[IPAC-List] iPad-Based Testing

Mark Hammer Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca
Tue Feb 15 09:46:42 EST 2011

Although there is something inherently appealing about the thought of
potentially showing up to a test site with a small suitcase of iPads or
similar, and a laptop "server", to do group-testing, 50 at a time, I
think you are probably right to be sceptical.

The computational aspects of mobile and desktop devices are gradually,
but inexorably, merging. But it bears noting that mobile devices are
intended for **convenience**, and convenience is equated with a number
of things that are somewhat anathema with what we expect to find when it
comes to computer-based testing. We expect screens to be large enough
to be easily readable and not require any sort of scrolling to view the
needed content ("convenient" generally means smaller or more features
packed into the same space). We most assuredly expect the power supply
to be robust and continuous, such that nothing needs to stop midway for
reasons of current-shortage. We expect a certain degree of consistency
and compatability when it comes to operating systems and platforms (how
many of you develop e-tests for NON-Windows systems?). As popular as
the iPad is, as a burgeoning market you can expect all manner of
competition for the next few years until it settles down to some sort of
standardization. And as Ben rightly notes, we expect computers to be
used in circumstances where distractions can be held to a minimum if

That is not to say it is a completely untenable option. Rather, it is
a constantly moving target, requiring developers to be prudent about
what they attempt, and harbour a willingness to "let go" when the medium
itself becomes too inhospitable to what is being attempted. Part of
that is probably pertinent to unproctored testing in general, as the
"what" that we lose control over in unproctored contexts also keeps
shifting, regardless of what sort of device is being used to collect the
test data.

Of course, keep in mind this is all coming from a grouch who eschews
portable devices and plans on living out the rest of his life with a
land-line that has a curly cord. You know...a "real" telephone. :-)

Mark Hammer


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