medical exams went up a full 23 percent after the introduction of an iPad program.
• Abilene Christian University reported that use of the iPad led to increased student engagement and productivity.
• The UC College of Nursing has found that iPads make it possible for more interactive learning and the ability to test the application of what students have learned.

It doesn’t all start and stop with the iPad though. A variety of devices are quickly making their own place in higher education, and the rise of the BYOD (bring your own device) culture on college campuses means that many classrooms include a mix of laptops, tablet devices, and smartphones. As a result, faculty members can now deliver exams without having to worry about whether there are enough available computers in the computer lab.

While BYOD testing offers greater convenience, it comes with its own challenges.
If students in class are using their own devices, how can you be sure they’re not accessing notes they’ve tucked away somewhere on the desktop, and how can you keep them from jumping to relevant websites to find the exam answers during the test?

Secure BYOD Testing Is Possible

The quest for more secure exams has been ongoing for decades. Even with the new devices, the questions facing college faculty members today during their low-stakes exams are similar to those that have long faced certification boards and standardized testing companies when it comes to high-stakes exams. Fortunately, the solutions to this problem were developed years ago.

1. Secure offline exams are easier. Cutting off access to the web entirely during a test means students lose access to most of the resources they could use for cheating. In addition, your testing takes less of a toll on the school’s wireless network because students can download a test before coming to class (although they won’t be able to access it until it officially begins), and you won’t have to worry about any technical issues affecting their ability to complete it in the allotted time.

2. Turn the device into an exam-delivery tool exclusively. A good program for delivering secure exams ensures that all other apps, programs, and files students may have on their devices become impossible to access during the duration of a test. Once they’ve turned in a completed test, they can get back to their game of solitaire, their email, or those notes they used for studying, but during the time they spend taking a test, all those things are unavailable.

BYOD testing can definitely make it easier on you when it comes time to deliver exams, but that wouldn’t be beneficial if your tests were less secure. Fortunately, secure exams are easy to achieve in the new era of BYOD testing. Let ExamSoft show you how.


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