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U of T to launch new accommodated testing services platform

ATS co-ordinates quiz, term test, and final exam accommodations for students on the St. George campus, but is exploring the idea of expanding the platform to U of T Mississauga and U of T Scarborough (photo by Stephen Dagg)

Since 2010, the University of Toronto has seen a 146 per cent increase in accommodated test bookings – from quizzes to tests and final exams. To deal with the growing demand and success of the program, Accommodated Testing Services (ATS) is creating a new streamlined process for students, instructors and staff.

ATS and Enterprise Applications & Solutions Integration (EASI) began designing a new system in March of 2019 to ease instructors’ and administrative work loads and support students on their academic journey.

“The existing processes and technology supporting accommodated tests were implemented in 2010 when we received less than 9,000 accommodation requests per year,” says Steven Bailey, director of Academic and Campus Events. “Today, we receive nearly 22,000 requests per year with a steady increase each year. 

“We’re moving from an outdated, email-based process to a system that will help us deal with the complexities of co-ordinating tens of thousands of unique bookings.”

ATS is responsible for co-ordinating quiz, term test, and final exam accommodations for students with documented disabilities who are registered with Accessibility Services on the St. George campus. However, ATS and EASI have also consulted U of T Scarborough and U of T Mississauga about extending the new process – designed to be transparent, seamless and intuitive, providing easy online access to information through existing U of T platforms – to all three campuses.

“Students will be able to easily log in to ACORN to create bookings with a modern, user-friendly interface,” says Mark Johnston, a product manager with EASI. “The Course Information System will replace an email-based system for instructors and will provide secure online submission and storage of test details and documents. ATS staff will also use a newly designed application to co-ordinate and manage all requests.”

In addition to the new platform, ATS changed its name from the previous Test and Exam Services in January.

“We’re refocusing our service on the people rather than the process and figuring out what instructors, students and staff need while aligning our goals around a common purpose,” says Bailey. “Having that word ‘accommodated’ is a multi-dimensional word – accommodating community needs about academic integrity, efficient work, efficient use of technology and process flow.” 

Accommodating different users during the pandemic has also been a central focus for ATS.

“The pandemic is a perfect case in point for why we need to create an infrastructure that is agile enough and is able to pivot as new things emerge,” says Bailey. “New technology around accommodation, new approaches, new assessment and all of the work we’re doing is laying the foundation for us to incorporate this in the future.”

The project is part of the Next Generation Student Information Services (NGSIS) program, which creates and deploys technological solutions to help students engage in rewarding learning experiences and achieve academic and personal success. It also helps to provide faculty and staff with a rich and supportive educational environment.

The evolution of the process has involved close consultations with a cross section of students, instructors, staff and senior leadership.

To date, the instructor module has been piloted with the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education and the Faculty of Arts & Science. Following these pilots, the project team plans to roll out the new online modules to all students and instructors on the St. George campus, and the new administrative system to ATS staff this summer. 

“Our goal is to ensure that all U of T students have equal opportunity to write tests and exams,” says Bailey. “With the new platform, ATS will be well positioned to provide excellent service to students and their instructors. They’ll have modern tools and technology at their fingertips to anticipate and respond to any challenges that come their way.”