Online Testing

Every semester I try and provide an opportunity for my students to give anonymous feedback about how the course is going and make suggestions for changes about halfway through the semester. Not many choose to take part, but it gives them the option to have a voice. Every time I do this I am reminded how as instructors we really cannot please everyone. For example, most like the way I use forums in the course but there are always a few who do not or most who like the structure of the paper assignment and a few who do not. It also shows just how many do not actually read what I provide them with.

I continue to do this exercise to see what needs to be changed for future semesters in addition to seeing if anything could be changed for the current semester. As a newer instructor this is useful information to have midway through the semester.

However, there is one piece of feedback that I am not completely sure what to do with is on how the quizzes are set-up. I teach online, so the quizzes and exam are online. Within my department there is a big push to prevent cheating. So most instructors use the linear format, where students take the quiz one question after the other and without being able to go back. Many also use timed tests, with between 60-90 seconds per question set up. I have done both 60 seconds and 90 seconds, with my current course being 60 seconds per question based on what an advisor instructed me to do. We also do not release the exact questions to students but offer for them to come in and look over the quizzes and tests with us. As graduate student instructors, our hands are frequently tied as to how we set-up a course, and for me, this is one of them.

However, I keep struggling with whether it is the best way to set-up quizzes and tests, especially for online courses. I have had discussions with others in the past about the fact that the timed, linear tests may not be best due to neurodiversity. Though, the scores so far this semester are quite good.

So, how do we allow for differences in learning and testing styles and abilities, while still maintaining the integrity of our courses and tests? Yes, we have an honor code and I am a proponent of that. But, it seems to only go so far. With maintaining the integrity of test questions, I keep coming back to the situation the physics department found itself in last year where test questions were posted online from previous times the course had been taught (Collegiate Times story here). In some ways it comes back to being fair to as many students as possible. That can be by doing our best to insure no cheating, where everyone is on a level playing field that way. Or by being open to diverse abilities. Is there a good balance between allowing for diverse abilities while still trying to prevent cheating?

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