Testing has always been an integral part of our educational system; however, the confluence (that's a GRE word!) of several factors will lead to dramatic changes in academic testing in the near future. Faculty members handing out 150 copies of 12-page exams (they probably call them "quizzes") with 100 multiple-choice questions will be as extinct as dinosaurs, or even as extinct as full professors who teach introductory courses. Nowadays everyone is online. Distance education is increasing to the point that many students will no longer become lost on campus; they will never set foot on a campus. Monday-to-Friday-night parties will be replaced by virtual reality parties, and some people will still think lamp shades on the head are really funny, even when they are alone in their rooms! And finally, the rebirth of game shows has brought families back together and away from their computers (for 30 to 60 minutes per week); it will also have a profound effect on testing in the future.
We predict that in as few as five years all exams will be given via computer to students who never leave home. Hundreds of students will be tested simultaneously by computers that randomize the items. Faculty will pronounce this a great advance until they determine that the computer nerds forgot to program the computer to grade all of the various forms of the exam. So all the students will fail all their exams for a while. Then, the computer nerds will arrange to change all those F's to A's.
In order to reduce the chance of cheating, all students will be monitored via small television cameras. Suspicious movements suggestive of cheating will cause a blast of either white noise or a sound bite from a randomly selected program from the Fox Network.
The influence of the game shows will be profound. For example, students will take exams at home while family members root them on. What's more, all students will have the following at their disposal: lifelines to friends or relatives who know even less than they do about the course material, elimination of some of the multiple-choice options by the same computer not yet programmed to grade exams, and surveys of audience members. In this case, however, the audience will consist of other students currently taking the course. In the past, such an approach would be called academic dishonesty. But in this millennium this effort will be an example of new cooperative online endeavors. Specifically, this will be called the "Cooperative Response Acceleration Procedure." Although this is a new phenomenon, many students already seem quite familiar with the acronym, as they use it frequently to describe their exams.
Here is a sample item from online testing:
According to research sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and some guys in the next office, the most serious psychological threat to our society is:
(a) Vicarious Cognitive Dissonance
(b) Eurocentric Psychotherapy
(c) The Reform Party
(d) Buffy the Vampire Slayer
(e) The high number of humor-impaired people in high government positions
Now, some test-wise students might recognize that the longest answer has an increased chance of being the correct choice; however, there will be few test-wise students left. Therefore, a student might have to ask for a lifeline. The student calls 12 friends, but can't get through to a single one because they will all be online at the time. Next, the student asks that the computer remove two of the options, leaving one distractor and the correct answer. If the student gets the correct answer, he receives four points. However, the student may ask for another option to be removed. If at this point, the student is still unable to identify the correct answer from the one remaining option, he or she is immediately given a job as a manager at a local fast-food establishment. Alternatively, the student could ask the audience of fellow students to be polled; however, they will spend too much time completing required informed consent forms to provide any assistance. Finally, the student types in his or her answer. It is correct. Cue the applause from friends and relatives, and begin "Pomp and Circumstance" in preparation for the student's online graduation. At graduation, all students who did not receive honors will get the home version of the University and other lovely consolation prizes. And, of course, 10 seconds after graduation all students will receive their first daily e-mail request for donations to the Online University Alumni Association.
Spring 2000 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 68-69), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 2000, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.