University IT &Testing and Assessment: IT Partnership

By Brian P. Fodrey, Chief Information Officer, Stevenson University

Brian P. Fodrey, Chief Information Officer, Stevenson University

The importance of Institutional collaboration and being strategic with our resources has no greater value than it does today.  This approach also includes all aspects of higher education, including our testing and assessment measures.

While we continue to refine and standardize the technology tools we make available to those we support, there will always be a need to advance in areas central to supporting the mission of a higher education Institution most notably around offering modernized testing and assessment tools that align with today’s instructional environments and priorities.  As a result of this modernization, forward-leaning IT units can capitalize on greater initiatives such as tool standardization, infrastructure investments, or new technical support structures.

Reversely, there are likely technical and infrastructure limitations that can influence a direction, approach, or solution that an Institution would want to pursue.  While it is not an IT units role to determine testing policies and procedures, being an active partner in helping educate and inform the testing and assessment experts and efforts on campus can prove to be beneficial to all involved.

There may not be a one-size fits all testing and assessment solution for your Institution, so the importance of understanding scope and scale is critical to implementation and overall strategy.

A great place to start regardless of your role within the Institution is with the IT division!  One primary reason why is because IT is often best situated within the Institution to broker potentially enterprise level solutions and approaches (of all technical complexities and associations) given its typical ability to bring the right stakeholders together and mostly lack of expertise on the subject matter itself.  This often leads them to being objective 3rd parties that focus more on acquisition, implementation, and possible synergies across campus in relation to other expressed needs or existing solutions already available. 

Savvy IT leaders often serve as key facilitators in identifying shared interests, opportunities, and challenges and allow the subject matter experts focus on the topic at hand.  In the same way, this also affords IT Divisions that support educational technology to have a more proactive role and opportunity to share their respective expertise.

There are several technical considerations around testing and assessment that must be brought to the attention of decision-makers as solutions are evaluated:

• Information Security:  As with all aspects of technology, ensuring the proper information security measures are in place to support a reliable and valid testing environment is critical to gauging the level of effectiveness in how we are measuring student performance, as well as the protection of their data.

• System Integrity:  Testing and assessment by nature is a high integrity practice that often times will require infrastructure beyond the scope of normal technology integrations, such as the need for computer labs, support for BYOD, system restrictions, etc.

• Technical Support:  Institutions must consider the ancillary impacts by bringing on more sophisticated testing and assessment tools onto campus and the resulting technical support demands it may create.

• Licensing:  Like any technical solution it is important to understand the licensing terms and in relation to how your Institution plans to use the testing and assessment solution (per student, course, device, instructor, administrator, etc.)

• Data Retention:  Ensuring that you continue to be prepared to properly manage and adhere to the standing electronic record and data policies as a result of knowing where, how, and for how long testing records, inputs, etc. are retained.

• Scalability:  There may not be a one-size fits all testing and assessment solution for your Institution, so the importance of understanding scope and scale is critical to implementation and overall strategy.

• Student Expectation:  Ensuring students have the tools to best adapt and integrate with the testing tool as to ensure that the solution itself is not an inhibitor to the measurement of the student’s mastery of the subject matter being assessed.

As the higher education instructional and technical climates continue to evolve, it will be important for Institutions to set new precedents for when and how IT Divisions are engaged in all aspects including testing and assessment.  While much of what has been outlined can be applicable to many areas within IT and higher education, ensuring that the proper attention and considerations are paid to how we evaluate our students is as important as any!

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