3 ways digital assessment can revolutionise the university student journey
Like many sectors, education has found itself undergoing digital transformation at pace during the global pandemic to continue providing effective learning and assessment for students. This includes an accelerated use of technology for digital assessment and hybrid learning. In particular, the higher education sector is now looking at flexing and adapting the delivery of content, as well as the engagement and management of students.
When adjusting to any significant change, challenges are likely to arise. For universities adopting digital, these are currently around curricula design, technology poverty and critically around the ambition of ensuring that all assessment in higher education (HE) is immersive and authentic. Due to the high-stakes nature of the tests that universities offer, in combination with pressure of student perceived value for money, it is high risk to change test processes. Consequently, ensuring the quality and authenticity of assessment is crucial. With a learner-centric culture prevailing, and student retention remaining key across universities, we wanted to look at how exactly digital assessment is changing the learning journey of a university student.
1. Bridges the gap with the digital world of work
The transition to digital has provided universities with the opportunity to offer their students a blended learning approach. Online assessment tools are now being used to complement the traditional face-to-face delivery of lectures to provide students with a more authentic assessment that reflects and prepares them for 21st Century expectations in the workplace. On a more granular level, incorporating digital into the assessment process enables universities the flexibility to adapt the scope of modules and courses to consistently align studies and prepare students for the digital world of work at every step of their journey. For instance, medical students can use touch screens in studies of anatomy to gain a level of practical knowledge and understanding of the complexities within the human body, that would otherwise not have been possible.
This can only be advanced with the introduction of virtual reality technology that fully immerses the student into that scenario. Medical students at the University of Exeter have already started using virtual reality (VR) x-ray rooms to complement techniques learned in class and enhance their practical skills (University of Exeter, 2022).
With the sum of student course fees raising the expectation that degrees should be more relevant, universities can utilise digital assessment tools to deliver on this and provide students with the best employment opportunities going forwards.
2. Enhances accessibility for a proactive learning journey
Moving assessments online facilitates the intricate personalisation of tests for each student. This makes students still feel part of their university cohort, but that they are on their individual journey where they can truly communicate their ideas in the best way for them. One way in which it does this is through the multitude of inbuilt accessibility features that allow for choice of question format, font size, language and script direction. This lends itself to a more inclusive way of assessing students that caters for diverse learning needs. In particular, digital assessment platforms can provide access to rich media types that allow for functions such as turning text into audio. This helps to encourage learning in alternative ways and ensures students can demonstrate and reach their full potential within their degree and what they choose to do next. Technology embedded in the assessment process is empowering students to be proactive in their learning and if introduced at the right time, it can contribute to fairer opportunities and improved outcomes.
3. Using analytics to aid pace of learning
With the adoption of technology, comes access to greater data. Embedding digital in the assessment process across universities allows for the generation of student data intelligence like never before. For instance, analysing students’ learning journeys in progress assessments can help university staff to gain a deeper understanding of each student and their engagement with the course. In turn, this enables teaching staff to make more timely interventions with students’ progress so that they can offer the right support, at the right time. This reinforces the personalised university learning experience that digital can unlock, and therefore helps to boost student engagement, attainment and attraction. Real-time data from assessments also offers the possibility of computer-adaptive testing. Adaptive assessments analyse the performance of each candidate during the test and present them with questions at a suitable level of difficulty based on their cumulative performance This also ties in with the rise of ‘when-ready’ assessments: taking tests when the student is individually ready, not at a time predetermined by other factors like year groups and schedules.
Digital as key
Technology is now ever present and so universities must push on with embedding digital into their learning and assessment processes to stay as a provider of relevant, quality degrees. It helps to place students at the forefront by creating more equitable learning opportunities, tailoring assessments, providing timely support and facilitating the transition into the digital world of work. This can help to bridge the gap between education, academia, and industry in order to unlock endless opportunities for university students.