Mar 28 2022

How to Prepare K–12 Students for Online Testing

These technology tips will help educators and district IT departments ensure students are ready for digital assessments.

Last month, the College Board, which develops and administers the SAT, announced that the test would move entirely online by 2024. Many states already have an online option for standardized tests, which allowed students to take assessments digitally during remote learning.

Studies have found, however, that students generally perform poorly on online assessments compared with written exams. Additionally, critics have voiced concerns about digital equity, a sentiment supported by research that shows that students from low-income families, English language learners and students with disabilities perform considerably worse on online tests.

But IT teams and educators can help students adapt to this format. Here are some of the ways to prepare students for online tests:

Invest in Peripherals That Make Online Testing Easier

School IT teams should make investments in the tech their students will need for online assessments. This includes mandatory technologies for test taking as well as peripherals that will increase comfort and boost scores.

“More than 70 percent of state testing agencies in the U.S. either highly recommend or require the use of an external keyboard for assessments on tablets,” says Madeleine Mortimore, global education innovation manager at Logitech. “If students don’t have a keyboard during the semester, and then suddenly have to use a physical keyboard, that can be quite jarring and add to test anxiety.”

The change from a touch-screen keyboard to a physical keyboard can lead to lower test scores, even if a student knows the material, because of the unfamiliarity.

Madeleine Moreti
If students don’t have a keyboard during the semester, and then suddenly have to use a physical keyboard, that can be quite jarring and add to test anxiety.”

Madeleine Mortimore Global Education Innovation Manager, Logitech

IT departments should also ensure headsets are available for all students taking online assessments. Some students may require the adaptation of having test prompts read out loud, and others may simply find it easier to focus while wearing the headset.

“Having a headset signals that you have your own learning space and you have your own testing space,” Mortimore says. “It really creates that kind of environment.”

Finally, input devices — such as a mouse or stylus — can improve students’ test scores. With a trackpad or touch-screen device, students must make very precise movements. Not only does this add to testing difficulty, but it can become tiresome over the lengthy course of a standardized test.

Additionally, trackpads can provide a barrier for certain students. “Trackpads are tricky, especially for elementary students and students who are still developing their fine motor skills,” Mortimore notes.

A stylus, similarly, gives students more control on touch-screen devices and comes in handy when students are asked to show their work. Rather than typing the necessary math or science equation, students can write it with the help of a stylus.

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Use Testing Tech Frequently to Build Student Familiarity

One of the most important considerations is how the technology used for testing is integrated into teaching and learning.

IT administrators should ensure this technology is available for students to use from the beginning of the school year, not just when students show up for testing. Students who were familiar with a stylus, for example, “were less stressed going into the test, because they had spent a semester or so using the stylus, and it was just another day for them,” Mortimore says.

Schools that don’t have a one-to-one program can create a rotation or other system of sharing devices and peripherals to allow students to practice these skills and become more adept with the technology before testing day.

FROM THE EXPERTS: Make these considerations for K–12 modern learning environments.

“There’s a difference between on-screen and physical keyboards,” Mortimore says. “The travel and the pitch of the keys are different. When you’re on the screen, you can go quite fast and receive a lot of output, whereas on a physical keyboard, you have a different level of pressure that you have to apply.”

Unless an assessment is specifically testing students’ ability to type, their skill in doing so shouldn’t hinder their test performance.

Ensure Educators and Proctors Are Familiar with Testing Technologies

Finally, educators can best help students prepare for online assessments by being prepared themselves. Educators and test proctors should familiarize themselves with the technology students are using so they can set up testing sites and answer questions effortlessly.

As students are becoming familiar with a new technology, they could run into questions. Is it on? Why did it go idle? How do I reconnect it? These are all questions an educator should be able to answer — and should practice answering — before test day. As educators help students become more familiar with the technology, there are less likely to be obstacles when students are taking the test.

READ MORE: Effective digital transformation relies on professional development.

Additionally, familiarity with the technology makes setting up on test day faster and easier, allowing more time for testing, reviewing and answering students’ questions.

“All of Logitech’s solutions are very much plug-and-play,” says Mortimore. “You just plug it in, and it’s ready to go.”

She also recommends technologies such as the Logitech Rugged Combo series for online testing, which uses a smart connector rather than connecting via Bluetooth.

“There’s a decrease in frustration and time wasted in the classroom trying to connect all the tech, and it prevents sneaky students who may try to connect to someone else’s device,” she says.

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