E-testing increases the time available for teaching. This is mainly because most questions are automatically marked by the system and the results are returned immediately to learners. The time spent in marking and returning learners' work is greatly reduced. Re-sits can often be organised on an individual basis, freeing the teacher or lecturer to concentrate on teaching the rest of the class.
E-testing systems have the ability to collate and instantly analyse learners’ responses to online questions. This means that reports can be generated about the performance of a single learner, a class, or a number of classes.
E-assessment -v- paper assessment
Some learners with additional support needs find e-assessment preferable to traditional pencil and paper assessments. It should be possible for learners to modify the screen display to suit their particular needs.
Most e-assessment systems are capable of supporting assistive technologies commonly used, such as the screen reader Jaws.
Learners can use social software technologies, such as wikis, to collaboratively generate and edit content on a central website. This could include learners collaborating on research or to develop strategies for different tasks or to solve problems. Social networking tools, such as blogs and forums, allow learners to share views and information and to communicate easily and regularly. Some ideas on using these tools for assessment can be found in the Section Supporting assessment with Web 2.0.
Feedback through e-testing
In online testing, it is possible to analyse an individual learner's response to individual questions, and to use this to give feedback.
If a lot of the responses to a particular question from learners in the same teaching group show the same misunderstanding, this can be used to amend teaching. Also you’ll be able to identify the learners who need help.
Online testing which uses automated marking can be incorporated into the delivery of a Unit and can present feedback to learners immediately.
Feedback through e-portfolios and social software
Other e-assessment tools such as e-portfolios, blogs and wikis can be set up to notify teachers and lecturers when learners have created content which they may wish to review, or have submitted work for formal assessment. These systems allow you to create and deliver feedback to learners in a secure environment.
In conventional assessment, marking can vary between markers; however with e-testing, computers will mark the same responses in the same way every time. This also streamlines the marking load for teachers and lecturers.
Although free-text / extended response or essay questions can be handled by most assessment engines, they are not usually marked automatically. Instead learners type answers in text boxes and the assessment system stores the responses for scrutiny by a teacher or lecturer. Answers can be printed out if necessary for marking.
Web 2.0 describes the range of web services that collectively represent the second ‘version’ of the world wide web. These include collaborative and social networking facilities. These tools can be used to aid and measure learning and to find, capture, generate, store and present evidence for assessment.
‘Assessment 2.0’ is the use of Web 2.0 services to generate assessment evidence. Some of the ways in which Web 2.0 technologies can be used in the assessment process can be seen by using this link.
E-assessment can measure things that we have not been able to assess before. For example, by using social software (wikis and blogs) the contribution made by individuals to a group assessment task can be assessed with much more confidence.
Security will be improved though the gathering and storing of assessment data and results online.
Results can also be collated easily and provided to learners online or by e-mail.
In addition, e-assessment systems often offer secure, automatic transfer of assessment results directly into management information systems, saving time and reducing clerical errors.
There is a significant reduction in printing of paper assessments leading to a reduction in printing costs.
The associated administration involved in storing papers securely, as well as distributing papers and collecting responses is also eased. With robust e-assessment systems, the chances of a learner's responses going missing should be reduced.
There are many measures that can be taken to improve security during e-assessments. Some possible security breaches that can be prevented with the help of the software are:
Validity is about the effectiveness of an assessment to measure what it is supposed to measure. An important aspect of validity is the realism of the activities learners are asked to carry out; the more realistic the activity, the more valid the assessment. Social software and Web 2.0 approaches generally can improve realism by encouraging learners to use the technologies they use in their everyday lives, to capture and generate authentic items for assessment.
Authenticity relates to the ownership of the evidence; whether it is actually produced by the learner or someone else. A learner’s e-mail messages, forum contributions and blog posts can provide an assessor with information on the learner’s knowledge and skills, and so alert the assessor if the learner’s work changes in quality. Technologies such as VoIP permit remote oral questioning of learners to verify that they understand the evidence they have submitted for assessment, which gives a good indication that the evidence is the learner’s own work.
Although written in 2002, the paper Principles of Assessment published by the CAA Centre at the University of Luton defines validity and considers the different types of validity related to assessment.
Many online tools, such as social software and other Web 2.0 tools, can be used to aid validity and authentication.
What is Web 2.0?
The learning potential of Web 2.0 services is well known. This paper explores their assessment potential.
Although the use of technology can increase opportunities for plagiarism, it can also provide ways to detect plagiarism. Essays submitted electronically can be analysed using tools which will highlight inconsistencies between different sections of the essay. This means that if other peoples’ work has been incorporated into the essay this can be detected automatically.
At the University of the West of Scotland, academics from a number of disciplines have implemented the use of Turnitin originality checking and plagiarism prevention software.
With e-assessment, e-verification (or remote verification) may sometimes be possible. Benefits of e-verification include:
From 2008-2010, SQA worked with centres and External Verifiers to pilot e-verification. This project was initiated because SQA was aware that centres and learners were increasingly using e-portfolios and other electronic means to manage assessment evidence and they wanted to explore how SQA could make use of e-verification as part of its quality enhancement process.
The report on this pilot is available by using the following link:
Piloting e-verification 2008-10
E-assessment, and electronic evidence in general, facilitates the online sharing of assessment evidence and resources and so facilitates professional discussion on standards and assessment decisions. This can benefit centres by supporting new models of internal verification – cross-centre; authority-wide; company-wide. It could also benefit awarding bodies by supporting new approaches to external verification – e-verification; regional verification; online central verification.
Online formative e-tests can be used for practice and to reinforce learning while preparing learners for the summative assessment. At the same time, the learners become familiar with the assessment engine.
Assessments that incorporate randomisation and selection from a substantial bank of questions can be used repeatedly by learners for formative assessment without losing the confidentiality of the questions for use in summative assessment.
When learners are working with e-portfolios, or in technology-supported environments (such as VLEs), the distinction between formative and summative assessment may be less clear than it is traditionally. Online learning environments provide access to learning resources, and communication tools and forums. Learners are able to work largely independently, or in collaboration with other learners, benefitting from online feedback on their formative work from peers, teachers/tutors and Assessors. This feedback is likely to become an integral part of the assessment process, encouraging learners to re-draft some of their formative work and promoting reflection and self assessment.
This means that formative work can evolve to become summative evidence, as learners work incrementally towards the point when they judge that their e-portfolios meet the assessment criteria. Once items are submitted for summative assessment they should be ‘locked’, preventing learners from making further amendments.
Use this link to find out how JISC shows that e-portfolios can be used to support assessment.
E-portfolios supporting assessment
Higher Education Academy
Use this link to find out what the Higher Education Academy says about the role of e-portfolios in formative and summative assessment.
The role of e-portfolios in formative and summative assessment
The PassIT Research Project
Use this link to read about the PassIT Research Project on formative and summative assessment.
PassIT Research Project
E-assessment can have a positive impact on learning. By increasing the frequency of assessment, and improving feedback, we can improve learners’ motivation. Learners who prefer to do coursework could be motivated by the increased level of feedback that online assessment can facilitate.
PassIT Research Project
You may find this link to the PassIT Research Project useful.
PassIT Research Project
E-assessments can incorporate media-rich elements that include video, sound, animations, simulations and interactive graphics. These elements are designed to be user-friendly and encourage learner participation.