A kinder, gentler testing center

March 11, 2016 Featured Slider, Latest, News Print Print

COMFORTOBLE ATMOSPHERE: Shara Hendriks, senior test center assistant, helps broadcasting major Ashley Guyer with signing in to take a test. Melissa Sue Lopez/Pioneer

At least some students have given a thumbs-up to changes in the Testing Center designed to reduce anxiety and promote better concentration for test-takers.

Lydia Rucker, the new testing center assistant director, said she and her staff are making the Testing Center more welcoming for the students, particularly in the entry room, where students come to sign in.

“Incorporating more nature and earth tones like plants, a few nature wall stickers, and some posters with Dr. Seuss quotes on them will release anxiety from some of the students that have anxiety while taking tests,” she said.

One new set of tools they have put to use in the Testing Center rooms are white-noise makers that drown out background noises like tapping of pencils, erasers against papers, or the turning sheets of paper, Rucker said.

She said she hopes to one day also incorporate a sage-green wall in the Testing Center for its therapeutic benefits.

“Research has shown how color has a great impact on anxiety, and stimulates the brain,” Rucker said.

Her overall goal is to reduce stress and promote positive interactions between staff and students, and to make the process easier for faculty, and more comfortable for everyone, Rucker said.

Student Micayla Payne is majoring in Public Relations at OCCC and will be graduating in May.

Payne said she has noticed some of the changes in the Testing Center. The thing that she said stuck out to her most was the incorporation of live plants.

“The plants made the Testing Center more open and inviting,” she said.

Payne explained that before the changes were implemented, she’d always felt the Testing Center was very intimidating and scary. Now, she said, it is less stressful, and more calming.

She said she takes about one test per week in the Testing Center.

Payne said When her teachers would ask in class if the students wanted to take their tests in the classroom or the testing center, she would vote to take tests in class. Since the changes to the Testing Center, she said she no longer minds taking her tests there.

Testing Center employee Shara Hendriks said the entire staff is on board with the changes.

“The changes to the testing environment have helped the students connect with the staff in a more friendly way,” Hendriks said, “When the students first come in, we have to ask them to put their phone and belongings in the lockers, which makes them uncomfortable.”

She said now that students are recieved in a more inviting atmosphere, they don’t get tensed and stressed about the little things that can affect the way they test.

Hendriks said she has seen the changes affecting the students in a positive way.

Hendriks graduated from OCCC, then started working in the Testing Center.

She experienced taking tests in the Testing Center as a student.

“I was personally involved and can relate to how the students feel,” Hendriks said.

Rucker said the Testing Center is working on its welcoming image, but it doesn’t mean the staff is any less vigilant about scrutinizing the test-taking process.

High resolution cameras are installed throughout the facility to detect cheating but Rucker said video monitoring is in place to help students too.

She said students in the testing center are monitored on video screens at all times.

If a student raises their hand to ask a question, the testing staff can see them on the screen and go help them, Rucker said.

Rucker has been working at OCCC for nine years and took the job as the Testing Center assistant director in September.

As technology increases, Rucker said, the Testing Center would like to transfer more paper tests to online. Online tests are automatically graded and the graded tests go straight to the professor, which keeps professors from having to leave their office to come get tests.

Rucker said she believes moving paper tests to online could protect the integrity of the tests as well.

Among its other changes, the Testing Center also started a Facebook page at the beginning of this semester to connect with the students, Rucker said.

The new OCCC Facebook wall (facebook.com/OCCCtesting) has links that help students learn study strategies before they take a test.

Rucker said she would love for students to leave comments, or any questions they have, on the Facebook wall.

For more information, contact Testing and Assessment Department at 405-682-7531.

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