DELTA Testing Updates

Aerial view of the Brickyard and the block S in the bricks.

With Respondus Monitor and LockDown Browser in use in some NC State courses for approximately one month, we’ve collected a few “lessons learned” based on feedback from students and faculty. We still encourage you to consider options other than a monitored exam.

Try it Out in Advance

An essential step, before using Respondus Monitor for an exam, is to do a practice run. This will allow you, and your students, to identify problems in a low stakes manner, and may alleviate some of the stress and fear students have about taking remote exams. To do a practice run, create a brief quiz in Moodle with a couple of questions (NC State trivia is a popular choice). Here are a few helpful resources:

Ask students to contact you if they have any problems taking the practice exam so that you can individually determine accommodations that a student might need.

Specify Technology Requirements in Your Syllabus

This spring, when we switched to emergency remote teaching mid-semester, your syllabus was already in place, therefore it was challenging to add new requirements. Moving forward, you are allowed to require that students have specific technology or software to take your class. If you have specific requirements, specify them clearly in your syllabus. Of course, when you require specific hardware/software, you will exclude students who cannot meet them. We are encouraging instructors to make your class as inclusive as possible

If using Respondus Monitor, students’ computers must meet specific requirements. Respondus states that for their software to work, students must have a broadband connection, a microphone, and a webcam. To complicate matters, a student may have a webcam but have intermittent or low-bandwidth internet access which limits their ability to take monitored tests. DELTA published an article that delves into this and offers considerations for designing summer courses.

The best way for students to check that their testing setup (which includes both their bandwidth connection and their computer hardware and software) meets requirements is by taking a practice exam. Students are able to run a System Check through Respondus LockDown Browser once they have downloaded the software. This check will provide information to them on their connection bandwidth and latency, will check that appropriate ports are open, and check that their microphone and camera are enabled for Monitor. While informative, this System Check is not a good substitute for actually taking a practice exam. 

Pre-test, students should be given the Quick Start Guide for Moodle and this overview video to help them learn more about Respondus. They should also be given the student support page for Respondus to troubleshoot any issues that come up.

Additional Observations

Now that we have been using this online testing software for over a month, we have the following observations (and reports from instructors) about the tool.  

  • If students do not have broadband internet access, they will not be able to use Respondus Monitor successfully. Low-bandwidth internet connections will cause frustration and stress for the students trying to take an exam. Be prepared to work with any student who is dealing with a connection problem. Some rural students have been unable to take exams with the rest of their class (due to low bandwidth issues).
  • Students often worry about exams and are stressed. Add a pandemic on top of this where they are at home, sometimes sharing a computer and WiFi with others, missing their friends, etc., and we’re finding the stress is amplified. Thus, if you are giving a monitored assessment, you can realistically expect more students to complain, to email you or contact others, etc., especially if you jump straight into testing without a “try the technology” assessment. We are aware of students commenting negatively about being required to use Respondus Monitor on social media and other avenues.
  • Some students find their computers identify Respondus LockDown Browser as malware.  Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor require a high level of access to student computers. It needs this access to successfully limit access to other applications during an exam and to monitor activity (audio/video recording) during an exam to support the integrity of the exam-taking process. Respondus has an article about how to troubleshoot this issue (note that their last suggestion is “find a different computer,” which will not work for all students).
  • Respondus will not work in virtual computing environments.
  • Some faculty have reported they have used Respondus with no (or few) problems, while others have had experiences that were very frustrating for them. Our advice is to “try the technology” with the students as that can make the difference between a successful and a stressful experience for both instructors and students.
  • Even with the best planning and preparation, it is important to have a backup plan.

How Do I Get Assistance?

To learn how to set up Respondus LockDown Browser/Monitor in Moodle, read this knowledge base article by DELTA. Questions can be sent to learntech@ncsu.edu

In-Person Proctoring for Summer and Fall “DE” Courses

For the remainder of the summer (both 1 & 2) the DELTA testing centers will remain closed, following the decision made by the UNC System to move all instruction online this summer. We expect DELTA test centers to remain closed until students are allowed to gather on campus again. For fall 2020, a decision about the testing centers has not been made at this time. From what we understand from NCTA, most testing centers nationally are closed. Coordination with online proctoring vendors remains challenging at this time as high demand for proctoring nationally continues to exceed their ability to deliver. It is not clear when this will change, so we cannot plan on having online proctoring vendors available for fall. 

Additional Articles/Information that May Be Useful: