When it comes to delivering a computer-based exam, there are several modalities to choose from, including in-person testing at a test center, in-person testing at an event-based setting, and remote testing paired with online proctoring. In this article, we focus on the two most common modalities—in-person delivery at a test center and remote testing—and a hybrid, or multi-modal, solution. Exam programs with a multi-modal test delivery solution administer exams both in test centers and remotely, giving test-takers the freedom to choose which option works best for them and administrators the flexibility to capitalize on the benefits of both modalities.
Continue reading to discover four factors to consider when choosing a test delivery method: security, accessibility, test-taker experience, and technology dependency.
It’s important to focus on your program’s priorities when weighing each modality’s strengths and weaknesses. Here are some considerations to keep in mind—though there are many more. Evaluating the pros and cons of each modality with your assessment solution vendor will help you choose the best option for your program.
Consideration #1: Security
Testing environment controls and security methods vary among test centers and remote proctoring solutions. Even so, each modality has its own strengths and weaknesses.
With in-person testing, there is more control over the physical testing environment of your exam. Live proctors not only monitor test-takers throughout the exam, they also oversee the check-in process, all bathroom and snack breaks, and the check-out process. This closed environment helps limit the possibility of test-takers using unpermitted resources that could provide them with an unfair advantage.
Remote testing, on the other hand, offers advantages that in-person proctoring doesn’t. Since online proctors are randomly assigned, there is less concern about collusion—or even bribery—affecting exam results. Additionally, many remote proctoring providers can supply more insight into individual test-taker sessions with recordings, chat logs, and other variables for review. This gives administrators more information for a possible investigation if there is a question of exam integrity.
One more benefit to remote testing is that administrators can scale their security measures up or down depending on the stakes of the exam, employing a higher level of security for high-stakes tests and a lower level for low-stakes tests.
Whether your exam is delivered in person or remotely, upholding exam security requires constant evaluation. But with a multi-modal test delivery solution, administrators have more options to pivot and overcome security threats as they’re uncovered. For example, if a program sees an increased rate of proctor collusion or bribery at specific test centers, it may need to quickly limit its use of those test centers and require test-takers in that area to use remote proctoring instead. A multi-modal system allows for that flexibility.
Consideration #2: Accessibility
“As a test delivery provider in today’s landscape, accessibility means we need to be able to reach any test-taker, anytime, anywhere with the tools they need to perform their best on an exam.”Bobby Middleton, VP of Product Management, Meazure Learning
When it comes to selecting an appropriate testing modality for your program, there are two factors that play a critical role in ensuring accessible delivery: the ability for an individual to physically access the exam and the equal opportunity for every individual to perform their best on the exam. Let’s look at how they’re impacted by delivery modalities in more detail.
The Ability to Physically Access an Exam
There are several barriers that can prevent test-takers from accessing an exam, such as geographic location, socioeconomic factors, scheduling flexibility, and internet availability. Each type of delivery modality can reduce or remove those barriers. For example, in-person testing can be a better option for individuals who don’t own a computer, don’t have access to stable Wi-Fi, or don’t have easy access to a private or quiet place to take an exam.
On the other hand, remote test delivery can provide a better experience for individuals who don’t live close to a physical test center or can’t test during a test center’s operating hours. Additionally, while test centers are limited by the number of seats available and their typical 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. hours of operation, remote proctoring can occur at any time of day, in any location with a computer connected to the internet.
Exam programs that offer multi-modal test delivery provide the test-taker with the choice between in-person and remote delivery. This can benefit both the program and the test-takers. Test-takers can feel more empowered and comfortable when they’re able to choose their preferred testing environment, and exam programs can reach a wider, more diverse audience of potential test-takers.
The Opportunity for Test-Takers to Perform Their Best
For the testing experience to be fair and equitable, exam programs should provide test-takers the same opportunity to perform their best. Sometimes this means providing accommodations to those with disabilities. Some accommodations, such as extended time and additional breaks, are easily coordinated in either in-person or remote delivery. Others are not as simple.
An in-person test center may not have the capacity to provide accommodations like private rooms, screen reader equipment, or other assistive technologies. Other accommodations—allowing test-takers to read aloud, have snacks or drinks, have a human reader or scribe—can draw anxiety-inducing attention from other test-takers. It may also distract the other test-takers from their own exams. Test centers also need building and property accommodations like ramps, wide entrances, accessible parking, and accessible bathrooms.
Remote testing removes many of those accommodation challenges because test-takers have more control over their own environment and technology needs. Remote testing is not immune to accommodation shortcomings though, as it can be difficult to coordinate human readers and scribes or other assistive technologies.
A hybrid—or multi-modal—test delivery model allows for the most flexibility to provide reasonable accommodations because the test-taker can choose the testing modality that optimally supports an approved testing accommodation.
Consideration #3: Test-Taker Experience
Test-taker experience is important to consider at every stage of the exam process, from registering for an exam and scheduling an appointment to sitting for a test or waiting for results. Arguably the largest impact on a test-taker’s experience comes from the test delivery modality. The delivery of the test itself is what the test-taker will remember. And it’s the point in the process where the test-taker’s experience can have the most significant effect on their performance.
In-person testing offers a familiar assessment experience for test-takers. Even if they have not tested in a test center before, most of them will have taken in-person exams in school or in their professional careers. They’ll be used to sitting at assigned tables or computers, listening to instructions, and having a proctor in their line of sight.
On the other hand, remote testing can be convenient for test-takers because they’ll have fewer scheduling limitations with the around-the-clock availability of remote delivery. If your test-takers have time constraints, such as work schedules or childcare availability, this can be an incredible benefit. Also, because they are taking the exam from a setting of their choosing, test-takers have the comfort of a familiar environment—using their own devices, sitting in their own space—which can help ease test day anxiety.
With multi-modal test delivery, your test-takers have the choice of which modality works best for them, giving them more control over their experience. If scheduling concerns are their top priority, they may choose to register for a remote assessment that won’t interfere with their work or home schedule. If they know they don’t have a reliable internet connection, they may choose to register for an in-person exam, where they know the internet connection—and other technological requirements—will be sufficient to run the exam.
“The true benefit to the test-taker, when it comes to a hybrid modality, is choice. The ability to choose the modality that works best for them can transform the testing experience from something daunting to something reassuring.”Chris Beauchamp, VP of Psychometrics, Meazure Learning
Consideration #4: Technology Dependency
All computer-based testing—whether in person or remote—requires the use of technology. When choosing a delivery modality, consider the test-takers’ access to the required technology as well as their familiarity with that technology.
Physical test centers provide all the equipment, software, and internet connectivity needed for testing, which can lead to fewer distractions or interruptions due to technology. However, when a test center experiences a power outage, an extreme weather event, or a loss of internet connection, it affects every test-taker in the building. So, while there may be fewer instances of technical issues with in-person testing, those instances affect a larger group of test-takers when they do happen.
There is also the question of familiarity. Some test-takers may be unfamiliar with the testing computers’ operating system. If you have a test-taker who is used to working on a Mac, but your test center has only PCs, they may feel stress over the unfamiliar setup.
With remote testing, test-takers use their own equipment, which may make them more comfortable. But they have to make sure it meets the technical requirements of the online exam software. Because every individual connects to their exam with a slightly different tech setup, there may be more risk of technical issues—from home internet connections to crashing laptops. When technical issues do occur, however, most providers have tech support staff, well-versed in their proctoring and delivery software, readily available to assist test-takers in real time. Alternatively, at a test center, the staff may be supporting multiple exam delivery platforms with varying software requirements, so they may not have a quick fix if any software issues arise.
Multi-modal test delivery provides the best of both worlds. Test-takers who are not as tech savvy may have a better experience in a test center, where a proctor they can physically interact with will ready the exam for launch and mitigate any technical issues. Those who are more familiar with technology may enjoy the convenience of remote testing with their own equipment.
We’ve outlined key considerations for the top two delivery modalities—in-person testing at test centers and remote testing paired with online proctoring—as well as a hybrid solution. From security to technology to test-taker satisfaction, the modality you choose can have a significant impact on the success of your exam program. Evaluate your program’s needs to determine which of these test delivery modalities works best for you and your test-takers.
For more tips on ensuring a successful test administration, read our article “How to Improve Test Security During Administration and Delivery.”