The University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy (URI) in Kingston, Rhode Island, offers a Doctor of Pharmacy or Pharm.D. program, as well as bachelor, master, and doctoral level degrees in the pharmaceutical sciences. It has more than 700 enrolled students, including 572 students in the Pharm.D. program, alone. In 2011, Pharm.D. graduates had a 100% pass rate for first-time takers of the NAPLEX and MPJE exams. The school has a demonstrated commitment to advancing student education, research, and effective administration
URI had historically used paper exams, with Scantron answer forms, as the primary method of assessing its undergraduate students. However, this long-time method posed a number of significant challenges, which prompted two faculty members, Dr. Jayne Pawasauskas and Dr. Kelly Matson, to lead an effort to investigate and implement computer-based testing.
According to their analysis, the paper-based system not only created inconvenience and consumed precious time, but it also presented substantial financial costs. Faculty had to “lug papers across campus” to have them scored on a central campus Scantron machine, wait for an available time-slot to scan the answer forms, manually fill out answer keys, fix answer key mistakes, and redo the entire process if an issue arose (e.g. if post-exam analysis demonstrated there was a problem with a question or the accepted responses, or if a student’s form was not completed correctly). Moreover, to preserve proper documentation, the school required faculty to store all exam results for at least two semesters after each exam session. According to Dr. Pawasauskas, “clinical faculty don’t all have clean, dedicated workspace, so storing so much paper becomes really difficult – and costly.” Dr. Pawasauskas and Dr. Matson estimated that the costs associated with paper exams totaled approximately $30,000 for roughly 300 students.
The professors were also very concerned about security issues associated with paper testing. Dr. Pawasauskas said, “students look at each other’s papers, but the problem is you can’t really prove they did anything unless a second proctor sees the same thing.” Adding proctors, of course, adds expense. “Even then, proctors are naturally concerned about the ramifications of pulling a paper away from a student … and what if they’re wrong.”
A core group of faculty implemented a computer testing software (http://learn.examsoft.com/
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