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Essential Workers: DELTA’s Testing Services Responds to the Pandemic

Image of student checking in at the Centennial Campus Test Center.
A student checks in at the Centennial Campus Test Center. Photo by Katie Harris.

Over the past year, we have heard a lot about essential workers. They are the ones who continue critical infrastructure operations…basically, they keep a society going, even during disasters. When pandemic closings began happening in March 2020, Director of DELTA Testing Services Sharon Broere and Assistant Director of DELTA Testing Services Kara Marschalk shifted their offices to their homes like most other DELTA employees. By August 2020, they were back in the office as in-person proctored testing was needed as an alternative to online monitored exams. 

A typical pre-pandemic day for the team included handling test proctoring (administering exams, checking IDs, monitoring for academic integrity, coordinating with other testing centers to ensure paper exams arrive where they need to be). They also handled different accommodations that students may need during testing, especially when managing overflow assessments from the Disability Resource Office.

Before the pandemic, the team was more student-focused. Once the pandemic occurred, the focus switched to instructors and being similar to a help desk for them as they arranged their exams. Broere says, “We did a lot of help desk-type work guiding instructors on reimagining their exams.” This included suggestions for alternative assessments, which worked for some faculty, but not for everyone, such as those with large courses. 

They also guided faculty through ways to reduce bandwidth usage because students’ internet service at home was often not able to handle multiple tools running at once.

The team has made some logistical shifts during the pandemic, and some will stick around even after in-person classes resume this fall. A big shift is the use of Respondus LockDown Browser, a software product that locks students’ computers while they take the exam in an effort to decrease academic dishonesty. 

The team has also focused on cutting down on paper usage for exams and examining ways for students to take exams on their own devices in the classroom. Even before the pandemic, the idea of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) exams using online monitoring software was floating around due to high test center demand.

As an emergency stop-gap in response to the pandemic DELTA deployed software for online video monitoring of exams. With the move back to normal operations over the summer, in-person testing resumed and at-home video monitoring of exams has been discontinued.

Photo of students taking exams at computer stations.
Students take exams at the Centennial Campus Test Center.

The team reflects on lessons learned during this unique experience. They note that there will always be faculty who desire monitored exams, and that being flexible in testing is key. If faculty have a classroom, they should consider BYOD testing. 

If faculty are teaching online, they may consider implementing at least a few formative or alternative assessments, or breaking down one or two exams into smaller assignments to reduce exam stress. This has the added bonus of reducing pressures on students that lead to academic dishonesty.  

Marschalk notes that she really enjoys working with her colleagues at DELTA, as well as the continual interaction with students and faculty. Broere appreciates the diverse perspectives at DELTA that allow her to experiment with new concepts and technologies; she notes that “without Business and Technology Application Specialist Drew Davidson, we would still be in the dark ages.” She was having concerns about the old appointment system, for example, and after speaking with Davidson about her needs, they developed a new one that works much better. 

The team is prepared to implement all of their lessons learned as students and faculty return this fall.  

For more, see:

The Do’s and Don’ts of the DELTA Testing Center (Video)

DELTA Testing Services

Exam Best Practices

Types of Assessment

Active Learning