The previous decade witnessed a very rapid spread of the internet. In the contemporary world, Internet has become one of the major communication networks that have really changed people’s lives in terms of the way they communicate to each other and conduct their daily businesses. Apart from communication and business, another major impact of the internet has been experienced in the practice of psychology with specific application in testing and assessment (Naglieri, 2002).
Nevertheless, the use of the internet in the practice of psychology has raised many concerns with regard to issues such as the security that is guaranteed by internet tests, the reliability of these tests, their validity and the general hardware issues. Several concerns have also been raised about the legal and ethical issues that these tests bring forth with specific emphasis being pointed on their implication on linguistically and culturally diverse groups of people and people with disabling conditions. As such, internet test use presents several limitations and potentials. Even though the internet provides a remarkable opportunity for testing, there is need for a corresponding professional and ethical use of the acquired test results. Psychologists should therefore think creatively on how their practice and researches can be enhanced through the use of internet testing.
In the year 2000, members of the Committee on Psychological Tests and Assessments (abbreviated as CPTA) discovered that the increase in psychological test instruments bring about the emergence of issues such as test administration, validity, reliability, item security and confidentiality of the test taker (Naglieri, 2002). Other issues include: easy access of these tests by people who are not competent enough to administer them and interpret their outcomes and tests which have been changed, modified, or decoded without relevant validation or permission. In addition, it is possible to find some tests on the internet which are not appropriate for some people or groups of people, or tests which are psychometrically flawed. Therefore, the members of this committee found it necessary to create a task force that would examine these issues. They recognized that such a task force would complement on issues such as the provision of mental health services through the internet, application of technology and internet-based research. Later on, this task force was instituted with an extroverted mission of assessing the current practices related to internet-based psychological testing as well as establishing psychometric, legal, ethical, and pragmatic implications of this model of testing. The members of this task force met twice in 2002 to discuss the upcoming issues and problems within the context of internet testing and how to devise proper ways of responding to them so as to safeguard the integrity of these tests and their consumers. The members of this committee realized that many issues which are related to internet testing are very similar to issues that were there in this profession in the past (Naglieri, 2002).
The analysis of the issue of internet testing leads to several conclusions. First and foremost, and perhaps the most significant conclusion is that the existing psychometric standards which include validity and reliability are pertinent, even though the internet tests may be created and administered in different ways. Nevertheless, since there are very many tests available on the internet today, it is unfortunate that there is so much variability in their quality levels. The degree at which the evidence concerning the validity and reliability of these tests is documented is also quite variable since most of these tests do not meet the required standards that have been established in psychological testing.
It is therefore imperative for the consumers of these tests to take the responsibility of assessing the quality of any information which they receive. Unfortunately, very few consumers have the knowledge and skills that are required in order to ascertain the quality of the accessed information. There is perhaps one conclusion that can be drawn from this situation, i.e. internet tests should be subjected to similar justifiable standards using measurement tools in the same manner that is done with paper-and-pencil tests when their outcomes are to be used to construe significant decisions (Naglieri, 2002).
The emergence of new methods and integration of methods, which is brought about by new technologies continues to widen the boundaries that exist between psychometric theories. It is therefore the responsibility of psychologists to test and stretch the boundaries of psychometrics so as to keep pace with new innovations. Even though the internet provides an incredible opportunity that allows for testing, it is worth to note that there is an equal necessity to use these tests in a professional and ethical manner, and with responsibility. There is therefore a need to expand science so as to be able to test the significance of these interventions.
It is also important to demonstrate the validity of the inferences that are made from the test scores which result from internet tests even when the tests seem to be flashing and sparkling. Test validity is a very fundamental issue which needs to be evaluated in terms of factors such as: cost, expediency and availability of internet testing. The benefits of these tests can not be derived if the generated scores are not supported by adequate proof of validity. In particular, the ‘Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing’ provide comprehensive information with regard to the requirements that are needed to validate a particular test (Naglieri, 2002). Therefore, the developers and consumers of internet tests should read these standards carefully so as to ensure that they use internet tests in proper ways.
It is imperative to understand that while the internet possesses a substantial potential as a tool for testing, assessment requires the combination of information that is generated through the internet with other appropriate information. Consequently, what is characteristically obtainable from the internet is testing and not assessment. In addition, the outcome of an internet test may be imprecise due to many reasons, and therefore there is need to have an available expert who will validate the authenticity of the information and help in its interpretation. Even though it is perceived that future methods of internet testing may probably advance to psychological assessment, the necessities for proper psychological assessment surpass the present day internet capabilities. Therefore, practitioners must take this distinction into consideration and maximize on the strengths of the internet and supplement it with their assessment abilities.