A Guide to Going Multi-Modal With Testing


A Guide to Going Multi-Modal With Testing

Rory McCorkle, PhD.


Organizations have been looking for a more flexible approach to assessment, even before the rise in demand due to COVID-19. In 2018, research showed a 10% increase in organizations using live online proctoring as part of the exam process compared to the previous year.i Now, as countries and regions move in and out of lockdown and social distancing, this flexible approach isn’t just a nice to have – it’s imperative.

The good news is that there are tried-and-tested solutions readily available to deliver secure online assessments. Equally, the technology is evolving rapidly. And while this is exciting, it also presents a challenge for credentialing organizations needing to develop a test delivery strategy for the new normal.

With the rapid adoption of online proctoring in particular over recent months, the choice of delivery channel is both broader and more nuanced than ever before. This article is a guide to help you navigate your way through multi-modal testing in 2020 and beyond.

What is multi-modal testing?

We’ve come a long way from scenes of candidates in physical test centers, completing assessments with paper and pen, all overlooked by a proctor pacing between rows of desks. At the same time, remote assessments that are completed online with no oversight from a proctor don’t always meet the needs of test sponsors or their candidates. That’s where a multi-modal approach comes in.

There are multiple options depending on your needs. Assessments can be delivered via a network of secure test centers, delivered remotely and unproctored, or even off-line/off-grid with multiple combinations of these, as required, to meet more specific needs of testing programs.

For example, a test center might be complemented by online proctoring, either live or record-and-review. And both live and record-and-review proctoring can be delivered for online assessments in a candidate’s own home.

What are the pros and cons?

A testing center network offers organizations a secure, standardized environment for high-stakes assessments. And with a network of centers, candidates get the added benefit of flexible scheduling and a purpose-built, comfortable test setting.

COVID-19 has shown us all the importance of adaptability, particularly if we want to avoid disruption for candidates and maintain business continuity. A multi-modal approach that uses test centers to deliver assessments with online proctoring increases the ability to scale-up and scale-down testing as needed and to deliver tests safely.

This approach also ensures that candidates have access to the required technology for online proctoring, removing the potential barrier presented by the need for a computer with a webcam and microphone, as well as a high-quality internet connection.

Online proctoring is increasingly used by credentialing programs, with different security risks from test centers. Research shows that in online tests, just like in the classroom, instances of malpractice increase substantially if the test is not proctored.ii Online proctoring is more cost effective for certification organizations and many of the security risks have been reduced with significant advances in technology.

What’s more, online proctoring provides more agility and flexibility in uncertain times, reducing the risk of cancelled exams and increasing continuity for candidates during what is already a stressful time. However, as with any change, candidates can feel anxious about the move to online proctoring. When assessments are transferred from either onsite or non-proctored environments, it’s important that this is managed and communicated clearly and carefully with all of your stakeholders and candidates.

Event testing allows candidates to log in to a proctoring system at a choice of approved locations. On checking in with an event proctor, candidates receive a unique code that has all the details of the testing event associated with it. They then enter this code into a secure lockdown browser.

Candidates are automatically scheduled for the event, and after their exam is complete, a score is displayed on screen and/or sent via email. Credentialing programs can either assign their own proctors to the session or involve PSI proctors.

The Research

A growing body of research supports a well-developed multi-modal program involving test centers and online proctoring to address different needs.iii Further research shows:

  • Candidates rate both test center and remote proctored delivery as highly favorable.iv
  • Candidate experience ratings are not correlated with test performance.v
  • Pass rates are comparable for online proctored and onsite proctored administration of the same assessments.vi

Since the pandemic, the team here at PSI has supported the transition of numerous high-stakes tests from test centers to remote proctoring. Our upcoming webinar (linked below) will discuss multi-modal testing to find out the results of comparative studies with professional certification exams as well as highlight a study comparing live remote proctoring at home versus physical test centers, immediately before and since the pandemic.

Why consider multi-modal?

With a multi-modal approach to assessments, there is, of course, the potential for testing organizations to give candidates a choice of taking an assessment at home or at a test center. This makes certification more accessible for remote candidates, while ensuring access to the necessary technology doesn’t present a barrier for others. Protecting the security and validity of your accreditation, while meeting the needs of all your candidates.

Watch the On-Demand Webinar: Adapting a Multi-Modal Approach to Delivery State Licensure Exams

i ATP Security Committee – Security Survey Report, 2019.
ii Connolly, Lentz & Morrison, 2006; Ramos, 2003.
iii Weiner, J., & Hurtz, G. (2017). A comparative study of online remote proctored versus onsite proctored high-stakes exams. Journal of Applied Testing Technology.
iv Op. cit.
v Op. cit.
vi Op. cit.