Providing a Choice of Time Trackers on Online Assessments
Online assessments allow instructors to facilitate exams and quizzes in both virtual and large classes. Having a clear online timer during these assessments is vital to help students manage their time. However, these same timers can be a cause of anxiety, affecting student performance. Our goals were to determine (i) which types of visualizations are currently in use, (ii) which styles of online timer were preferred by students, and (iii) if providing students a choice of timer impacted their performance.
We carried out a semester-long study employing multiple time-tracking displays across 29 online quizzes in three Computer Science courses with a total of 113 student participants. Timer visualizations included count down and elapsed time text as a text-only display or combined with a graphical representation, such as a color-changing progress bar, gray-scale progress bar, or changing phases of the moon. Overwhelmingly students chose a time tracker that counted down the time left in the quiz, preferred graphical displays to text-only, and visualizations that changed color to better indicate the passing of time. Students who were given a choice on all assessments throughout the study typically picked and kept the same timer throughout or settled on a preferred timer after only a few assessments. Providing students that choice before their quiz had no significant effect on their performance relative to students who were not given a choice.
These findings indicate that it is helpful to give students the choice of online timer, providing them a more inclusive and comfortable testing environment.
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