ISU study finds online tests are still a good gauge of student learning

Ames, Iowa — When the pandemic forced Iowa State University to switch from in-person to remote learning in the spring of 2020, ISU psychology professor Jason Chan says he feared unsupervised online exams would unleash rampant cheating.

As part of an ISU study, nearly two-thousand students in 18 classes were analyzed from the 2020 spring semester. Chan says their sample ranged from large lecture-style courses with high enrollment to advanced courses in engineering and veterinary medicine.

Those students who were receiving Bs before the lockdown were still pulling in Bs when the tests were moved online and unsupervised. Chan says the pattern held true for students up and down the grading scale.

While the study results indicate unsupervised, online exams -can- still provide a valid and reliable assessment of student learning, Chan warns there are potential weak spots, especially with the emergence of Chat-GPT and A-I writing tools. The ISU study was supported by a National Science Foundation Science of Learning and Augmented Intelligence Grant.

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