Birds do it, bees do it, even the SAT is doing it. It is time to go digital with testing, and it is not just the higher-education, high-stakes exams that need to be digitized. Students in K-12 today have grown up in a digital world, yet many schools still ask students to use pen and paper. It is time to meet students where they are and help prepare them for their future outside of school.
In Gartner’s 2022 report on the top trends impacting K-12 education one trend they identified is the move toward digital learning environments. Although heavily influenced by the pandemic, the need for digital learning has not declined as students return to school, according to the Gartner report. They recommend that schools start planning and strategizing for an increasingly digital environment.
Digital testing is one area that is necessary to consider when going digital, and we are here to help you develop a strategy for the transition. We cover the steps we have seen that lead to successful implementations of digital testing platforms, especially if you are moving to digital testing for the first time.
Download the guide here.
Creating your digital testing strategy
Develop your why
Starting with why you want to implement a digital testing platform may seem simple, but we see that schools sometimes skip this part of the process. If you are clear about why your school needs to move to digital testing, it allows you to create a plan with clear goals and KPIs.
So ask yourself and several other stakeholders,
- What are the current challenges around testing as it currently is? Consider the administrative, teacher, and student perspectives.
- What do you want your school to achieve through digital testing?
Prioritize which whys you want to tackle. You may be able to tackle all of them with one testing platform, but it is good to have a prioritized list to ensure that at least the top things get addressed.
Create your KPIs and targets
KPIs (key performance indicators) are much easier to create once you have clearly defined whys. They are also valuable to have so that you can better determine if the move to digital testing has the impact you intend.
When speaking to private K-12 schools, the KPIs we tend to talk about is the 6 Rs,
- Results (employability, grades, skills attained)
- Reputation (who doesn’t want to be number 1?)
- Recruitment (offering more flexibility)
- Retention (of both employees and students)
- Revenue (attracting students = more money)
Decide which KPIs are most important for your school, and try to make sure they are connected to your why. Put some measurement methods in place early as well to ensure that you are not letting the KPIs and targets become a secondary thought.
It is also valuable to set target dates and milestones for the start of the project to hold the team of stakeholders accountable. For example, ten teachers should be trained on the digital testing platform by a specific date and two weeks after the first digital tests get administered. Create dates for check-ins with the core group of teachers and stakeholders throughout the implementation and testing period.
Map out the key stakeholders
It is tempting to involve as many people as possible, but this can lead to delays and difficulty agreeing on what to prioritize first. Ask yourself, who needs to be involved in the process from a leadership perspective? Who is critical for moving this project forward?
Your stakeholder group should include a set of key teachers who will be involved in the early implementation and adoption of the platform. Think of them as your beta testers. These teachers should be a mix of early adopters who are eager to have new technology and processes in their classrooms, as well as ones that may be more resistant to the change or who have a course where it is more critical to have digital testing.
The goal is for these teachers to become your internal digital influencers and to help spread the knowledge and word about your new digital testing platform.
Here are some questions to ask as you are creating your team of stakeholders,
- Who will be approving the budget?
- Which teachers are eager to adopt digital testing in their classrooms?
- Which teachers have a strong need for digital testing in their classrooms?
Once you have your stakeholders mapped out, you can gather feedback from them on which features they believe are necessary to have in a platform. We help you outline how to prioritize this feedback.
Which features do you NEED to have?
There is a difference between a NEED to have and a NICE to have. It can be easy for your teachers and stakeholders to go on a feature shopping spree when you ask them what they need. However, this leaves you with a massive list to go out to vendors. You will need to be able to create a prioritized list of the features you need from a digital testing platform.
There are three distinct categories of features
- Crucial features you need to test as normal
- Features that are not needed to test but are helpful or would add significant value
- Features that are nice to have but are not needed to operate and do not add significant value
Categorize the feature needs you to gather from your stakeholders into the above three buckets. This will help make the final decision of which platform to choose easier as well.
Reliability as a feature
There are some important features to consider that are not as tangible as the types of questions a testing platform offers, but they make a big difference and you should consider including them on your list of features to prioritize. These features relate to the reliability of the platform.
The ability to function without an internet connection
It is good to have an exam platform that can run completely offline so that no student answers or progress are lost. If you have a digital testing platform that requires an internet connection, you run the risk of overloading and crashing your server when too many people are trying to connect simultaneously.
There is a risk that students’ answers get lost and are not able to be recovered, or they may not be able to finish the test at all. To ensure a positive digital testing experience for students and teachers, use a platform that functions without the need for an internet connection.
Ease of use
This may sound like a quality more than a feature, but we would like you to consider it as one. This is because it can be so critical to the success and adoption of the testing platform. Having a tool that is easy to use will make it easier to roll out to the entire school, and alleviates pressure from the technical team to support any issues or questions.
Have ease of use top of mind when assessing platforms. You want to select a tool that is used consistently and seamlessly in the classroom.
Ask the vendor what support they offer. Is it only during the setup and onboarding phase? Or do they offer support throughout the entire time you are a customer of theirs? Do they have a robust help center, but is that all they offer?
If you find yourself in a situation where you need fast support – for example, if you need to test students, but the test is not loading properly – you will want the option to reach out to your testing platform to help you resolve the issue quickly. So make sure some type of support is included as a feature.
Create a plan for product adoption
The final step is creating a plan for training and adoption to the rest of the school. This is where you should lean on your stakeholders and new influencer teachers to help you push forward faster and more effectively.
Some things to consider when crafting your adoption plan,
- How long did it take for the teachers, on average, to feel comfortable using the digital testing platform?
- Was this impacted by the subject?
- Did the number of students in their class impact them in any way?
Map out the variables that impacted the training and adoption of the platform for the beta-tester teachers.
Create target dates and milestones for product adoption as well so that you give the project the best possible chance to succeed, or even exceed expectations.
Time to summarize
It is time to meet students where they are at, and support them in this increasingly, if not already entirely, digital world. Digital testing is a part of the digital transformation needed at schools to meet and support the digitization demand. Even if there is no budget or digitization now, you can still start to plan for it because it is a wave that seems inevitable.
Use this guide to help you create your journey! You can download a quick guide version of this below to take with you as you are crafting your strategy.
 (2022). Digital SAT Brings Student-Friendly Changes to Test Experience. Collegeboard. https://newsroom.collegeboard.org/digital-sat-brings-student-friendly-changes-test-experience
 (2022). Top Trends Impacting K-12 Education in 2022. Gartner. https://www.gartner.com/en/doc/761189-top-trends-impacting-k-12-education-in-2022
 (2021). If the Internet connection is lost during an exam, how does that affect the video? Respondus. https://support.respondus.com/hc/en-us/articles/4409607196059-If-the-Internet-connection-is-lost-during-an-exam-how-does-that-affect-the-video