Generations X, Y, and Z: Student Perceptions of Computer-Based Testing

June 1, 2018 Shelley Fess

Our students cross several generations, and as such, they have varying degrees of experience and comfort with technology and computers. At our community college, the average age of our students is 30 years, with an age range of 17-63 years. Therefore, we took great care during the implementation process to ensure that all students were ready for computer-based testing. 

In the fall semester of 2016, we started requiring students entering the program to provide their own laptop computers to be used for, among other things, computer-based testing with Examplify. We anticipated that this might cause some angst for our students, especially our older students who may have less experience with technology.

For the youngest students (Generations Y and Z), minimal anxiety was noticed during this technology transition. They freely worked on their devices and had no hesitation in “clicking away.” When talking with this cohort of students about Examplify, they reported things such as: 

  • “I do all sorts of things on my computer and am not afraid of it.”
  • “I’d rather work on the computer than use bubble sheets.”
  • “Some of the glitches were frustrating, but that’s technology.”
  • “It’s kind of cool how this program takes over my computer.”
  •  “I really like the computer testing, especially the fact that my grade is available so quickly.”


Perceptions of Examplify from our older students (Generation X) were surprisingly positive:

  • “It’s OK. I really like it now that I am used to it; it helps with all the electronic charting that I have to do.”
  • “Once I used it a few times I got more comfortable, and now I really like it. I’m a very kinesthetic/visual learner.”
  • “I originally felt like a fish out of water. I still hesitate but am more at ease with the program. I certainly don’t consider myself a computer whiz.”
  • “I have learned that, as with many things in nursing, I just need to ask questions.”


We were pleased to hear these positive comments from both our younger and older students because we put great thought into making this transition to computer-based testing as painless as possible for all students.

  • In order to have students get more comfortable with their devices and computer programs in general, faculty made a conscious effort to have classroom activities that necessitated students using their devices and some of the other computer- or Internet-based programs that are available. This also helped in justifying to the students the purchase of the laptop for the program. 
  • Additionally, a mock exam on Examplify was given in class during the second week of the semester. Students were provided with up to 100 optional downloads of this exam. The first “real” exam didn’t take place until the fourth week, allowing students to practice as much as they wanted with the mock exam during that time. 
  • Our Nursing Learning Center Coordinator and an IT Classroom specialist were available to meet with students for additional tutoring and instruction in technology. 
  • Perhaps one of the most gratifying things was the camaraderie and collaboration between students (often across generational lines) as they assisted each other with technology in the less stressful environment of the classroom or lab. 

We have been pleased with the rollout of computer-based testing using ExamSoft. Students and faculty alike are learning to navigate this process and are working together toward successful implementation.

About the Author

Shelley Fess

Shelley received her initial RN training at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center School of Nursing in Syracuse, NY. She earned her BSN from Alfred University and her MS from St John Fisher College. Before joining Monroe Community College, Shelley worked in a variety of areas of nursing including critical care, home infusion therapy, as well as medical and radiation oncology. She maintains national certification in both infusion therapy and advanced oncology care. She was awarded the Nurse of Distinction award by her local oncology nursing chapter. She has taught Medical-Surgical and Fundamentals of Nursing for more than 10 years. She is a member of Sigma Theta Tau, the International Nursing Honor Society, and currently serves as her chapter’s secretary. She has presented locally, nationally and internationally on a variety of nursing topics.

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