Opportunity to discuss Whiteboard Features?

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    Richard Balkins

    The easiest thing to implement on-screen the digital whiteboard throughout the exam will require a display of Ultra 4K screen because ultra-wide 2.5K (2560 pixels wide instead of 1920) or similar 5120 pixel wide screens are rare so it will need to be a regular 16:9/16:10 aspect ratio but you need pixels. The regular content of ARE 5.0 is built around the 1920x1080 which would be 1/4 of the Ultra 4K monitor. However, that Ultra 4K monitor will need to be more of TV (42" to 50") so the exam content is still of suitable physical size comparable to what it us right now. The problem is test centers might not be all equipped with 4K monitors and by already published information, we are talking around 23" monitors. Whether that changes with long-term spacing between candidates. The reason they want to use 19" to 23" screen is so test candidates behind you won't necessarily be able to easily look over your shoulder however if they also have a 42" or so size screen in front of them, they also might have difficulty looking around their monitor to look at you BUT this is precisely a cost thing that NCARB doesn't obviously plan to budget to spend equipping every computer at each test center their exam is proctored at. There goes the cushiony salaries. We are talking $30 Million to 37,500 computers with such a monitor but those computers would also need adequate graphic cards so lets factor another $90 Million to that. $120 Million easy but if they have to upgrade the computer core, we are looking at easily another $120 to $150 Million. So a $250 Million expenditure. NCARB actually financing that..... when pigs fly.

    We need exam content to be visible but it needs to still be about 18-20" wide by 14" to 16" tall at typical viewing distance of 22" to 32" viewing distance from the monitor. Higher resolution image scans and faster PDF loading (and rendering) of pages are an absolute must. The pages needs to load up and be viewable within 1/8" second and every page in those multipage pdfs like the parts involving codes needs to be already buffered in so there is never any kind of need to reload those pages from the server except ONLY if you move on to the next or previous exam item or the exam browser closes and the "internet temp folder" of the browser is flushed for exam security sake which is to be expected then it shouldn't take long at all to load those PDFs. I routinely load up and read PDFs of 20+ pages long in maybe 1-3 second "download" time but once it is downloaded and I and viewing from browser, I can move through each page forward or back without ever seeing some kind of "loading..." or delayed rendering. I can take that and accept that. If you deploy the PDF that contains information needed to be used to solve an exam question, you can optimize the PDF for web because it is stored in a compressed PDF so it has a smaller file footprint and would download to client browser in less time and then milliseconds to decompress the PDF and render it to screen which a modern computer can and should be able to do with ease.

    Images needs to be sharp and clear and they can be done and be legible without huge files so they should process quickly. 

    Another factor is a usable location for a scratch paper. The issue is if I need to make diagrams of load distribution, jot down engineering equations and work through the math, I'm accustom to doing this with paper and pencil. In fact, I pretty much have to show the math to get permits if I spec custom sized beams or something not explicitly prescriptive to code. Are we asked to do anything requiring me to put on my "structural engineering" hat on and math it out to solve for the ARE? I don't know but there has been some hint to that but is that required in 5.0 or 5.1 exam? I don't know. Am I going to be required to do calcs for sizing a ground source heat pump and the math involved in that? Am I going to be asked to do calcs for trusses or cable supported roof or say a space frame or lamella roof? If I was simply asked to calculate the size of a footing a house on a typical bearing soil and it be simple enough math that I can do in my head or with the most basic of calculator tools on the exams? There are engineering symbols, I can't recall the Alt-key codes or Unicode to even get to show up so try to be mindful. If you don't see the symbols on the keyboard, it is something we use our scratch paper to jot down like the Sigma symbol or other symbols. In which case, I would need an actual engineering calculator program. If I don't have scratch paper, then the math work needs to be mild and not require jotting down on paper. I can calc things like sizing the stairwell and door way opening per code without anything fancy. A simple calculator works just fine for and maybe or maybe not in writing down notes. 

    However, if you (NCARB) are going to expect us to do complex engineering calculations that requires sketches like shear & bending-moment diagrams.... to arrive at an answer to a test item, I honestly think that we be F***** if we don't have scratch paper. I don't think we can effectively use a digital whiteboard program well enough for this.... and most certainly not in 1 month or even 3 months time. I don't know how I'm going to efficiently draw this stuff with a mouse and do the calcs and everything I need to do to answer the exam questions in only 2 to 3 minutes because that's the average time I need to answer questions to pass the exam. If I take longer, my chances of passing diminishes greatly for every minute longer than 3 minutes.

     

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    William Dubois

    Richard, great writeup. You cover many of my concerns. I like to sketch and work through many of the problems with pen and paper sometimes even if it can be done on screen because that is just how I think.

    I have an exam coming up that includes structural systems. How will I be able to draw up a moment diagram if I want to? I am very curious how the whiteboard interacts with the rest of the testing program and how it functions. Even with basic math could be a pain. When writing division for example, I like to put the stack the numbers rather than type it long form using backslashes... This could take a lot of getting used to.

    Also NCARB mentions they will need to verify your space is clutter free and monitor you continuously during the test- if they can verify you aren't using scratch paper why can't they just verify the scratch paper? I understand that is more difficult to do than verifying you aren't using any but at the same time its more difficult for the tester not to have any paper. So my question is what technical or financial limitations exist around using paper that can't be overcome.

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    Kari Scuglik (Edited )

    Is it possible for NCARB to utilize methods that other online proctoring exams are using and that have already been working? The GMAT online proctor exam allows a physical whiteboard that people can have shipped to their home. They did this in response to many people complaining about the online whiteboard. At the end of the exam, you have to erase everything in front of the online monitor and show that there is nothing left on the board. The LEED online proctor exam allows physical paper and you have to rip it up into tiny pieces in front of the online monitor at the end of the exam. I completely understand concerns about cheating but having an online proctor watching you as you erase or rip things up would keep the test integrity while still allowing the testing procedures that ARE candidates are used to / comfortable with.

    Any scenario where we would have to flip back and forth between a question and the whiteboard screen, would be extremely frustrating. I'm hoping if we absolutely have to use a digital whiteboard, it would be up on the screen the whole time so there's no flipping back and forth. Is it possible to have a second computer screen for the digital whiteboard only so you could always have it visible if one screen is too small to have them both up simultaneously? Even with a second screen, knowing how bulky and ridiculously slow the case studies and calculator currently are, I'm not optimistic that NCARB/Prometic's digital whiteboard solution is a reasonable substitute for a real piece of paper and pen anyhow.

    Lots of people have spent money on exam resources specifically for the reason that they closely mimic the test in format, timed length and number of questions for practice exams - which are things you now plan to change. With these imposed changes, is NCARB going to reduce the cost of the exam temporarily while people get used to the new format to offset those costs? Or at least extend the rolling clock while people are adjusting to this new format knowing that the pass rates will likely go down during this adjustment period of new technology?

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    Richard Balkins (Edited )

    William, me too. I like doing the math vertically versus horizontally. If the calculator allows it then I can do it but I do math by hand, it's always vertical. When I work engineering equations, it's vertical in isolated steps when working through a sophisticated equation... not only in engineering sequence which requires jotting down information or computing prerequisite information needed to be used in the engineering equation but also for working through equation following the mathematical sequence rules (PEMDAS rule for example). 

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    Richard Balkins (Edited )

    Kari, that is why I suggested the paper shredder because a common P-4 security level (crosscut) paper shredder will shred the paper more tinier than your hands will and do it quicker and more efficiently. 

    NCARB take a look at this: https://www.abe-online.com/paper-shredder-levels-of-security

    Who's going to try to piece together notes from scratch paper shredded to P-4 level (let alone P-5, P-6, or even the coveted NSA qualified P-7 level). 

    Bottom line: It's too much damn effort even for most individuals desire to disclose exam contented that was shredded to that level. You seriously have too much time on your hand if you try to piece together scratch paper for the ARE exam that was shredded to P-6 or P-7 level. If you do, you need therapy. 

     

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