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Paper Vs Online Testing – A Study by Future Ed, Georgetown University’s Think Tank

Paper Vs Online Testing

Paper Vs Online Testing – A Study by Future Ed, Georgetown University’s Think Tank

Date: 25/02/2020 | Posted by: MeritTrac | Category: General


Technology propels the entire education system including examination and assessments processes, go digital. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) enable a personalised testing environment suit for each student. Globally, institutions after institutions are giving up the traditional paper-pen examination system to implement an online mode of testing.

The United States brought a new law - Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) - that aims to improve the K-12 education system with stress for periodic tests given to students. After completing 3 years of ESSA implementation, Future Ed, a think tank of Georgetown University, conducted a study on the existing nature of the testing and assessments across the United States based on the data provided by agencies. The study reveals many fascinating trends in academic testing in the US educational system.

One of the key findings is that the majority of the states in the US are gradually embracing online testing to assess the students’ competencies. Among 50 states, only one state follows the paper tests, others using either online or a hybrid model that uses both - paper and online. The study states the online push is not going to retract as technology supports a transparent assessment process. It reduces testing time and costs, provides quicker results, and students with disabilities, personalised questions, automated scoring, and technology-enhanced performance tasks that can assess more complex skills.

"One clear advantage is the ability to offer more accommodations that make the tests accessible to students with disabilities and English learners, often sparing these students the stigma of 'visible' accommodations," explains the study.

Personalised testing

This study further elaborates innovative experiments in some states. For example, Alabama is using computer-adaptive tests, where questions get harder or easier based on a student’s initial responses. By this, the evaluator gets a more accurate picture of what students know and can do. Private companies help the states to develop advanced technological tools for the assessments.

"Online testing is also spurring the creation of a new generation of technology-enabled performance tasks that ask students to draw, write, conduct lab experiments, and solve multi-step math problems, sometimes with simulations that would not otherwise be possible,” states the study titled “Is the Pen Mightier Than the Keyboard? The Effect of Online Testing on Measured Student Achievement.”

Though the study points out the significance of online testing in the emerging assessment scenario, the researcher found standard deviations between paper and online testing. "We found mode effects of about 0.10 standard deviations in math and 0.25 standard deviations in English Language Arts." The author explains various reasons for this change and confident that differences would fade away as the issues get resolved.

Online testing in India

Examination management in India is a hectic task as candidates from different backgrounds and status have to be assessed. Millions of candidates appear for public sector jobs. Paper-based tests seize time and manual efforts. Since a threat of leaking looms over question papers, a huge amount of money has to spend on the security - from preparation to distribution at the exam centre.

Therefore, online testing or computer-based testing is suitable for this country. Meanwhile, India is witnessing digitisation of examinations process. Most of the competitive exams and entrance tests are done in digital mode. Some educational institutions use digital platforms for conducting their examinations. As technology improves, digital adoption will increase.

MeritTrac, the leading assessment service provider, has many online testing solutions for government, institutions and corporates. MeritTrac's solutions include the digital transformation of paper-pen exam to complete online examination. These products and solutions ease the administration of the examination process.