New research exploring the evolution, benefits, and challenges of digital assessment
Following more than two years of pandemic-induced disruption, exam halls are once again filled with learners. Yet, things are undoubtedly a little different – with the pandemic fast-tracking the digital transformation of assessment methods to provide continuity during the height of disruption now posing the question: what else can it do?
To find out, RM, in partnership with the International Association for Educational Assessment (IAEA), launched our inaugural research report to explore the adoption of digital assessment across the world. In doing so, we found that some countries would return to more traditional methods of assessment, while others were eager to uncover the digital assessment opportunities that might lay 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, and the education sector as a whole.
Efficiency, accessibility and speed: the benefits of digital assessment
Originally borne out of necessity, the temporary move away from paper-based exams brought a number of benefits to light. Our research reinforces this with nearly all respondents citing ease and efficiency as a key strength, with digital exams reducing administrative burden and making the entire assessment process leaner. Similarly, the majority of interviewees also thought the accelerated speed of results compared to paper-based assessments was an advantage.
Data collection and analysis is another clear benefit outlined in the report, with many respondents saying how more and better data could be collected, at pace, to gain greater insight into what test takers are capable of. One other advantage cited in our findings is the greater accessibility provided by e-assessments, with their reducing of barriers for learners with specific educational needs, while also removing any geographical barriers that might exist.
Infrastructure, skills and staff: the challenges of digital assessment
Despite the many benefits, there are some limitations owing to the relative infancy of digital assessments. As with any digital transformation, a key obstacle outlined by a number of interviewees is infrastructure – or a lack of devices, internet connectivity and access issues. Related to this is a shortage in IT skills and staff, with many schools currently lacking the resources to ensure a smooth delivery of digital exams should there be any technical issues.
Data, despite providing the abovementioned benefits, also brings its own set of challenges. Especially in regard to data security, with continuing legislative changes raising concerns that data might be inadvertently leaked or misused.
Finally, while you can’t rule out cheating in any exam, there are concerns around the integrity of assessments that are only remotely proctored.
So, what does the future hold for digital assessment?
Our findings suggest the appetite for digital assessment is clearly growing. Senior leaders in the assessment space are eager to push their organisations towards digital exams, largely owing to the increased efficiencies that digital exams offer compared to their paper-based counterparts. from both an environmental and administrative perspective. – Additionally, they want to future-proof the education system against unforeseen future challenges that disrupts the planned completion of assessments.
Of course, there are still many obstacles to overcome, and the journey won’t be without its challenges. But as the appetite for e-assessment grows, so too will the infrastructure, skills and solutions needed to reduce the barriers to smooth, seamless adoption.
However, in order for it to be a success, leaders must strive to make small steps toward overall digital transformation – and bring assessment along with it – rather than focusing on one area without ever having the foundations to make it a success long term.
High-stakes assessments in particular are one area where there is a huge opportunity for digital adoption. We equally see opportunities for digitising practice and progress assessments as part of learning. It is essential that we can demonstrate value from the transition to gain the buy-in from all stakeholders, including governments, educators and departments for education – in addition to parents and students themselves – to get it off the ground.
Overall, whilst some markets are moving at pace, we are still very much in the infancy of digital assessment adoption globally. But it has been greatly accelerated by the pandemic – and our research report reveals how early adopters are already beginning to take advantage of the many benefits it can bring.
More organisations are starting to look to evolve their systems. For the digital opportunity to truly be realised, the challenges and barriers need to be overcome. Through the visible success of organisations around the world that have started this journey, we can seek confidence that barriers to digital assessment adoption can be overcome to realise the range of tangible benefits to bringing assessments online and achieve things that would never be possible in a paper world.
To learn more about digital assessment adoption, download the full research report.