On the use of Mobile Systems in Testing

Will Tablet Based Testing Lead to a

Paradigm Shift?

By Pavan Purohit...Guest student writer

Not too long ago, the assessment industry was first introduced to a now familiar friend in Computer based testing. Computerized adaptive testing and standardized testing in the form of the GRE and NCLEX have successfully been implemented. Now, a similar innovation is visible on the horizon: mobile/tablet based assessment. In the talks and Ignite Sessions I attended at Innovations in Testing 2016, it seems we are on the cusp of implementing more massive tests like the SAT on a mobile device. In the talk, Tablet-Based Administration of the Brief Assessment of Cognition, one can find evidence of a promising new testing medium. Currently, cognitive tests such as the BAC app, which test for schizophrenia, have successfully utilized tablets to improve assessment performance over traditional paper and pencil approaches. The true paradigm shift however is when mobile devices’ mobility and security can be leveraged to test on a massive scale such as the ACT or SAT. An example of such a system could employ a tablet’s camera as a watchful proctor and use its wireless capabilities to even ensure more secure test deliveries. In another session, Tehnology as a Game Changer: The Evolution of Testing and Crystal Ball View of the Future, the speakers presented a method by which Wi-Fi signals were used to localize candidates in their physical environments. This allows for the server or database to deliver questions in such a way that ensures no neighbors share a certain question at the same time. Ever increasing numbers of millennials are becoming accustomed to typing and reading on mobile form factors, sometimes even more so than on computers. Thus, candidate acceptance of and comfort with such a platform would be seamless during the transition from paper and pencil. In the featured speaker session, The Transition from Computer to Mobile and Tablet-Based Testing, Robert McHenry had urged the importance of taking that aforementioned acceptance factor into account. He and others stressed the need to study whether the new mobile medium would introduce any bias in the testing environment. This is indeed a valid concern, but it is also important to note that an initial bias will always present itself in the face of new technology as some candidates are simply more open to the change. For example, when the computer based tests were first implemented, of course there was a small disadvantage for candidates who had never used a computer before. Therefore, this places a strong emphasis on the creators and designers of the software to keep the user interface as accommodating and intuitive as possible. Finally, the overhead of maintaining computer labs and requisite hardware such as keyboards and mice could be made obsolete. All of these sessions and others in this conference are a good indication that the industry is moving towards another major transition in the realm of testing mediums.

[Editor's Note: Pavan Purohit is computer engineering and computer science senior at Rutgers University who attended Innovations in Testing 2016.]