Though online testing can be a useful tool to aid learning both in and out of the physical classroom, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind when relying exclusively on one method of testing your students.

  1. Reliability: Students can take online exams from anywhere on Earth – as long as they have a reliable computer and internet connection. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw online testing services act as a lifeline for remote learning, but we also saw it create disparities among students. Those who did not have reliable internet or access to a computer fell behind significantly when homework and exams became computerized. The number of students without internet is higher than you might suspect. One study found that approximately 15% of U.S. households with school-aged children did not have reliable access to internet in their homes.[1] Educators dedicate their lives to ensuring that every student gets the education they deserve, so they understand that paper tests are a great equalizer.
  2. Cheating: Perhaps the most talked about issue surrounding online exams is cheating. Of course, any student who believes cheating is advantageous to them will find a way to cheat, regardless of how the test is distributed. However, study after study suggests that cheating is far more common online than on paper because the chances of getting caught are much lower. One researcher promised students impunity for honest responses, and about 20% of test-takers admitted to cheating during their online final exam.[2]
  3. Privacy: Many online testing platforms require that students allow a third party to proctor their activity while taking exams. Some software is less invasive, tracking the movement of their mouse or browser activity, while other programs monitor test-takers’ every move over video. Either way, students and parents have come out against these monitoring programs, believing them to be ineffective and invasive while simultaneously making them uncomfortable.[3]
  4. Anxiety: To build off the third point, many have argued that online tests help ease test taking anxiety, but that is clearly not always the case. Not only is there the issue of potentially invasive proctoring, but also many students face stressors at home, which make online tests more high stress than in-person paper exams. In addition, while in-person paper tests can cause anxiety for some students, they serve as a useful tool for preparing them for similar scenarios that they will face after they finish school. About three in four companies use some sort of testing component to evaluate an applicant’s qualifications, and many of these tests are in-person and on paper.[4] Exposing students to similar situations can help them build confidence and better prepare them for life after school.

Any good teacher will tell you that no testing method is perfect. Whether tests are online or in-person, they come with strengths and weakness. It is important to evaluate both when deciding what is right for you and your students.