The Costs of Not Using Computer-Based Testing

March 12, 2014 Kristen Hicks

One of the big roadblocks for many schools interested in implementing more technology into the educational process is cost. While technology can often make life easier or improve the student experience, the benefits don’t count for much if a school just can’t fit it into the budget.

Technology can be expensive, but so can doing things inefficiently. It’s easy to assume what you’re doing now, which fits neatly into the budget you currently have, is the most affordable option available to you. The cost of keeping things the same seems lower than the cost of investing in some expensive technological tool that sure would make your life easier but looks like a splurge.

Sometimes that thinking isn’t wrong, but unless you do a thorough cost analysis, you’ll never know. Usually there is a clear cost benefit to something making your life easier. Human labor is one of those costs people tend to overlook, but if technology can be brought in to simplify a process and save people time, that saves money too.

The Costs of Paper Testing

Before making a decision about any big technological purchase for your school, it’s worth analyzing the costs and benefits of your current system.

When the University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy started looking into computer-based testing options, cost was a big concern. Faculty members and administrators weren’t sure if it would be possible to switch to computer-based testing and bring costs down, but they at least hoped they could find a way to keep costs from going up.

In the process of analyzing their testing-software options, they took a good look at the costs of paper testing. Specifically, they factored the following into the equation:

  • The amount of time it took secretaries to print each exam.
  • The cost of paper and ink for photocopies.
  • The amount of time that faculty and TAs spent proctoring exams.
  • The cost of Scantron grading for multiple-choice exams.
  • The storage costs for abiding by the school’s rule of keeping every exam for two years.

The Costs of Computer-Based Testing

Once all the current costs had been tallied up, the price tag for switching to computer-based testing suddenly didn’t look so high.

At $55 a student, they found that the cost of implementing ExamSoft for all their testing actually came to several thousand dollars less than the testing methods they’d been using.

The Extra Benefits Beyond the Savings

The University of Rhode Island didn’t start looking into computer-based testing options based on a desire to save money. Their primary goals were as follows:

  • Find a way to provide more environmentally friendly exams.
  • Reduce (or eliminate completely) the opportunities for students to cheat.
  • More readily identify those who could be helped by focused student-remediation efforts.
  • Determine if changes to the curriculum were needed in order to better serve students come exam time.

In computer-based testing, they found the solution to all of these challenges, as well as some convenient savings.

View this case study for more details on how and why the University of Rhode Island’s pharmacy program switched to computer-based testing


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