KU engineers construct online computer exam for state students

Lawrence,KS (02-22-2001)

From KU University Relations

A University of Kansas School of Engineering team has created an online computer proficiency test for high school students seeking admission to Kansas Regents institutions.

Qualified admissions standards set by the Kansas Board of Regents in October 1996 require high school seniors entering state's public universities to meet minimum standards in a number of disciplines, among them computer proficiency.

A team consisting of Nancy Kinnersley, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science; Scott Hinton, chair of electrical engineering and computer science; and Scott Mayhew, computer science graduate student, was charged with putting together a test that could be used statewide to find out if high school seniors had basic computer knowledge and specific software skills.

But the nature of the test is almost as novel as the test itself: students will be taking the exam over the Web.

"We wanted something Web-based and more interactive," Kinnersley said.

Kinnersley, Hinton and Mayhew worked with KU Continuing Education and the KU Office of Admissions and Scholarships to make the test a reality.

The test uses Macromedia Flash to emulate Microsoft Word and Excel and record student responses. It was written to be used on either Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer.

The timed test has three sections. Section one covers general computer knowledge with multiple-choice questions. Sections two and three cover Word and Excel with multiple-choice and interactive questions. All test sessions will be proctored, usually by teachers.

And the test can play a role in whether students win scholarships at KU.

KU gives scholarship preference to students who complete the scholarship curriculum requirements for the state, including one year of computer technology or its equivalent, said Alan Cerveny, admissions director.

The exam was beta-tested by Lawrence High School students supervised by Janet Ross and by Garden City High School students supervised by Linda Ackerman.

The high school students involved were excited that they had some impact on the exam. "They really enjoyed being able to critique the test," said Barbara Watkins, curriculum coordinator for KU Continuing Education.

For more information, contact ITTC.

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