Whenever a change is proposed or new technology is introduced, people can experience anxiety and hesitation.
At my new school, a lot of young faculty (both by age and academic experience) were very open to new technology. In addition, most faculty did not have an extensive question bank that needed to be imported into the New Portal. This made convincing faculty to switch to a new electronic testing platform a lot easier.
To increase faculty buy-in and ease the transition to computer-based testing with ExamSoft, we intentionally developed several policies and best practices for both faculty and students.
1. Task force creation: We first created a task force to aid the rollout of ExamSoft. People who served on this taskforce were selected based on their other assignments, responsibilities as well as expertise. Chairs of Curriculum, Assessment, and Academic Standing (our progression monitoring body) and Professional Development Committees were selected to serve on this task force. In addition, our Assistant Deans of Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and Assessment also served. Their specific roles are outlined below:
- Chairs of curriculum committee and assistant dean of academic affairs ensured effective integration into the curriculum and oversaw student performance.
- Chair of assessment committee and assistant dean of assessment ensured effective use of ExamSoft for assessment purposes.
- Chair of academic standing committee assisted in remediation and progression-related issues.
- Assistant dean of student affairs assisted with creation of policies and procedures for students and their inclusion in the student handbook.
2. Selecting faculty champions: From the task force, we selected certain members to serve as faculty champions. We also solicited other faculty colleagues to be the early adopters. Early adopters of ExamSoft should have certain characteristics:
- Love of technology and interest in trying new technology
- Ability to devote time toward smoothing out initial bumps in the road
- Ability to stay calm under pressure—especially during an exam when a student is experiencing a technical issue
- Interest in the process of assessment and data collection
3. Selecting courses: Based on the faculty who volunteered to be the early adopters, we selected three courses from each of our first three years of the curriculum. (Our fourth-year students are on clinical rotations for the whole year and as such were excluded from ExamSoft use.) We selected three of six courses that our first- and second-year students take. Our third-year students have only three didactic courses in the Fall; therefore, they had a complete transition to ExamSoft while P1 and P2 students had only partial transition. Consider the following tips when selecting a course for initial ExamSoft rollout:
- A course that has some smaller formative assessments before a high-stakes exam to get students comfortable with the use of Examplify.
- A course that has different types of assessments—this way, not all assessments are delivered using ExamSoft, and students don’t feel the immediate pressure of switching.
- An easier course as it relates to content area—a difficult or heavy course is stressful enough without added stress of adjusting to a new test-taking platform.
4. Policies and best practices: When we first started using ExamSoft, we did not have any policies related to computer-based testing. Our students are already required to buy a laptop, so that was not an issue. However, there were no other minimum requirements. We updated our minimum requirements to match the minimum system requirements of ExamSoft. We put this together before the start of Fall semester so we could include it in the student handbook.
Some key policies/best practices to have in place before the rollout of Examsoft include the following:
- Minimum system requirements for laptops that match/exceed the ones stated on the ExamSoft website
- Policies related to late arrival, technical issues after late arrival, and upload/download deadlines
- Policies for if the student forgets his or her computer or is out of power and does not have a charger
- Policies related to scratch paper and calculators to be provided (or use of on-screen calculators)
- Policies for make-up work
- Backup methods—giving a backup laptop or a paper-based exam, when and why?
5. Faculty support: Even though all the early adopting faculty were trained directly by ExamSoft, I remained the primary contact point for ExamSoft. As an ExamSoft administrator, I made myself available to all my faculty colleagues if they needed any help in importing/writing questions, categorizing questions, grading, and/or other post-exam adjustments. I also made myself available to help proctor some of the earlier exams/quizzes. I instructed all students to approach me with any technical issue that they might have. I also helped train our non-faculty proctors who provided additional support to faculty. I maintain our school’s backup laptops that we can provide to students who may be having technical difficulties. As I was present in most if not all of the exams, I could anticipate problems and devise solutions before a minor issue became a big problem.
At the end of our first semester of implementation, based on all of our experiences, we created a document titled “Policies and Best Practices” that was available for all faculty implementing ExamSoft in the following semester. In the Spring semester, we followed up the same tactic of using three courses in P1 and P2 years and all courses (this time four) in the P3 year. However, this time we had new faculty use ExamSoft. So, by the end of year one, we had almost all of our faculty exposed to ExamSoft to some extent. They are now ready to implement ExamSoft fully in all of our courses.
About the Author
Dr. Gauri Sabnis is an Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Sciences at West Coast University. She also serves as the Chair of Curriculum Committee and is the acting institutional administrator for ExamSoft. She heads the ExamSoft implementation task force that was created to ensure effective rollout of ExamSoft across the Pharmacy curriculum. She has more than 15 years of research experience and has received numerous awards for her research from organizations such as the American Association of Cancer Research and Endocrine Society. She has published more than 50 peer-reviewed manuscripts in journals such as Cancer Research, Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, and Endocrine Related Cancer. She has also taught pharmacology to medical students, graduate students, and dental hygiene students for more than 5 years.More Content by Gauri Sabnis