Written By: Shannon Tucker, MS, Assistant Dean for Instructional Design and Technology
Managing student examinations across two campuses is no simple task. Since establishing our satellite campus at the Universities at Shady Grove in 2007, the School of Pharmacy has been committed to continuous quality improvement and streamlining operations for faculty and students alike. In our early days at Shady Grove, examinations were shipped back to Baltimore via FedEx or courier, where they were graded by faculty or the campus test scoring center. This process continued until Fall 2010, when we created a streamlined paper-based test scoring service that linked the Baltimore-based center with the Shady Grove campus.
Working towards Quality Improvement
Managed by Lisa Finn, MPH, assistant director of assessment for the School of Pharmacy, the Shady Grove-based test scoring service replicated the services offered at the Baltimore campus to score bubble sheets (a.k.a. Scantrons) from proctored paper-based exams given at Shady Grove. In addition to local scoring, a brokered arrangement between the Baltimore-based test scoring center and Lisa’s office allowed the reconciliation of campus exam scores to take place at Shady Grove for unified reporting to faculty based on either campus. This service eliminated scoring delays that sometimes exceeded more than a week as materials were shipped back and forth between campuses.
In Fall 2012, we further enhanced this process with the introduction of ExamSoft – an integrated online platform for the creation, delivery, and reporting of computer-based exams – when George Anagnostou, MS, senior instructional technology specialist, joined our team in the Office of Academic Affairs. ExamSoft offers an integrated tool that our team can use to administer assessments and integrate results into courses, student performance and progression, and curriculum assessment plans supporting our accreditation requirements. As one of 110 U.S. schools of pharmacy using ExamSoft, a significant focus for our team has been to improve the overall quality of the assessment experience.
Certifying Our Excellence
A majority of the work that George, Lisa, and I do to support faculty and graduate teaching assistants on the creation and management of exams, as well as students on the resolution of technical issues, happens “behind-the-scenes” and focuses on the quality and validity of exam administration. This behind the scenes work is an unseen component of the Office’s support of continuous quality improvement and commitment to using evidence-based best practices to support our educational technologies.
After learning about ExamSoft’s certification program, our Office thought it offered an excellent opportunity to further our commitment to enhancing the assessment process for faculty and students. Offered once each year, the program certifies that participants are proficient in current use, test administration, and support. To receive certification, each participant must complete a series of exams that assess factual knowledge of the ExamSoft portal and student exam software SofTest, and complete a series of essays to demonstrate knowledge of best practices in the creation and support of exams and users.
Sharing Our Thoughts
The decision to participate in the new certification program arose organically out of our team’s personal commitment to serving the School community, rather than an office mandate.
“For me, certification was an important step in ensuring that I can continue to provide our faculty and students with the best advice when working with ExamSoft and SofTest,” says George. “My goal is to know any product that I support as thoroughly as possible, so certification was a logical next step. Even though I spend a lot of time working with the product, I learned so much valuable new information through the certification process, which truly made the experience worthwhile.”
Lisa adds, “I decided to pursue ExamSoft certification to increase my understanding of the many useful features included within the software. Ultimately, I want to ensure that I am as knowledgeable as possible in my ability to support our students, faculty, and academic affairs team. Having gone through the certification process, I now have greater working knowledge of how to create and post an exam, techniques for troubleshooting, and student performance and assessment analytics. I look forward to continuing to use this software and am interested to see how it enhances School-wide assessment and accreditation efforts.”
Unlike George and Lisa, I am not involved in ExamSoft support for every exam that we deliver at the School. For me, certification offered an opportunity to ensure that the support I provide is consistent with emerging best practices for product features that we have not yet implemented. Overall, our collective decision to seek certification ensures that everyone within our Office can provide a consistent level of support wherever we use ExamSoft.