Chapter 29: Using computerised and Internet-based testing in South Africa

AUTHOR: N. Tredoux

ABSTRACT: South Africa was an early adopter of computerised tests, with the earliest testing systems being developed in the late 1970’s. Initially computerised testing systems were developed by state-funded organisations, with some funding from the private sector. As a result of political changes in South Africa, financial support for research and development in Psychometrics in statutory organisations decreased. Psychometrics, and specifically computerised testing, was then advanced by various private commercial interests, with increasing involvement from foreign test publishers. With the development of the World Wide Web and the availability of broadband connectivity, delivery of tests and reports across the Internet became a reality.  Publishers were concerned about piracy of content and cheating by respondents who were doing the tests unsupervised.  The International Test Commission drew up guidelines for computer-based and internet-delivered testing, and these were adapted to the existing South African legislative framework and ethical guidelines for psychologist. A legal battle ensued, resulting in the repeated withdrawal and re-adopting of the South African guidelines. The main point of contention was whether or not unsupervised Internet-based testing should be allowed.  This legal battle eventually led to changes in legislation.  This chapter will discuss the regulatory framework as it currently stands.  The risks attached to different types of computerised implentations of tests will be considered, taking into account the rights of the respondent, the psychometric impact of computerisation, and the exposure for the practitioner to charges of possible misconduct. A proposal for best practice in South Africa will be formulated.

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