Making the shift: Analyzing the use of online tests

April 9, 2020

The school administered the ACT to the junior class on Wednesday, Feb. 26. However, last year and this year the test was given online, rather than the standard pencil and test booklet. This brings forth a debate over the impact of online testing.

 

Online testing has become popular within schools the past few years, with Ohio State Tests having been online since around 2015. It’s easy to see why as they’re cheaper to grade, easier to administer, and faster to grade. However, this comes at a price.

 

The test itself can be unfriendly. Information on a screen is very different to process than on paper, making the tests harder to focus-on. On a screen, students can’t physically hold, mark, or follow along with a reading, and switching between a screen and a piece of paper for math can be disorienting.

 

As these tests are timed, having an unfamiliar setting can easily take up time. If students are spending five minutes navigating a highlight feature, they’ve just lost that much time to do the actual test.

 

All of this adds up to lower test scores, at least in the first few years. That puts an unfair disadvantage on students because they won’t get the scores that they deserve, even in the high scoring schools. The high scoring schools fell to the levels of the lower scoring districts, with a .10 standard deviation in math (5.4 months) and a .25 deviation in English (11 months), according to the American Institute for Research.

 

Online testing is unavoidable as society moves more towards technology. However the shortcomings of the testing and the system shouldn’t go ignored. Regardless of what decisions are made in the future, paper tests are better for students than online tests are.

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