At Governors State University, a wrong number can cost students more than a quarter. It can cost them their grade point average. The small university near Chicago recently adopted a telephone system that lets students take multiple-choice exams over a touch-tome telephone. Donald Fricker, a management professor who developed the application, said students call a special number and respond to recorded multiple-choice questions by pressing digits on their phones. The system, named "Big Mouth," has been in operation since this fall, and four professors are currently using it to give their exams. Fricker said over 100 students in classes ranging from psychology to management have taken their exams on the system, adding that most students have responded positively to the new technology. It took him about two years to develop the system, he said. · Because the university is exclusively a commuter school, several professors said that the program is more convenient for their students. Senior Greg Scherzinger, who took a Labor Relations quiz on the system, said Big Mouth saved him a 30 mile round-trip to the school. "It's a waste of time for those of us who travel far distances to go take a quiz and then come right back home," he said. Scherzinger said he also likes the system because it allows him to take his tests at times that fit his schedule. Management Professor Mary Howes said using telephone exams gives her more class time in which to teach. Although Fricker said she believes paper and pencils still have a place on college campuses, he said universities should take advantage of modern technology. "There is no xeroxing, no need for pencils or rooms, and it doesn't waste gas," he said. Fricker said the system also offers great advantages for handicapped students, allowing them to take their exams at home. Fricker called the system easy-to-use. He said that instructors create their exams by reading questions into the system's microphone. The system then waits for student callers, records their answers and automatically grades their tests. · Students and faculty at the school may need to time to adjust to the new testing method, Fricker said, explaining that several professors have noted a comparative decline in "Big Mouth" exam scores. Fricker attributed the lower grades to the increased difficulty of responding to spoken questions. Howes said she answered three of her own exam questions incorrectly when she took her test on Big Mouth, explaining that she found it difficult to retain some of the longer questions. Although Howes has only given one quiz on the system, she said that she plans to use Big Mouth for two more quizzes and her midterm. In response to student and faculty complaints, Fricker said Big Mouth will soon have the ability to repeat questions and accept short essay answers. Since "Big Mouth's" debut this fall, the system has received national press coverage, including a spot on Good Morning, America and an article in the Chicago Tribune. Fricker said he and his associates have been "flooded" with calls from businesses interested in marketing the technology. But Fricker said only three professors from different universities have expressed interest in the system. Most educators, he said, strongly resist change. "Unfortunately, universities resist a lot of technology and educators don't seem to be catching the boat," he said. "Educators have not been at the top of the list of people who have called." · According to University Registrar John Smolen, students here should not put away their pens. He said that he has not heard of the program, adding that its implementation at the University is "sincerely doubtful." Fricker said the Governors State University does not consider Big Mouth a viable alternative to traditional test-taking methods. He added that the university has not encouraged professors to use the system. In addition, Howes said a lack of funds has hindered development of the telephone program. Because Governors State University is not officially sponsoring "Big Mouth," Howes said Big Mouth funding must come from private and corporate sources. "We are getting by with a lot of prayer and hard work and we are thinking of creative ways of getting funding," Howes said. Some students and faculty have raised conerns about abuse of the system. Currently, Fricker said students only have to enter their social security number to access the system. He added that students are on their honor not to cheat. But since students have only five seconds in which to answer questions, Scherzinger said cheating is difficult. "There is barely enough time to make an educated guess, let alone rumage through notes," he said. "You really have to know your stuff." Fricker said he plans to add more security measures to the system, including the offering multiple versions of exams and giving every student a special security code. But Fricker said his primary concern is not preventing abuse of the system. "They will always be cheating," he said. Despite some of the system's drawabacks, Scherzinger said he believes the system will gain wide acceptance in the academic community. "I personally believe that the system will come to every college campus within 10 years," he said. 'I personally believe that the system will come to every college campus within 10 years.' Greg Scherzinger Governors State University senior.Comments powered by Disqus
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