The Campus Explorer: Pollock Testing Center
The Campus Explorer is a feature of Onward State dedicated to exploring Penn State’s massive campus. The series will showcase buildings or areas on campus that don’t receive as much attention as landmark buildings like the Beaver Stadium or Old Main.
While not the most visually impressive building on campus, the Testing Center still has a few tricks up its sleeves. Located in the old Pollock Library on Pollock Road, the Testing Center opened as a pilot program in the Fall of 2007. Funded by the Provost and ITS, the center has 161 computer stations which means the center can administer exams to many students at the same time, even if they are in different classes. Testing Center staff only likes to assign around 155 computers at a time, in case a station has a technical issue.
One year after the pilot program began, the Testing Center hosted 37,000 exams in 51 separate classes in the Fall of 2008. Since being converted, the center has become more and more popular among faculty. Professors favor the e-testing because they can use multimedia in exam questions. Additionally, Professors say that using the testing center has drastically cut back the time in which it takes to grade tests (some report a savings of over 15 hours for a 120 person class). The Testing Center delivers grades instantly so the student can get instant gratification (or instant depression).
Professors also love the Testing Center because it features a high-tech security system to thwart cheating. As many of you have experienced, a test-taker must swipe their PSU ID card to be allowed past a turnstile. On the other side of the turnstile, a staff member of the center verifies your identification by matching the picture they see of you on the computer with your face. A ticket is printed automatically with your test information, picture and seat assignment. As you pass through the doors into the testing room, you find your assigned station by an alphanumeric combination, e.g. B10.
The testing station itself is among the first of its kind at any University in the country. In fact, a Rutgers professor that studies cheating says that no other University has gone this far to prevent cheating. Will Kerr, the Manager for Testing and Scanning Operations, reports that the state-of-the-art center will, “level the playing field for all students.”
The seemingly draconian check-in procedures are supported by 24 cameras that monitor all parts of the center. These cameras are used “in direct proctoring of exams and [to] also provide security for the occupants,” says Mr. Kerr. The Testing Center staff monitors these cameras on a bank of computer screens in the lobby area of the center. Exams in the Testing Center are normally given on a locked down version of Penn State’s course management system, Angel. You sign in with your Penn State ID and password and it loads the exam for you. Test-takers are not able to minimize the exam window to access other applications on the computer.
The Testing Center might be convenient for Professors, but it deals a few drawbacks to students. First, calculators of any kind are not permitted. This is due to the fear that someone will program a graphing calculator with equations, notes, etc. Also, in my experience, the testing center seems dark. In addition, the Testing Center adds an element of pressure that a traditional testing environment doesn’t have.
What do you think about the Testing Center? What are its advantages or drawbacks? What bothers you about it? Let us know below in the comments section.