Nursing students swap bubbling for clicking when selecting answers on examinations.

For the past year, the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies has encouraged professors to migrate from traditional paper examinations to online examinations regulated by the lockdown browser Respondus.

Now, Dr. Audrey Beauvais, Associate Dean of the School of Nursing, estimates that the majority of nursing professors employ online examinations through Blackboard to assess student achievement.

Since students access these tests from their personal computers, according to Beauvais, the School of Nursing uses Respondus to ensure academic integrity. The Respondus program is a lockdown browser that prevents users from accessing online information such as PowerPoint notes from class as well as browsers such as Safari and Google Chrome.

According to Beauvais, this switch came about after the realization that testing through other means offers more sophisticated data analysis than the previously used Scantron machine that only measured one’s exam score. Before, students bubbled in their response to each question, but technology was only capable of determining a student’s score, unlike Respondus’ ability to analyze trends in examination data.

“We knew it was outdated and that we needed better item analysis,” Beauvais said.

“From Blackboard we can run a report on each test question and it will give us all of the information on how students responded to that question.”

In addition to providing professors with a more detailed report of examination data, Beauvais notes that the switch was made to benefit students as well and that by taking these online exams, it functions as practice for the state board exam, National Council Licensure Examination that nursing students complete after graduation.

“For nursing students, they have to take their state board exam online and we figured that this might be an opportunity to help get them ready,” Beauvais said.

Nursing student Maggie Fontaine ‘18 sees value in taking exams online.

“I like it better. It simulates the NCLEX, so it kind of gets you used to taking it on a computer because it’s really different taking it on a computer versus on paper,” Fontaine said.

Fontaine noted that the format of the online test, specifically the inability to review previous answers, also prepares students for the format of the NCLEX.

However, for nursing student Kassandra Rodriguez ‘18, the online examinations prove more difficult due to the inability to incorporate traditional test taking strategies.

“I don’t like taking tests online,” said Rodriguez. “I’d rather have paper to highlight and write stuff down.”

Professor of Management Jeffrey Moretz currently uses Respondus to monitor his online examinations. While he does not believe that the Dolan School of Business has encouraged the transition to the same extent as the School of Nursing, Moretz finds administering exams online beneficial to business students for reasons similar to their nursing peers.

“The biggest benefit I think to any testing mechanism is how close you can get it to something that is real world applicable,” said Moretz. “Although I’ve done it in the past with a handwritten, blue book final that’s not what most people will be doing in the working world. I want it to be as close to that as possible.”

Another advantage that Beauvais sees regarding online testing is the immediate grade feedback students receive upon completion of the exam. Test questions vary, including multiple choice, matching and fill-in-the blank. Short answer questions are also possible, although according to Beauvais, they require additional time to grade.

Mary Murphy, a professor in the School of Nursing, adopted online testing for her examinations and finds the process beneficial to both students and faculty.

“I think it’s fabulous,” said Murphy. “Not only do I have the convenience of having it in their grade center in Blackboard, it’s also immediately graded so that the students get the feedback.”

While administering tests online provide these advantages for students, Beauvais realizes that creating online tests requires effort from the professors because they have to manually load each question. Additionally, technical difficulties sometimes arise. To combat these challenges, the School of Nursing allocates five laptops to be used in case a student experiences a computer malfunction.

While nursing students have adapted to this new method of testing, Beauvais noted that the online examinations themselves continue to be tested.

“We continue to evaluate this,” said Beauvais. “We’re not saying that this is a perfect solution, but this is what we’ve implemented this time to help our students and we will continue to evaluate and adjust as need be.”

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