The Adams Center hosted a panel about various choices professors make regarding assessment. As part of our series on Transparent Assessment, this session briefly covered some technology tools like Turnitin, Lockdown Browser, and Respondus as well as choices professors make about low stakes vs. high stakes assessment.
Advantages to using online tests are many. The online format saves a lot of paper. As students are taking a test online, the professor can see who is currently taking the test and how long they’ve been working on it. They can also see who has submitted the test. Professors can use an access code for entrance to the test and can hide grades from automatic release. This allows the professor to wait to release the scores until all tests have been submitted.
Professors can add a Lockdown Browser option for online tests. As with any assessment choice, there are always still ways for a student to cheat even when a secure testing experience has been intentionally prepared. To alleviate students texting the access code to another student, professors can require all devices stowed prior to the code being shared and checking the attendance online prior to the code being shared so that only students in the room are testing. One other tip for using Lockdown Browser is asking students to check out with the professor as they exit the room so that the professor can check whether the test was submitted.
In an effort to be transparent when using Lockdown Browser, professors are encouraged to communicate to students the reasons for using this technology. Students and professors have reported that there is fairly widespread acceptance of the use of Lockdown Browser.
Counter to what some students apparently believe, Respondus Monitor does not involve someone watching them take an entire exam. While the software does depend on the student’s webcam tracking their face during the exam, the report simply flags behaviors that may warrant the professor checking that particular moment in the test.
Strengths of Respondus include the ability to allow students to take an exam at the same time as the rest of the class if they’re joining remotely due to quarantine, for example. It also helps with offering a different testing time for situations like student athletes traveling for their sport. It is also fairly easy to use. Clearly no technology can fully prevent cheating, but this provides an added layer of protection.
Some downsides are that this software requires good bandwidth and internet service. It also sometimes elicits false positives. The technology also struggles with face recognition if the student is in a poorly lit room or has darker skin (more about inequity in facial recognition technologies here).
In assignments that are repeated over the years (like the annotated bibliography in Cornerstone, for example), there is a higher chance for academic integrity issues to arise. Using Turnitin adds a layer of protection against this problem.
Turnitin can also be used as a teaching tool. The settings on Turnitin can be set so that students can submit their work through Turnitin for their own purposes before submitting for a grade. This allows students to see their originality report and make necessary corrections. This also prevents Turnitin from being used as a “gotcha” tool. This is helpful to communicate to students in an ongoing effort to be transparent.
Using Turnitin can also provide information to the professor about writing weaknesses. Often students simply do not understand the nuances of using a source and restating what they’ve learned in a paper. Learning this about a student can create a good opportunity for learning.
Students often want to use previous work in one class for an assignment in another class. If professors are using Turnitin, this could look like a case of self-plagiarism. One suggestion for this situation is that if a student requests to use work previously submitted for another class, ask the student if you could contact the professor for whom the work was previously submitted. Or if a student asks you to use writing from your class, you could ask to connect with the current professor. This would allow you and the other professor to help the student learn how to expand previous learning.
High stakes vs. low stakes testing
Another way to reduce the temptation to cheat is by creating low-stake assessments. Low stakes assessments can make cheating not even worth the effort. To further minimize academic integrity issues, set the assessment up in Canvas with the shortest amount of time necessary to complete the test. Utilize question banks. If you want the assessment to reinforce learning further, consider offering multiple attempts on the assessment. Communicate to students that your goal is for them to learn the material, not to simply memorize for a test. By repeating some of the previous material on current assessments, students are using retrieval strategies to improve learning.
In the context of transparency in assessment, the bottom line is that whatever choices you make regarding testing and assessment, communicate to your students what to expect when they’re being assessed and why you have made specific choices about formatting, online software, content, etc.
As always, for assistance or brainstorming on ways to use these online technologies or assessment in general, please don’t hesitate to contact the Adams Center. We are eager to help. We look forward to hearing from you!