Online testing is no longer just a theoretical idea, but a tangible reality. More than 1,000 schools in Massachusetts have already signed up to be a part of a standardized test trial that will offer an online option. No grades will be given, but it will give a way to test the functionality of the new test and online standardized testing. Because many schools don’t have the full capability to allow all students to use computers, they are opting to use paper and pencil.
I feel that this is one of the problems that may arise in online testing. It may create an inequality among wealthier towns and those towns that might not be able to afford a sufficient number of computers or don’t have the network capability. This disparity could however promote a positive change. With new online tests, the schools that don’t have sufficient technology might have a stronger desire (and an increased chance) to increase their technological potential. This could ultimately help students and faculty at the less affluent schools. Even for wealthier schools, online testing will come with a large price tag. Equipping every student with a working computer and making sure that the server is capable is a large, daunting task. In addition, schools must think ahead and prepare for potential failures in technology, which could potentially hurt test grades. If a student breaks a pencil tip, they can sharpen it, but if the computer malfunctions, there isn’t much to do.
From my perspective, another problem, perhaps not as big, is cheating. Instead of solely being concealed by flat paper on a desk, students have an upright block hiding whatever they are doing. As long as the student is incapable of accessing the internet during the test and the proctors have a computer in which they can view the screens of the students, this problem shouldn’t be as big of a problem as one might imagine. In the end, those who want to cheat will find a way to cheat, regardless of the test medium.
There are many positives in taking exams on computers. Online testing will quicken test correcting, save money with regards to grading and printing test booklets, time, and the environment. It will also help students that have messy handwriting. The children nowadays have strong technological backgrounds, so it also may potentially increase comfort level and lower the intimidation and stress inextricably linked with large, important standardized tests.
To be honest, online testing scares me. Everything in our society is suddenly appearing online, from banking to credit cards to college applications to basic communications. I feel as though we have lost the genuine aspects of more personal human interaction. However, it’s important to realize that this is just a change. It’s just as people years ago must have worried about phones impairing connections and perhaps even longer ago that light bulbs might permanently promote artificiality over genuine simplicity and beauty. But the promotion of advancement makes for a stronger and better world. Change is a good thing. Online testing is a step in the right direction.