Whether you are looking to move away from paper-based exams, enter a new international market or ensure continuity through disruptive events, there are many benefits of digital assessment.
Traditionally, assessment has often been accused of giving a fairly black and white answer as to how institutions and candidates are doing. Are results up or down on the year before? Have students achieved a pass or a fail?
Digital assessment allows you delve deeper beneath top-level data and to gain greater insight and drive improvement.
What are the benefits of digital assessment?
We outline them for you here and explain how they could help you to improve your assessment approach.
1. Digital assessment improves security
Digital assessment can add vital layers of protection for assessment and results that paper-based assessment cannot. It can also ease pressures on institutions to keep paper files secure before and after exams are undertaken. Creating and storing assessment items digitally in an item bank can ensure that they are protected and encrypted. Once exam papers are printed and dispatched, there’s always a risk of interference. Exam papers can be compromised if a consignment goes missing or appears tampered with on delivery, with awarding organisations then having to consider costly and time-consuming replacement papers. With digital exams and assessments, additional security measures can be put in place by your digital assessment partner to protect your assessments and assessment items.
Where exams are still taken on paper, using a digital assessment process like e-marking can help to protect results and reduce risk. Candidates' paper exam scripts are collected and securely couriered to a trusted scanning centre, reducing the potential for interference.
End-to-end digital assessment, where candidates sit computer-based exams, can provide full traceability through the assessment process making it easier to ensure a secure environment and prevent breaches. End-to-end digital assessment also opens up the opportunity for exams to be taken remotely- something many more awarding organisations and educational institutions have become interested in since the COVID-19 pandemic led to worldwide lockdowns, impacting the ability to deliver exams as normal.
One concern with remote assessment, of course, is how it can be monitored or invigilated to prevent cheating. These risks can be mitigated in a number of ways:
Remote (human) proctoring: where human invigilators or proctors, supported by identification / authentication technologies and web cameras, ensure that the correct candidate is taking the test and monitor them during the (usually time-bound) assessment to ensure no suspicious activity or potential cheating is taking place.
Remote proctoring and invigilation solutions which can include browser monitoring or locking down of browsers during the assessment and artificial intelligence (AI) to track suspicious behaviour.
A change to the assessment style: for example by enabling open book exams whilst still ensuring it is time-bound, reducing the ability for candidates to do well within the time available if they spend time researching the perfect answers, or by moving to a coursework, assignment or project style assessment, which can be checked by plagiarism software.
Whichever assessment style you decide is best for your qualifications or modules of study, security is essential for maintaining the integrity, quality assurance, validity and reliability of your assessments.
2. Digital assessment allows flexible delivery
Flexibility has become increasingly important as the pandemic forced schools and universities worldwide to close. With the help of digital assessment, learners can continue their learning online and sit exams online or offline, at home, in a test centre or school.
There are many flexibility benefits within digital assessment that can help you to create a more fluid approach to how your organisation works:
Examiners can mark papers anytime, anywhere in the world.
Students can log into their digital assessment systems wherever they are, to get feedback or sit exams without having to travel or arrange meetings.
You can create and design new modules, syllabus items, update and change existing course materials and resources quickly and easily through item banking.
Without the need to print exam papers, changes to digital exams can be made much closer to the exam time.
By establishing a system that can adapt as and when you need it to, and provide you with solutions when things need to flex, you can continue to offer better quality assessment experiences for all.
3. Digital assessment improves efficiency
Digital assessment speeds up many of the processes associated with assessment which provides invaluable time saving for education providers.
The Head of Operations at MeritTrac, stated that in some cases, they saw the exam lifecycle decrease from three months to six weeks, from students sitting the exams to the results being issued.
So what are some of the potential efficiency benefits from the different types of digital assessment?
Digital/Online exams: no need for school halls, classrooms or other venues to be taken over during exam period. Students can either take exams at home, on their own device, or purpose-built digital exam rooms can provide consistent provision for exams and their schedules.
Online feedback: no need for paper-based feedback or even one-to-one feedback. Feedback can also be delivered in audio format if needed allowing students better understanding of their feedback and how they can improve. This saves time for the examiner and the student, as the risk of misinterpreting feedback is minimised.
Adaptive Comparative Judgement: comparing two pieces of work side-by-side enables teachers to help students raise their attainment levels, but also allows schools and education authorities to collaborate and share data across institutions. Working together and analysing results can lead to the sharing of best-practice and quicker improvements, without adding to teacher workload.
E-marking – e-marking can significantly reduce the time it takes to mark papers. In some cases it can reduce the time taken to mark a paper by 50%. This provides examiners and exam boards with the potential to increase capacity and to maintain quality of marking whilst improving the examiner experience.
4. Digital assessment allows you to harness the power of data analysis
One of the biggest strengths of digital assessment is the resulting data that can be analysed to provide actionable insights to drive continuous improvement. From how long it takes for an examiner to mark, to the average number of points awarded for a certain exam paper - principal examiners and awarding organisations can access real-time data to improve performance and processes during the marking period and for future assessment cycles.
Find out how the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) is using examiner behaviour data to improve exam marking and inform decision making in this webinar presented at ATP Online 2020.
5. Digital assessment can be used to improve equity
Ensuring fairness and accessibility of assessment, as well as quality assurance in marking and grade awarding, is a crucial part of maintaining trust among students, parents and other stakeholders.
Digital assessment can improve equity in a number of ways, including:
Reducing bias: candidate and institution details are anonymised to remove the potential for bias.
Improving access: exams delivered remotely can remove geographical or social barriers for students.
Improving accessibility: computer-based exams can provide the functionality to level the playing field for students with specific educational needs, for example enabling headphones and audio support for visual impairments.
Ensuring high quality-assured marking: by using seed scripts and moderation, e-marking allows you to monitor the quality and consistency of the marking of assessments.
“By having all examiners marking to a set standard that is continually monitored, there is a reduction in the number of successful challenges leading to a greater confidence in the marking.” Head of Assessment Design and Innovation, International Baccalaureate (IB)
Digital assessment has proved to be an invaluable solution for awarding organisations and educational institutions during COVID-19, when access to classrooms or exam centres is not always safe or guaranteed. With the aid of digital assessment tools, the education process can happen anytime and anywhere, without losing its validity, reliability and integrity.
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