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23rd February 2023 | E-marking
Considering making the change from paper-based marking to digital can seem like a daunting prospect. Overhauling the way your organisation marks exams requires change to your processes, examiner recruitment and training and exam sessions, but this change brings benefits.
So, is it worth potential disruption to implement e-marking?
Our learnings from implementation of e-marking with RIC Slovenia for National Assessment of Knowledge found that:
97% school leaders in favour of e-marking
56% teachers in favour of e-marking
Making the switch to e-marking can positively impact everything from staff and stakeholder satisfaction to student recruitment and performance. What could it mean for your organisation?
Wouldn’t it be great to know which questions students are struggling with in exams? Or find out where marks take a dip during a test? With e-marking you have easy access to this data, making it easier than ever to derive insights and make continuous improvements giving you more control to improve your results.
When looking at final grades alone, it can be challenging for organisations to identify areas for improvement in their assessments.
E-marking gives you the power to drill down into your exam question data, you can use this to inform your curriculum and exam specification. Question item types, or topics that pose a particular stumbling block can be looked at it in greater detail meaning that your syllabus can be tweaked to reflect this.
With e-marking, it’s easy to spot trends in questions and subjects that are proving difficult for students, providing the opportunity to intervene and make continuous improvements for the future, helping students get the results they deserve.
E-marking reduces complexity and cost of logistics. With paper marking, you either ship the paper to marking centres or to an examiner. The physical complexity, cost, and risk of shipping paper from A to B is huge. What’s more, re-marking, supervisor sampling and double marking can result in papers being shipped multiple times – or bringing examiners together in marking centres, which has a significant cost. The reconciliation, delays and logistical costs from paper marking can be astronomical. Moving marking on screen helps to offset this risk and cost, creating efficiencies throughout the business.
On a more granular level, on screen marking allows marking by item, not just by whole paper. For instance, you can assign specific items to examiners based on their expertise which makes the marking process more efficient and supports an improved marking accuracy.
It’s no secret that students need their results quickly. As competition grows for university spaces, college applications and professional qualifications, getting results faster means you can empower your students to make informed, efficient decisions about their futures. E-marking has been shown to halve the time it takes to complete the assessment of exams in some cases*, enabling faster results issuing. It can also fast track students being accepted on to programmes that they previously would have had to wait a further academic year to apply for.
Your examiners can work anywhere in the world, at any time. They’re not restricted by travel or opening and closing times of marking centres. This flexibility and ease of access to exam papers speeds up your processes and improves efficiency.
E-marking allows you to work faster and smarter – giving your examiners the capacity to mark more papers in less time and your students the ability to accelerate their learning.
*Examiners at Manipal University, India, reduced their exam lifecycle from three months to six weeks.
Requests for grade reviews and re-marking of exam papers can slow down your processes and create distrust among students. E-marking can reduce the number of re-mark enquiries*, giving you and your students confidence that your marking reflects the institution and is maintaining your reputation.
You can choose to recruit your examiners from anywhere in your region or even around the world, giving you access to a wider pool of experienced and knowledgeable examiners. By removing geographical restrictions in your recruitment, it can drive up the quality of the examiners you select and decrease the time it takes to get your results back. Examiners aren’t restricted by the need to travel to a central location to sit down and mark; they can do it wherever they are at whatever time is convenient.
You can also provide seed scripts that have been marked by a principal examiner to ensure that examiners are maintaining the same standards of marking across your institution or organisation. Students get fair, fast results and you maintain your standards whilst working at higher speeds.
E-marking increases the quality of your results, providing you with essential reassurance, and delivers rich data sets for education policy makers to inform the future of education around the world.
*The National Examination Centre in Slovenia saw re-mark enquiries decrease from 10% to 3% of scripts.
The threat of losing an exam paper, having results interfered with or papers being damaged before a result is recorded, while rare, is a concern for any awarding organisation or institution.
Using an online marking platform greatly reduces many of the risk factors associated with traditional pen and paper marking, protecting the integrity of results, your students’ futures, and the organisation’s reputation.
Collected by secure courier services and delivered to scanning centres, exam scripts are digitally traceable and robustly protected once they’re uploaded into the cloud. Secure log-in services mean that only people with authorised access to exam papers can see and allocate results, reducing the number of people that come into contact with a paper before it is assessed.
With principal examiners able to view and monitor an examiners progress and the papers they are working on in real-time, any causes for concern can be raised early.
Transparency and traceability make e-marking a steadfast choice for increasing security of results.
Eliminating the potential for unconscious bias or discrimination is easier with e-marking. All candidate information is anonymous, so there is no personal data about the student or school available to the examiner.
Principal examiners can see where marks have been awarded via on-screen annotations and can raise any concerns on papers immediately using an online platform that can identify potential cases of malpractice.
The potential to randomise the geographical location of an examiner adds an additional element to the equity of e-marking. With no clustering of examiners from particular locations, it expands the capacity to recruit examiners with solid subject knowledge and professional experience.
By using e-marking software, principal examiners can also cross compare results issued to identify any discrepancies across questions by the same examiner. This powerful approach to managing exam papers creates a fair platform for examining students.
Human error is an unavoidable side effect of paper marking. Overwhelmed by the volume of papers, it’s easy for examiners to miss a question or miscalculate the number of marks they have allocated.
E-marking means that this can’t happen. Examiners can’t move on until they’ve completed marking all the questions in order – if they miss one, they’ll be notified and won’t be able to move on with their marking until it’s completed. They also get notifications if they’ve miscalculated the total number of marks, meaning that mistakes are minimised, and students’ papers are protected from costly errors. Reducing basic slip-ups like these helps to reduce the potential for re-marking and increase confidence in results. Principal examiners get a bird’s eye view of examiner performance and progress via the online platform, so any repeated errors can be identified and dealt with swiftly.
Removing the capacity for mistakes makes e-marking an invaluable tool when you’re trying to improve performance and results.
With the right e-marking tool, on screen marking can be a much more enjoyable and accessible experience. By removing the physical challenges and handling of paper, you streamline the process for those involved. Attracting and retaining examiners can be difficult for lots of organisations and moving marking on screen is a game changer for all of those involved.
Speeding up the issuing of results with e-marking doesn’t just mean students get their results faster. It can transform the volume of exams or exam sessions you can undertake, potentially increasing the number of students you can enrol and the capacity to grow.
Whatever your reason for creating change, the benefits of e-marking allow for a seamless transition without an exhausting increase in workload. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants increased their exam capacity from two sessions per year to four, so that they could create a more flexible assessment structure for their candidates.
By reducing the exam lifecycle through e-marking, it enables you to increase exam schedules without increasing timetables or course lengths and modernises your internal processes. All of which means greater variation in the number and type of exams you can offer and increases your potential for profitability. E-marking allows for new thinking around course structures and assessments, making them fit for the modern candidate and giving you the flexibility to adapt as you go.
Increasing the quality of your exam results and the number of satisfied students results in excellency that helps to build your brand and your reputation. Competition is fierce in student recruitment, but this is one area where your results will do the talking for themselves.
E-marking allows for examiners to be selected from across the country or even around the world. Without geographical limits in place, examiners can be pooled based on their knowledge and experience in the subject discipline. Similarly, the quality of marking is matched by secure online systems that reduce the risk of interference or inaccuracies.
Providing a quality system for marking and assessment grows your reputation among candidates for reliability and commitment to their needs.
Within the online platform, looking at exam results in granular detail provides an opportunity not only to assess your own data, but to also provide enriched data on your institution or organisation to governments, education policy makers and school league tables.
This data helps to bolster your position as a quality provider of education and assessment, driving up your reputation and attracting quality candidates.
There is growing evidence that students who are frequently tested, get better overall exam results, and have a greater knowledge of subject areas*.
Using an e-marking platform gives you the power to test your students more frequently, growing their subject knowledge, but without creating the additional hassle of an unmanageable workload.
It also allows you to continuously improve and develop candidate’s skills, adapting assessment schedules flexibly as demands on their talents and knowledge grow to keep pace with emerging markets and job roles.
This fluidity helped the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) integrate both paper-based and computer-based assessments into a single marking tool. By keeping track of all assessments undertaken, and by collating basic data on the progress of each candidate via a bespoke integration engine, they were able to change the way they assessed and marked candidates allowing for future change based on research and understanding of candidates’ needs.
E-marking has put ICAEW at the forefront of expanding students’ knowledge through an assessment programme that meets their learning needs.
* Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2010). Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 92(1), 81–90. https://doi.org/10.1177/003172171009200119.
Teaching and learning are constantly evolving. Educational reform, changes in Governments and new research and technology can mean that what is considered best practice one year can soon become out-of-date and quickly replaced.
E-marking is the natural first step in digitising assessment. Modern e-marking platforms provide consistent, quality on screen marking processes across the full spectrum of assessed material - from paper exams, to coursework, digital portfolios and on-screen tests. Adoption of e-marking is often the start of the journey to embedding best practice and growing confidence. For example, starting with marking existing paper exams on screen with automated quality assurance, then progressing to coursework and digital content in the same systems and then starting to introduce full on-screen tests.
It is also vital to adapt to keep staff and students satisfied. E-marking allows you to innovate in different areas.
Syllabus changes or targeted interventions – if your exam results data is showing you where students are struggling to perform you can explore why this is, in what areas and determine an action plan for improvement
Exam schedules – if your exam data shows that students need more help, or you want to track their progress, you might decide to implement a more intense assessment schedule to monitor development more frequently.
Time & pressure – in some countries and industries, teachers are required to undertake marking. By removing this burden through e-marking, institutions and organisations are better placed to put students first and grow their reputation.
E-marking allows for change to be adopted easily and quickly. Slovenia implemented a move from paper-based marking to e-marking for the National Assessment of Knowledge programme within one year. Could your organisation do the same?