Long time professor and missionary in residence Kent Hartman is having to re-think his entire testing system due to a recent university decision to transition away from scantron tests.
Oklahoma Christian University is no longer allowing the use of scantron tests, following an announcement from the university’s registrar’s office to the faculty.
According to Dr. Stephanie Baird, Oklahoma Christian’s registrar, the scantron machine and grading services will cease after the 2016-2017 academic year. Due to significant changes in the ACT score software and keys, Oklahoma Christian has decided not to continue purchasing the software that maintains the scantron machine and its other functions.
All exams at the end of this academic year will either be manually graded paper tests or posted through Blackboard.
Hartman teaches a number of courses at Oklahoma Christian including Personal Family Finance — a course that consistently sees more than 130 students enrolled.
“One pro of scantrons is that I already have everything organized,” Hartman said. “I don’t have to change anything over for the students. Another pro is I give my grader a job. We don’t talk about this in Personal Family Finance, but automation is going to take a lot of people’s jobs in the next 15-20 years, and that’s going to be challenging.”
While organization is one of the main factors for Hartman when organizing exams via scantron, he also keeps his students in his mind.
“I do have several students say to me that they do like the scantrons because they like the paper exams,” Hartman said. “They just don’t like having it on a computer. As far as effecting me, I will just need help getting it over to the system like they want me to do. I’m just thinking about the students and what’s best for them.”
According to Baird, the North Institute will be available to assist Oklahoma Christian faculty in this transition.
“The North Institute is here to support faculty in teaching and learning avenues,” Bill Arbuckle, educational technologist for North Institute said. “We’re here to help them present their lessons in a way that students can learn better.”
One of the specific ways that Arbuckle is helping professors is by providing “tech recipes” for those who need a step-by-step guide to convert former scantron exams into Blackboard exams. According to Arbuckle, these recipes will include instructions on various topics including Lockdown Browser and password-protecting tests.
“If most faculty saw a recipe, they would be able to do it,” Arbuckle said. “It also makes them feel better if they’re able to do it on their own. Even if they have a cheat sheet, they can do it on their own.”
According to Arbuckle, all features of scantron are available on Blackboard as well. In his experience with helping professors transition into a more digital classroom, Arbuckle said that he has seen no backlash or unwillingness from the professors, despite age diversity among the faculty.
“With our faculty and the ages that they are, that can present a challenge sometimes, and they’ve done things the way they’ve done things for so long, change is always a change,” Arbuckle said. “I’ve had some pretty good luck, though.”
Professors such as Dr. Lynn McMillon and Dr. Stafford North use Blackboard for exams and in-class videos, according to Arbuckle, and have been very fluent in their transitions.
“You always think technology and learning online and doing things online, you think younger generation,” Arbuckle said. “If the older generation can do it, anyone can. They’ve been very willing to do it.”
Not all professors, however, are as open to the ideas of technology being inside of the classroom. Hartman, for example, does not allow the use of computers or cell phones during his classes.
“The reason for that is people just get distracted,” Hartman said. “I know they’re doing something else instead of learning. I just know when I say students can use their computers or their phones, they just drift away.”
Hartman has experimented with the use of computers on his exams before, but the risk of technological complications also raises a red flag for him.
“I’ve done tests on computer before and sure, there have been problems, and I don’t know what there is to do about that issue besides the student leaving and going to IT,” Hartman said. “Sometimes the system breaks down and you have to get assistance elsewhere. Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do. But I know for some of the students, it’s going to be harder for them, and they’re not going to like it as much, and they’re going to have to do as the rest of us and adapt to it.”
Professors are expected to spend the spring semester changing the way they grade their exams accordingly.