The global nature of e-assessment

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Written by Patrick Coates on 18 April 2017 in Opinion

Tired of all that paper? Turn to e-assessments, says Patrick Coates.

Technology is all around us; it’s an integral part of our daily lives and of most professional sectors, yet when we think about assessment, pen and paper are often still the tools of choice. However, digital assessment can greatly improve the testing experience of both those being assessed, and those doing the marking.

So, what are the benefits of using e-assessment and how are other sectors across the globe adopting its use?

“In common with many other forms of digitisation, for example elearning, the transition from traditional forms such as paper-based testing to e-assessment brings with it improvements in efficiency and flexibility,” says Alistair Fryer-Bovill from PSI International.

“A key benefit is the way that e-assessment is able to increase access to testing. It can lower barriers to entry, for instance, by enabling testing to be delivered on demand, rather than on at scheduled times, increasing the number or range of access points by overcoming the geographic constraints of other forms of delivery.

“It also enables a more dynamic and granular approach to testing which fits well with current trends towards personal skills profiling via social networks and digital badging.”

And, according to Juliette Mendelovits, research director at ACER UK, “Technology offers efficiencies in the ease of test administration and scoring, and provides ways to improve the assessment of skills, knowledge and understanding through the use of active and interactive tasks.

Digital assessment can greatly improve the testing experience of both those being assessed, and those doing the marking.

This can provide more valid measures because the tasks allow responses that are closer to real-world applications. In some cases it allows assessment of skills that are impossible to assess on paper.”

So, how is e-assessment being implemented in different sectors?

Diverse and exemplary 

Assessment across all sectors has progressed. Adaptive Comparative Judgement (ACJ) is a powerful tool that enables peer assessment and facilitates student feedback. This has had a positive impact on attainment in a number of studies.

ACJ has been used by the University of Edinburgh in an 'assessment for learning' approach that placed significant emphasis on formative assessment and feedback, together with dialogue, self-critical reflection and action on feedback.

The Institute of Directors is also migrating from a paper-based examination to an electronic one for all candidates, which has enabled learners to choose a more incremental approach to sitting exams and receive feedback more quickly.

So, how can the UK learn from the global e-assessment community?

Advancing the UK’s use of e-assessment

“The UK is relatively advanced in terms of its use of e-assessment,” says Alistair from PSI International. “However, there are signs of conservatism over, for instance, the adoption of remote proctoring or the use of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) models for high-stakes testing. Our experience in some other markets is that they are ready to exploit these technologies to increase access to secure assessment.”

Chris Peat OBE, from Axia Digital believes that in order for the UK to advance its use of e-assessment, it needs to have more courage.

“What we need to see in 2017 is organisations and policymakers being bold and not waiting for others to trail-blaze. We risk being left behind.

We also need to stop DIY e-assessment. Across the country, there are technical teams making the case that they have the skills to create an effective online assessment system, but I would urge caution and look to our well-established and experienced home-grown edtech industry.

Of course, there are examples of companies sometimes overselling their software, but ultimately it is the responsibility of those who assess skills to select software that delivers high-quality and reliable assessment that does not short-change the person being assessed. If you stick with paper-based assessment that is one thing you are certain to do.”

However, the future of e-assessment is set to be very 'healthy', says John Winkley, director of AlphaPlus. “E-assessment will become embedded to the point where most assessment responses are created and marked on screen.”


About the author

Patrick Coates, director at International Skills UK and board member of The e-Assessment Association


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