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Saying Goodbye to Blue Books

College exams may be changed for good at Boston College thanks to the Communications Department's Vincent Rocchio. After using web based instruction for years, he thinks that electronic testing is necessary if colleges are going to prepare students to meet the demands of the changing workplace.

As an alternative to blue books, Rocchio suggests LockDown, which would integrate seamlessly with Canvas. Students will have a window of time to log in and start the exam, and a secure browser that blocks access to other Internet sources will open, providing a set amount of time to complete the test.

Rocchio has run three trials. During the first two there were no problems with the system, but on the third the number of students testing was expanded to a large group of 75, during which two experienced trouble taking the exam.

The overall success rate is high, and Rocchio is confident that the program will be working without glitches in the near future. Acknowledging the many benefits of this alternative to paper exam booklets, such as cutting down on paper use and the money this could save BC, he feels that there are too many readily apparent benefits for the school to ignore this new method.

Despite these pluses, the main motivator behind Professor Rocchio’s implementation of electronic testing was finding a way to incorporate large amounts of media in tests, resulting in a “more rigorous, sophisticated testing environment.”

According to Rocchio, in the age of information students are going to be expected to sort through large volumes of material in their future professions. “Stepping back from that for assessment purposes is going in the wrong direction,” Rocchio said. Because using blue books limits the amount of information a professor can include in a test, they’re becoming obsolete.

There are benefits of typing essays online in that that there is less of a need to commit to the structure of your essay. However, with easier editing capabilities students should anticipate higher expectations from professors. Students should also not expect cheating to be easier while taking tests electronically. Because the type of the program is smaller than handwriting typically is, it is actually more challenging to copy answers.

A perk both professors and students can look forward to is ease of grading. Without students’ rushed handwriting to slow teachers down, students in every discipline can expect grading time to decrease dramatically. Anonymity is another feature that can be expected to be well received by professors, as LockDown offers many features to ensure the identity of students will not be known as professors grade exams.

Professor Rocchio sees electronic testing incorporating seamlessly into math and science courses, not just humanities courses. Even if students keep a piece of paper to work out answers, there are too many benefits of testing online for any department to resist the change.

BC is also not alone in moving towards leaving blue books behind. Many colleges and universities across the country have already switched over. It’s safe to say that students should expect to see electronic testing spread to many of their classes before long.

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