Since the start of the pandemic, digital transformation has accelerated across each and every sector. Education hasn’t been immune, especially when it comes to assessment. But the rate at which it’s been embraced varies wildly – while some countries have already begun digital assessment pilots, others are still embracing a paper-based approach.
To explore the main drivers and barriers of digital assessment, RM, in partnership with the International Association for Education Assessment (IAEA), launched a global research report. In doing so, we wanted to uncover the ongoing appetite for digital assessment in a post-pandemic world, the most effective methods for learners, and the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
Read on to discover the key findings that have been collated in this blog. Or download the full report for a more detailed exploration of how all of us in education can work together to advance digital assessment journeys, for the benefit of students, professionals, and our industry as a whole.
Key drivers for digital assessment
During the height of the pandemic, digital assessment was essential to keep the education sector – and learner’ lives – moving. In the process, many benefits were realised, which have continued to serve as drivers.
One overarching impetus has been the ease and efficiency of digital exams, where a majority of interviewees agreed they are easy to use and reduce the administrative burden on staff. Digital exams are also able to deliver a much faster turnaround of results compared to their paper-based counterparts.
Even more interesting, however, is the power of data collection – with its ability to provide a comprehensive overview of a candidate’s needs, strengths and weaknesses another key driver of e-assessments. Finally, the accessibility of digital exams and their removal of barriers for people with special educational needs and disability (SEND) are also a huge incentive.
Digital assessments have enabled educators to begin re-imagining teaching, learning, and assessment. By removing some of the restrictions that are caused by traditional paper-based assessment educators can be inspired by the art of the possible. In a recent UK-based study, 75% of teachers believe that the digitisation of examinations would be a positive move.
Main barriers to digital assessment
Our report shows that a lack of infrastructure, with limited access to devices and internet connectivity, is currently the biggest hurdle to adopting digital assessment. This means that equal access for all learners is not possible and, beyond that, the ability to realise the benefits of more innovative digital assessment, such as VR practical tests, is not cost effective enough to warrant widespread use.
Given the infancy of digital exams, another barrier is the relatively little research that exists, hampering the case for demonstrating their effectiveness at testing various skills. In comparison, paper-based assessments have far more research and legacy attached to them, so the move to e-testing may feel like a step into the unknown for many.
Digital assessment is growing but there's still work to be done
Interestingly, our report also reveals how on one end of the spectrum it’s learners that are most strongly in favour of transitioning to digital assessments – followed by government departments and assessment boards.
On the other end, teachers are seen as the group most likely to oppose the transition, with the resistance linked to a lack of digital experience. However, a recent UK-focussed study claimed that teachers see the move to digital as “inevitable” within the next few years. Whilst this may be true, our global findings suggest that less tech-savvy teachers, are going to need the right level of support to be able to embrace the change.
Either way, it’s clear that if digital assessments are to be embraced and their potentially truly realised, there’s a strong need for effective teacher training to bridge the digital divide – and the experience-comfort gap.
Overall, while the many benefits of digital assessments are clear, there are still major barriers to be overcome. While technology does have the ability to make the assessment process much more equitable across the learner group, the challenge of access to technology amongst young people still remains. Where learners are without access to the necessary technology, care must be taken to ensure that they are not disadvantaged.
Our research reveals how the e-assessment landscape is a patchwork quilt, with varying levels of adoption and a willingness to embrace them varying wildly from country to country and different education stages. But above all, if the benefits of digital exams are to be realised, the biggest stumbling block to overcome will be bringing Governments on side and establishing infrastructure that serves everyone equally.
To learn more about digital assessment adoption, download the full research report.