back to article Hack attack fear scares Canadian exam board away from online tests

Every year Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) tests secondary school students in their literacy skills. This year it rolled out online tests and the results weren't good. In October the online pilot test of the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) was deployed and quickly fell over with its …

  1. d3rrial
    Thumb Down

    El Reg suggests a kid?

    A kid? This was clearly Russian hackers! Anything else is just #FakeNews!

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: El Reg suggests a kid?

      Another possibility could be that a student, working on the infinite monkey theorem, tried to submit all possible combinations of answers.

  2. Bruce Ordway

    Optional

    >> tests online or in the old-fashioned way

    Wonder if schools might want to try a third choice that is a little lower tech? Maybe students could just enter their answers into a file an upload it to a central site for processing. It would allow for some automation and might even be a useful skill for them later in life.

    1. herman Silver badge

      Re: Optional

      "just enter their answers into a file an upload it to a central site" - Just think for a moment how many goatses would be uploaded, then reconsider this idea.

  3. redpawn Silver badge

    If Exams are unworkable online,

    why does the idea of online elections keep coming back?

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: If Exams are unworkable online,

      Because the powers to be do not want a paper trail or an easy audit trail. Its easier to manipulate the results and very difficult to prove it was done. Also, if looks like the results are not what you want you can blame the crazy Ivans for subverting the election.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If Exams are unworkable online,

        "Its easier to manipulate the results and very difficult to prove it was done."

        Until it isn't. If the results are put into public scrutiny, repetition and occurrences of votes begin to quickly stand out. But, are the results put into the public eye? If not, your statement is air tight. Of course if it is all kept on paper, nobody but the select few will ever be able to rebut any voter fraud, which is how it is now with nobody really able to rebut.

        I think electronic voting is a problem for governments and I believe they will try further to discredit them in the future. If electronic voting can be made to work, then a lot of jobs can be retired, particularly the U.S. Senate (or the Canadian equivalent).

        There is a lot of arguments revolving around a new system of electronic voting, however in my experience most of those arguments are made by people lacking a true sense of change. Basically, those people just believe what we have now is all we can work with, and that's destiny...forever. The programmed type of people, nothing seems to be able to change them, but thankfully they are easily controlled or at least isolated (thanks to proven established partisan systems of pitting 1/2 of a country against the other).

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: If Exams are unworkable online,

          The problem is a Catch-22. How can you be positive every vote is BOTH true AND anonymous at the same time. The true requirement is obvious; the anonymous is to prevent voter pressure. It also prevents any kind of personal review outside the poll, lest a frog march ensues.

          1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

            Re: If Exams are unworkable online,

            Another problem with online voting.

            Online voting is a snake oil sold to the dimmest members of the human race (aka Congress critters or the local equivalent). It is alluring because it supposedly rids elections all the problems such as hanging chads, etc. that other methods have. However, the problems other methods have are normally solvable with much less effort.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: If Exams are unworkable online,

              So how do you ensure everyone that can vote gets to vote without being threatened or otherwise disenfranchised, and how do you keep the votes from being tampered, even by the State?

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: If Exams are unworkable online,

            "How can you be positive every vote is BOTH true AND anonymous at the same time."

            You can't - and when push comes to shove, paper votes aren't either.

            The serial number on the ballot paper is recorded when issued to a voter, so a determined entity can find out how an individual voted. This is why ballot papers are usually destroyed after an election.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: If Exams are unworkable online,

              So what if instead the serial is not human readable? You scan it as it's issued and then as it's recorded, with timestamps and everything printed in a closed box?

            2. MacroRodent Silver badge

              Re: If Exams are unworkable online,

              The serial number on the ballot paper is recorded when issued to a voter, so a determined entity can find out how an individual voted. This is why ballot papers are usually destroyed after an election.

              Sounds bad. In Finland., the ballot is just a folded piece of paper, with a printed circle inside which you are supposed to write your candidate's number. The official record nothing when handling one to you from a pile.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: If Exams are unworkable online,

                Finland doesn't have a lot of people. Plus they haven't had much issues with ballot-switching and ballot-stuffing. Try doing that with a nation of over 350 million who expect results by the morning news. At that scale, you're going to have to rely at least partially on machine-readable and serialized formats. It takes a certain intricacy of structure to keep things as honest as possible. Thankfully, this structure only needs to be effective for a short time so that cheats can't be effective anymore. If pollsters can't interpret critical parts of the ballot, they can't snitch (which is why I proposed a format that ONLY machines can interpret so that pollsters can't make the connections on site; a second group can check things form logs later but not know who was on site then).

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    To HMG

    See, not everything should be online.

    Nor should it be in the cloud because the likes of Microsoft say so and then become your drug supplier. (made you an offer you couldn't refuse and then once in, it would cost you an arm and both your legs to get out of their contracts.

    Keep what must be private off the internet especially personal tax records.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: To HMG

      But aren't tax records by default government documents and therefore a matter of public record?

  5. W Donelson

    Good idea

    Bring back the hanging chads.

    1. The Nazz Silver badge

      Re: Good idea

      "Bring back hanging the chavs"

      I say old bean, what an spiffing idea.

      I must have missed it the first time around.

      "Just heard that four chavs in a chevette drove over a cliff!

      "Aw, shame"

      "Yeah, chevettes have five seats"

      When i say "Just heard" make that 20 years,

      1. M man

        Re: Good idea

        Dont you mean a Vauxhaull chavelier.

  6. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Literacy, what literacy?

    All tests suffer from this to some extent but on-line testing is worse I think - you are testing both the students literacy/ready/writing comprehension AND their ability to understand and communicate with a touch screen/keyboard etc. The testing process adds an additional factor that is not usually well represented in the study process.

    The biggest problem that I had in school was that when I read the questions for most non-science based exams, I found it hard to figure out what/which answers they wanted - my academic history is full of D grades followed by A grades on the re-test.

  7. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    "In October the online pilot test of the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) was deployed and quickly fell over with its legs in the air mimicking a dead parrot."

    Well, duh - the trick is to nail it to the perch.

    1. The Nazz Silver badge

      2 parrots sat on a perch

      "Can you smell fish?"

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