Reducing Student Test Anxiety During Online Proctored Assessments

Concurrent Session 6
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Honorlock and the University of North Alabama partnered to conduct a detailed study on test anxiety and online proctoring. Learn about student test anxiety drivers, how we can mitigate their impact and help promote student success.


Prior to her role as Instructional Designer/Technologist, Dr. Jill Simpson taught computer software courses for 15 years, with 10 of those years spent in the online environment. Now serving as the Instructional Designer/Technologist for the College of Business at the University of North Alabama (UNA), Dr. Simpson continues to teach online computer software classes for the BBA program, as well as an online foundational course for the MBA program. With an entirely online MBA program and many online BBA courses, the College of Business at UNA frequently strategizes how to optimize student learning and student satisfaction while maintaining the academic integrity of our online courses. Dr. Simpson’s role in this strategy is to research available technologies to determine which will meet our needs and then train faculty how to use it.

Additional Authors

Extended Abstract

In the ever evolving world of online education, students are finding themselves testing under new circumstances that can add to their already existent test anxiety. Our research project consisted of four phases:

  1. Meta-analysis of existing anxiety research. During this presentation we will present the summary of that analysis and explain how it informed our strategy as we built our own study.

  2. Pre and post test surveys designed to measure student anxiety and the possible effect online proctoring has on their frame of mind before, during, and after an exam.

  3. Focus group with students that experienced test anxiety and had an interaction with an online proctor

  4. Institution led analysis of test anxiety and its impact on student performance

Our pre and post exam surveys, conducted over 187 students and two exams, revealed that in addition to typical anxiety drivers, such as; feeling ill-prepared or being distracted with thoughts of failing, students are also anxious about the role online proctoring will play in their assessment.

The study was engineered using a hybrid of the Westside Test Anxiety Scale and questions targeted to students taking online proctored exams. In this session we will share the survey results over two exams and the analysis of key elements of the data. You will leave this session with simple, easy to digest numbers that can inform your testing and proctoring strategy.

Next, we will guide you through a few basic steps to help your students prepare for an online proctored exam. With the proper information and an open dialogue with your students, you can make a huge impact on their testing experience and set them up for the best chance to succeed. Once we have a well prepared and well-communicated-to student, the next step will be to dive into the student interviews and focus group information gathered as part of our research. Via a subset of students that participated in our focus group, we discovered trends, and valuable context straight from students, that will inform our evolution of our proctoring software as well as equip the audience with tools to better prepare their students for success.

As you walk away from our session, you will have a clearer picture of:

  • How the average student experiences test anxiety (even when they feel well prepared)

  • What role online proctoring has on your student’s emotions

  • The vital role of the proctor and how they engage/interact with students

  • The basic steps and information you can provide to students to help alleviate their worries.

Along with thorough coverage of our research and how you can use it to better your student’s testing experience, we also want to open up the dialogue about test anxiety with attendees. As an audience member, you will participate in a word cloud activity so we can better understand what our audience hears from their students and what we think the main drivers of test anxiety are today. In addition, you will participate in a short (approximately 5 minute) facilitated group discussion on test anxiety at your institutions. What are you doing to combat test anxiety today? What can you learn from your fellow attendees about their approach and their findings at their institution?