4 big ways the pandemic is changing assessment in schools

Five years from now, remote test proctoring will be more common, not less
By: | February 4, 2022
Ashley Norris

Ashley Norris

While schools are still being forced to shift to remote and online learning, it can be difficult to clearly see what is happening while we are in the midst of it. But it is important that we step back to consider what we’ve learned from transitioning the primary mode of teaching and learning so dramatically so quickly once, twice and now, three times.

Five years ago, no one could have predicted such upheaval.

That upheaval makes predictions or planning about the future of education, even a modest handful of years ahead, very difficult. Even so, I think there are some areas we know enough about to anticipate the future.

In the area of assessment, which is my area of expertise, our collective experience with designing and delivering online tests at such scale over the past two years has given us some good tea leaves to read. Here are my thoughts looking ahead to the next few years of remote tests and assessments.

1. Five years from now, remote test proctoring will be more common, not less. This is a safe prediction because we know that test-takers become more comfortable with remote proctoring the more they use it. Our data show a high jump in approval of the process between the first and second use, and another increase between the second and third use.

That’s not to say that the initial experiences are bad. Despite what you may have heard, our own surveys of millions of online test takers show very high satisfaction scores for first-time remote proctoring users—more than 85%. Other outside, independent student surveys show similar results. The point is that, as use, familiarity and appreciation increase, anxiety, apprehension, and opposition fade.

2. Schools will rely more on proctoring. We’ve all clearly seen the increases in academic misconduct that happened over the past two years, tied to remote learning and assessment. As a result, I think schools and other test providers have learned that test security and integrity features such as proctoring are essential. The combination of increasing comfort and increased awareness of their necessity will, I predict, make remote proctoring an increasingly ubiquitous feature of online assessment for the near future.

3. In the next few years, psychometrics will slowly grow its presence in online exams. Psychometrics is the data-driven science of measuring what people know and it’s been a part of quality assessment design for decades. But it’s capable of doing so much more.

Good psychometric test procedures can both randomize questions and data sets within those questions but alter the content on a test in real=time—giving better insight into the test itself as well as more nuisance to test scores. Psychometric practices have failed to catch on in widespread fashion because people have been uncomfortable with one student getting a test of six questions and another getting a test with 40.

We may not get that far in five years, but I think psychometric tools and practices will advance, nonetheless. Considering how much data schools currently have from tests, test sessions and test takers—and the outsized advantages psychometrics can offer—there will be fewer and fewer reasons not to use it to make testing and learning better.

4. More assessments will move online. Written assignments, projects and other less objective forms of assessment will increasingly move online and, as such, the need for technology tools that can accurately evaluate that material for both quality and authenticity will grow.

That’s because another big lesson from the pandemic shift to remote education was that requiring written or other work that is not in a classic “test” format does not eliminate or even reduce academic misconduct. And with some classes and programs relying more and more on these subjective assessments, instructors won’t be able to adequately safeguard quality and the integrity, especially at scale or in large classes. In fact, schools should not even ask them to. It’s an unfair burden and well outside the scope of good teaching.

Accordingly, schools and other test providers are going to have to offload the burden of authenticating non-objective coursework and assessments. Proctoring can help with that, but other tools are going to be increasingly necessary if the value of those projects and assignments is to be preserved. In the next five years, we will see more schools asking for those tools and, consequently, there will be more options and improved solutions entering the market. Having options to choose from is always a good thing.

Ashley Norris, an expert in academic integrity, regulatory and accreditation compliance, and assessment, is the chief academic officer and chief compliance officer at Meazure Learning.