Security, Reporting and Online Testing in Academia: A Q&A with Don Kassner

Julie ProfileI recently spoke with Don Kassner, who has joined Questionmark as vice president of academic markets. I wanted to take a moment to welcome Don and to ask him a few questions about his extensive background, his new job role and his hopes for the future. Here’s a snippet of our conversation:

Don Kassner, VP of academic markets, Questionmark

You have had an extensive career. What is your background, and how has it influenced the insight you have on the learning and assessment world?

At heart, I am an entrepreneur.  I started my first business when I was 8 years old and have been starting and building things ever since. In the last 15 years or so I have focused on technology, training and education. During that time, I have served as the CFO for an auto dealership training company and as president of a small university in addition to founding and building the largest online proctoring company. I have also served on the faculty of San Jose State University (economics) and have been an active member of multiple onsite accreditation evaluation teams.

Now that you are part of the Questionmark team, can you share a little about your new role and the goals you have for this position?

I am excited to reach out to the academic markets and address ongoing concerns around testing.

Colleges and universities want to deliver tests and exams that are consistent, fair, reliable and defensible. They want to deliver and monitor course evaluations, identify knowledge gaps and place students in appropriate courses, and be able to analyze questions to determine which ones are valid and fair. They want to do this while increasing student satisfaction and reducing cheating.

With Questionmark’s extensive security, reporting and analytics tools, that’s all possible.  My focus is to leverage my insight and experience and put this secure and easy-to-use tool in the right hands.

Can you share some of the important topics surrounding the academic markets that are on your radar?

In academia, there are real issues related to online testing. These are the top two:

  • Is the student doing the work? – With technology comes flexibility and as the stakes become higher, students will naturally look for ways to enhance their scores.
  • Are the exam results fair?  Did all the students face the same conditions with the same opportunities and were the exam rules followed?

Questionmark OnDemand, especially its analytics and reporting tools, can provide reports that can uncover the meaning hidden within assessment results, such as an item or assessment’s reliability and defensibility. In regards to security, Questionmark Secure’s lock-down browser plays a huge role in helping organizations provide a secure environment in which to deliver high stakes assessments. This can significantly help reduce the risk of cheating when deployed along with other defenses to combat impersonation and content theft.

We’re very excited to have you on board! What are your plans for keeping in touch with us on The Questionmark Blog?

Once a teacher, always a teacher! I look forward to turning back the clock to my university days and speaking on the hot-button topics that surround academic testing. My experience in education and entrepreneurship will help me as I share my thoughts on current market trends and the future of assessment and testing.

Thank you Don for taking the time to speak to us today!

You can follow Don on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn

Questionmark Secure patent granted

Copy of patent grant imageJohn Kleeman HeadshotPosted by John Kleeman

I’m pleased to let you know that Questionmark has been granted a US patent for one of our innovations in our secure browser, Questionmark Secure.

Questionmark was one of the pioneers in secure browsers. A secure or lock-down browser is designed to help organizations provide a secure environment in which to deliver higher stakes assessments such as tests and exams. It helps prevent cheating in an assessment by disabling functions that participants could use to print or copy exam material, “accidentally” exiting a test, or gaining access to materials on their computers or the Internet that could give an unfair advantage.

Here’s a little history on how we got here:

Our first secure browser called Perception Secure Browser was produced in 1999 – you can see the press release here.

This browser, like many current secure browsers, was started up to run a specific test. But many of our customers requested something slightly different – they wanted a participant to be able to use an ordinary web browser to participate in learning courses, navigate through registration screens and/or use a learning management system, and have the secure browser launched automatically once the assessment starts. This would allow the participant to use standard browser capabilities whilst learning or registering – but when security becomes important, have the secure browser take over. Then when the assessment is over, the participant can revert to the normal browser.

Questionmark Secure splash screenThis required some clever technical work to make happen, but in 2003, we introduced  a new secure browser called Questionmark Secure which did exactly this (you can see the press release here). A participant can use a normal browser to navigate through learning or registration screens, and when they reach the secure assessment, Questionmark Secure takes over to make the assessment process secure. Our current Questionmark Secure product, though hugely improved over the 2003 version (!) uses the same concept – originally invented by Eric Shepherd, Paul Roberts and myself.

Because Questionmark Secure used innovatory technology, we filed for a patent on some of the methods and technology used and related to it . It took over 10 years to be granted but Questionmark is proud to have received U,S. Patent Number 9,055,048 recently for this unique invention.  The abstract for the patent reads:

A method for interacting with a user, comprising communicating with at least one cooperative server through a normal browser; automatically receiving encrypted data having an associated received type code indicative of a requirement for a secure browser having restricted functionality with respect to a functionality of the normal browser; selectively and automatically invoking the secure browser for handling of the received encrypted data based on the received type code associated with the received encrypted data; receiving the encrypted data with the invoked secure browser for handling thereof, wherein the received encrypted data is not available for use by the user in the normal browser and the invoked secure browser imposes restrictions on availability outside of the secure browser of decrypted data derived from the encrypted data; and communicating an input from the user, through the secure browser, to the at least one cooperative server.

For Questionmark customers, this patent helps reinforce Questionmark’s role as a leader in computerized assessment.

For more information on Questionmark Secure, see

Announcing secure delivery of higher-stakes tests on the Apple iPad

Headshot JuliePosted by Julie Delazyn

Questionmark Secure been safeguarding the delivery of medium- and high-stakes tests for over a decade and last year became available to Mac users. Today, I’m pleased to announce that Questionmark Secure is now available for iPad users, too – and that you can download Questionmark Secure for iPad from the iTunes App sotre

Like its predecessors, this free app locks down the browser, disabling functions that participants could use to print or copy exam material, ‘”accidentally” exit a test, or gain access to materials on their devices or the Internet that could give an unfair advantage. The app provides a secure environment for delivering higher-stakes assessments such as tests and exams. Used along with other measures for combating impersonation and content theft, it can help reduce the risk of cheating.

Organizations can use the app to deliver medium and high-stakes tests via low-cost, highly portable tablets — perfect for a BYOD situation or for setting up mobile test centers.

We are very pleased to offer this option to our customers, who are embracing the use of mobile devices for many different purposes.

Shenandoah University School of Pharmacy helped beta test the new app as part of an integrated mobile learning program. So far, students involved in the program have been using the Apple MacBook Pro for accessing course material and online assessments. They’ve also had their choice of using an iPod Touch, iPad 3G or iPhone for a quick mobile delivery of content. But this fall, incoming students will work with the iPad as well as the MacBook Pro. If you’d like more details about Shenandoah’s iMLearning initiative, see Shenandoah’s case study slides from this year’s  Questionmark Users Conference. (Here’s a link to the 2014 conference!) 

To learn more about the app or to download it form iTunes, click here.

Test Security at Shenandoah University: A SlideShare Presentation

Headshot JuliePosted by Julie Delazyn

Students involved in Shenandoah University’s mobile learning initiative, iMLearning, use the Apple MacBook Pro for accessing course material and online assessments. They can also choose an iPodTouch, iPad 3G or iPhone for a quick mobile delivery option. Using the iPad for lab exercises, for instance, students can move from station to station without having to carry around a laptop.

In this presentation from the 2013 Questionmark Users Conference, Terra Walker and Cheri Lambert of Shenandoah University explore various security measures they use to ensure test integrity both in the iMLearning program and Windows-based testing. The presentation focuses on Using Questionmark Secure with Windows PCs and Macs but also covers measures such as question and answer randomization, seating arrangements, proctors and honor code.

This is just one example of what people learn about at our Users Conferences. Registration is already open for the 2014 Users Conference March 4 – 7 in San Antonio, Texas. Plan to be there!

Delivering tests to Mac users via Questionmark Secure

Posted by Jim Farrell

It’s no secret that Macs are everywhere. Visit a college campus and you see the distinctive logo on laptops as far as the eye can see. We are pleased to announce a new option for customers wishing to deliver exams on a locked-down browser: Questionmark Secure is now available for Mac users.

For those of you who don’t already know, Questionmark Secure is a lock-down browser that people can use to take online tests and exams. Organizations can use it in conjunction with Questionmark OnDemand or Questionmark Perception on-premise software to help test takers use their own cognition to answer questions and prevent them from accessing other applications.

Questionmark Secure was already available for Windows PCs, and we’re pleased to be extending secure delivery across a broader range of platforms with the addition of this new version for Macs. It’s important to be able to deliver tests securely regardless of whether participants are using Windows or Mac machines.

Click here for details about Questionmark Secure for Windows and Mac PCs, including links to free downloads.