Chitester seeks to enhance student, faculty resources

A rise in popularity with e-readers, e-books and other mobile technology has Chitester evaluating approaches to help bring more options to testing experiences.

“Weber State University is pioneering the e-book environment in testing centers,” said Sean Peek, Student Services testing coordinator.

Chitester frequently comes up with new ways for teachers and faculty to evaluate students’ understanding.

Chitester was created as an upgrade to WSU’s old testing system, WebTester. Craig Gundy, Jeff Willden and Eric Jacobson, all WSU alumni, founded WebTester in the summer of 1996 on a grant from the Utah Higher Education Technology Initiative.

Preliminary studies determined that students tend to go back and forth while studying between their homework and surfing the Internet. Faculty members at WSU took on the challenge of finding a way to limit students’ access to the Internet in order to help them focus on course material.

Luke Fernandez, manager of Program and Technology Development at WSU, was part of the team that developed the browser which enabled them to control and test students’ concentration when given access to the Internet and when they weren’t given access.

The browser technology is what makes Chitester successful in delivering tests. The testing browser was a benefit that came as a result of the study but wasn’t the main goal of the test.

“The only negative thing about Chitester was we didn’t have a secure browser to use it in, but now they have their own browser, which makes it very successful and secure in delivering tests,” said Patrick Leavitt, manager of the Marriott Health Testing Center.

The security of a locked browser enables the use of e-books and e-readers in testing. Teachers will have the ability to place a file of the book or open another tab within the Chitester browser, where students can access it through a webpage.

“What the instructor would do is point them to material placed on a site where they could browse it and you wouldn’t have to bring a tool into the testing center,” Fernandez said. “You would just be using the functionality that already exists in the browser.”

For security reasons, students will not be allowed to use their own devices such as Kindle or iPads.

Chitester is currently in the testing process to incorporate an iPad in a different way. Math students, for example, take tests where they need to show their work. Currently, most of those tests are given on paper or different software. The iPad would enable the students to draw, showing their work as well as answering the questions.

“Using iPads right now, it’s just kind of prototype,” Fernandez said. “It works, but it’s not completely user-friendly. What we’re trying to do is get a better sense of what students and instructors need so that we can develop it on the prototype so it serves all their needs.”

Chitester also has the ability to collect data from tests that allow teachers to pinpoint concepts a student isn’t grasping. It is also used for instructor evaluations at the end of every semester. This evaluation allows departments to see effectiveness and areas of improvement for an instructor.

Chitester was came from WSU, but WSU isn’t the only campus that utilizes it. Four other local schools currently use Chitester — Utah Valley University, Dixie State University and Brigham Young University–Idaho.

Over the past 12 months, WSU has administered 648,863 online tests, 18,143 Scantron tests, 28,713 paper tests, 73,958 course evaluations, 579 downloaded tests, 370,469 attendance tests, totaling 1,140,796 tests.

With the expansion, students who live far from campus can use proctors in order to complete their tests. More than 1,000 proctors are available worldwide for the ease of access for all students attending WSU.