We have come a long way since every test, exam, or assessment was administered on paper in a physical location during a restricted testing event with an in-person proctor present. During the past 40 years, the move from paper-based testing (PBT) to computer-based testing (CBT) has provided flexibility for millions of test takers and significantly removed the administrative burden on testing organizations. And more recently, online testing has offered increased flexibility and convenience for test takers around both test location and timing.
Now, with the advent of technologies that enable secure remote testing, organizations can move from limited testing windows to continuous testing – which brings multiple benefits to test takers and testing organizations alike. However, the move from traditional event-based testing to the ultimate destination of on-demand testing isn’t possible without taking the steps required to get there.
Step 1: Digital first
The first step any organization must take in their progress toward continuous testing is the switch from PBT to CBT. While CBT has been around since the 1980s, the benefits of this transformative change still apply to any organization that has yet to make the move and are well worth repeating. With no hard copy test papers, there’s no need for secure delivery and storage at test center locations. It also eliminates the need for test centers to return completed papers to a testing organization for redistribution to a team of test scorers, who must be trained and relied on to score paper tests with no inherent bias.
In addition, CBT has progressed significantly in the past 40 years. Introduced as a simple electronic version of traditional paper and pencil testing methods, CBT now supports a wide range of item types beyond simple multiple choice. For example, a computerized environment allows us to bring in hot areas, where a test taker gives an answer by selecting one or more areas in an image. Another option is drag and drop items where a test taker moves items from a source area into a target area.
Step 2: Make the move online
In its early stages, CBT was limited by the need to deliver a test using special software or even a specific kind of computer. With web-based testing, tests can be delivered via the internet on a test center computer or a test taker’s own device, as long as there is a stable internet connection. Remote online testing is more efficient, flexible, and convenient for test takers and is the next step in a testing organization’s journey towards continuous testing .
When remote testing was introduced, it did raise some understandable concerns about test security, particularly for high stakes tests where a test taker’s career or public safety are at stake. With the application of innovative technology, remote testing is increasingly seen as being just as secure as testing at a physical test center. This includes multiple layers of identity verification, a secure lockdown browser, and online proctoring. Additionally, the potential exists to create different or even completely unique test forms that reduce item exposure and improve test security.
Step 3: Pilot testing windows
Event-based testing that required a test taker to travel to a physical location on a specific day was historically seen as the only way to protect test security. But with CBT, online testing, and the many measures available to protect remote test security, the barriers of continuous testing have been removed.
However, for many organizations the move from event-based to continuous testing is still a big step. Organizations often start with a pilot period of windows-based testing, where tests are offered during longer, more frequent testing windows than the set dates and times previously offered.
Step 4: On-demand testing
By progressing through these steps, it is possible for a testing organization to then offer their test takers the complete flexibility and convenience of anytime, anywhere testing. A test taker can select a date and time that is convenient for them, the need for travel is removed, and tests can be delivered in a test taker’s office or the comfort of their own home.
In a competitive market where test takers often have choice and access to a variety of credentialing programs, test taker experience must be a primary motivation for the move to on-demand testing. Communicate and consult with stakeholders throughout the process to help them understand the benefits and keep them engaged. Be sure to promote the advantages of on-demand testing in your marketing materials to potential new customers as well as your existing test takers.
Reduced burden, increased markets
While the move from paper-based to computer-based testing reduces the administrative burden on testing organizations, the move from testing events to continuous testing has the added benefit of more evenly spreading the impact on internal resources over time. Pressure is reduced by eliminating the need to support large numbers of test takers through a small number of testing events or windows during the year, especially if your program is global.
Testing organizations need to grow and develop, and the move to continuous testing opens new and wider markets for your programs. You can span different geographies, handle higher test taker volumes, and attract more diverse groups and multiple generations with different test delivery requirements and preferences. Your reach extends to them all with the move from the rigidity of fixed testing events to the flexibility of continuous, on-demand testing.