Monday, May 01, 2017
The weak link is always the ID check. Is that your student or a stooge? That can be a problem at a testing center, and is always a danger when no one can see the student taking the test.
The goal is to match what is supposed to happen in the classroom. I'll grant you that there are faculty who walk around their exam room helping students with problems and answering non-trivial questions while "proctoring". (I have that on trustworthy authority from a faculty member who oversees common finals for a particular course.) After all, it helps with success. Some even leave the room. And if you give an exam that is open book and open notes, having an open cell phone is just a tiny extra step. Soon that would be necessary for an open book test, with OER textbooks that are on your phone or laptop.
Favorite example from the ancient past: One prof let students bring anything they wanted. Some had a half-dozen books, including giant integral tables. The smart ones brought a single sheet of paper that had all the key things in one easy-to-find place. After all, it was a timed exam!
Its certainly true that in an "open devices" exam, some students will send the questions to a third party to write the answers ... but students have been hiring stooges to write exams for them as long as there have been written exams. Math courses often have a "show your work" policy, and that makes it hard to get just the answers off software or a buddy on Skype.
And to grade.
Using cameras to proctor exams is creepy as hell. A friend of mine did his MS through Western Governor's University and they video-proctored his exams; he had to turn the camera and show them the the rest of the room before starting the exam.
Incidentally, keep in mind that all the surveillance in the world won't prevent students from cheating the old-fashioned way if you don't change things up regularly. We just had a little scandal at my university with a long-term (multi-year) cheating ring, students sharing the answers to the tests for online classes. The news wasn't widely shared, I think in part because the classes in question are major money makers for the departments concerned. That's another reason I avoid high-stakes summative assessment, even in face-to-face classes--the temptation to cheat is just too strong.
Also, it's really hard to have them show their work on an online test, because typesetting math is obnoxious and it's hard to draw diagrams and such. I'm getting higher quality answers out of both the kinds of students who might otherwise cheat and the kinds of students who definitely would not by making them take paper tests rather than online ones.
I have a designated exam week about once a month where all of my classes come in and take their next test, which means the tests aren't at natural chapter breaks in most of the classes, but it's still worth it. I offer tests on a drop-in basis during various hours that week.
I'm really getting more benefit from the "paper" aspect than the "proctored" aspect, I think. It's surprisingly hard to get students to send me high-quality scans of problems they do at home, so the tests have become one of the best times to get a good look at their processes and explanations.
That was really interesting, and now you have me wondering if NOT testing at chapter breaks is helping your students learn. There are only a few times when I break the "unit" mindset on hour exams, and it seems to reduce the compartmentalization of what will be forgotten in the next few days.
Regarding scanned homework, I routinely accept HW from f2f students via cell-phone picture. I have to print them to grade them, but they are generally more than adequate. I've reached the point where I say "photo or scan" when asked about alternative submissions.
I used to teach in-person high school math from a spiraling curriculum (the book series is called College Preparatory Mathematics), and we were told to deliberately put questions from previous units on test all year long (the test bank was even written that way, with, say, the chapter 6 test bank having a section of "chapter 6" questions and a section of questions about things from chapters 1-5 to test after chapter 6). The homework would be a mixture of things from previous lessons rather than more practice on the current lesson most of the time, too. It did lead to a lot less compartmentalization on the part of the students. There were a lot of good things about it, but it was hard to pull out specific topics when you needed to for one reason or another or to flex the books around anything else you were also trying to do as a school or program (I always wanted to do a co-taught Geometry and Art 2 period block class, and those books wouldn't have had the flexibility to put the topics in different orders to help make it fit a combined curriculum).
Your students must have better cameras or photography skills than mine. I usually can't make out much detail from their cell phone photos. It may be that 7th graders are not given as nice of phones as college students buy (which is probably wise).
Testing doe NOT prove knowledge or wheteher somoen has learned material.