SOLAR is the SQA's online assessment tool that provides summative and formative e-assessments. It’s based on banks of quality-assured question items. These e-assessments cover qualifications at all levels from National Certificate to Higher National Diploma.
The summative e-assessments are pre-verified — so centres know that quality is assured. This provides real benefits for both learners and learning providers.
The formative e-assessments are quality assured, and provide detailed feedback for learners. Learners can access the assessments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week using a browser and the Open Assess portal.
Each delivery of an e-assessment to a learner is dynamically generated by the system, based on pre-specified rules.
SQA has produced a range of interactive web-based training and support materials to enable centres to access and use the SOLAR e-assessment platform. The materials cover all of the main features of SOLAR administration and delivery.
To access these materials visit the SOLAR website and select Training Materials from the left hand menu. The materials are designed to inform on the key functions and activities within SOLAR.
If you require help with an area that is not listed, you can contact the SOLAR support team on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0303 333 0330.
Information for New Centres
If your centre is an SQA approved centre but you are unsure if your centre has access to SOLAR, please visit the SOLAR website and check the List of approved centres trained to see if your centre already has a centre administrator for SOLAR. These administrators will be able to provide training and arrange for colleagues to access SOLARimmediately. (Some centres may have more than one person already trained).
If you think your centre does not yet have access to SOLAR, you can familiarise yourself with the SOLAR training materials and the functions of the e-assessment system before completing the training form provided. This should be submitted by email to email@example.com . The SOLAR team will then arrange access for your centre and email your login details.
To try a SOLAR formative assessment use this link.
If you intend to offer e-assessment for SQA qualifications using an online testing system, your centre will be responsible for ensuring that the system meets the necessary standards in terms of how assessments are developed, scheduled and delivered to learners and how results are managed, internally quality assured and reported.
SQA uses quality criteria for this, which we adapted from the Regulatory Principles for e-Assessment, devised by the UK Qualifications Regulators. SQA’s version of the principles are designed to provide centres, technology providers and SQA External Verifiers with guidance on the standards required of non-SQA e-assessment systems which are used to deliver SQA qualifications.
You can download the criteria here - SQA Requirements for e-assessment (683 KB)
You may be able to find information on other online testing systems on the JISC and Scotland’s Colleges websites.
VLEs typically offer both the capacity to delivery e-assessment content, created through stand-alone tools, and to create and track their own assessment items. A key feature in the VLE delivery of e-assessment is the ability to track, record and report on learners’ assessment activity. Some VLEs may also be able to integrate assessment activity with learning – for example returning students to a piece of online learning if they do not achieve the hurdle of an end assessment.
If you intend to use VLEs for online testing see Preparation: What other things do I need to think about? Quality enhancement: Verification of online tests.
JISC infoNet aims to be the UK's leading advisory service for managers in the post-compulsory education sector promoting the effective strategic planning, implementation and management of information and learning technology.
They have developed an infokit on the Effective Use of VLEs.
Since many types of learning require an ongoing, portfolio approach to assessment it should be possible to build e-assessment opportunities using e-portfolio software. This technology is continuing to develop, and there are many types of portfolio software, which fulfil a wide range of differing functions.
When used for assessment, key things which portfolio software attempts to do are:
SQA does not recommend any one e-portfolio system to its centres.
There are many different approaches and we will work with whichever system centres choose to use:
SQA has developed e-portfolio requirements to provide guidance on choosing a system.
SQA has also published guidance on using e-portfolios. This resource will give you advice about good practice, and highlights some of the things you’ll need to take into account when you’re supporting learners as they create e-portfolios for SQA qualifications. The guidance also provides examples of e-portfolio forms and templates (51 KB) which could be useful for demonstrating good practice in using e-portfolios for assessment.
SQA DeskSpace allows candidates to record their course evidence online, keeping everything together and accessible to teachers/tutors and assessors, even when they are at more than one centre. Work can be uploaded and submitted online and the user friendly interface helps candidates structure their learning through the use of online templates.
The DeskSpace e-portfolio is available to all SQA Skills for Work and Baccalaureate candidates and is available to centres free of charge until June 2012.
SQA offers an endorsement service for organisations which provide resources to support the delivery of SQA qualifications and awards. This service also applies to e-portfolios.
The e-portfolio is evaluated against endorsement criteria and SQA's requirements for e-portfolios to ensure it is robust and fit for purpose.
You can find about the e-portfolios endorsed by SQA by using this link.
Two resources from JISC offering guidance on large-scale e-portfolio implementation are available by using this link.
The e-Portfolio Implementation Toolkit has been developed from the JISC- funded e-Portfolio Implementation (ePI) study of successful institution-wide practice in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The toolkit contains over one hundred exemplars of e-portfolio use in a wide range of further and higher education contexts and eighteen case studies of approaches to wide-scale implementation. These form the basis of the Toolkit guidance that addresses the challenges, issues and stages in wide-scale e-portfolio implementation and presents an implementation model to assist your institution or programme in embedding and sustaining e-portfolio use.
Also available are five new video case studies, Stories of e-portfolio implementation, illustrating implementation strategies taken by five of the case study institutions. These rich-media resources provide additional personal insights into the challenges and benefits each institution has encountered. The videos are embedded into the Toolkit and can be downloaded or played by using this link. Transcripts are available for users of screen readers.
Both resources are made freely available, providing practitioners and managers in further and higher education with a unique insight into current UK and overseas e-portfolio practice. Feedback, thoughts and comments are welcome on these resources, and the facility to do so provided in the Toolkit itself. The resources can be used in conjunction with Effective Practice with e-Portfolios (JISC 2008) and the JISC e-Portfolios infoKit to provide a comprehensive package of support and guidance from JISC on e-portfolios in further and higher education.
Open source e-portfolios
Open source e-portfolio products are free for anyone to use, however centres would have to host and manage their own versions of these products.
One example is Mahara, an open-source e-portfolio that can be integrated into Moodle, allowing learners to transfer content from their learning environment, such as forum posts and assignments, to their e-portfolio. Mahara authenticates with Moodle, so learners signed into Moodle can access their e-portfolio without logging in to Mahara. Mahara has a range of partners who can supply hosting, training and development. There’s also a Mahara User Guide.
In June 2011, Cumbernauld College won an award for the Immersive Use of Mahara for Creative Industry Courses.
If you’re thinking about using a VLE, wiki or blog as an e-portfolio, consider developing an e-portfolio ‘approach’ with these. This means replicating the structures, templates and security features, generally found in e-portfolio products, to organise and present assessment evidence.
Adopting e-portfolio approaches means:
All of this should be available and easily located within, or linked to, the VLE, wiki or blog.
Web 2.0 technologies include social networking sites, blogs, wikis and video sharing sites and tend to focus on information sharing, user-centered design and collaboration.
Clearly there is a great deal of potential for using Web 2.0 technologies for assessment – for example to assess collaborative-type activities and group tasks, and for peer assessment.
You may find this Assessment 2.0 paper from SQA to be of interest.
Assessing an individual’s contribution to a collaborative project can be difficult, however social software can help with this. In 2007/2008 SQA piloted the assessment of group work using a wiki and a blog. Learners were asked to work with two or three others to plan tasks, carry out research and then jointly develop a product. Each learner kept a record of the activities they completed as an individual, and shared this with the group through the blog. These records formed part of the learner’s assessment evidence and helped them plan their evaluation reports.
CLASS (Collaborative Learning Assessed by Social Software) is a tool for learners studying for the Project-based National Course (PBNC) in Health and Safety in Care Settings. It offers them a blog and a wiki to record group activities and generate a group project.
The learners’ contributions to the ‘product’ were stored in the wiki, which, by capturing the entries and amendments made by all members of the group, created an authenticated record of every learner’s contribution to the project. Tutors were able to keep track of each individual’s progress; the wiki showed progress with the project, at all times, while the blog provided information on ongoing activities (research etc) and a means of communication for the tutor. A secure login contributed to authenticating the learners’ work. SQA Markers then marked the group project for each learner, using evidence from the learner’s entries to the blog and the wiki.
The Report into the pilot study:
CLASS Summary Report
The CLASS Project:
The group wiki and blog software provided to students and teachers of the PBNC in Health and Safety in Care Settings is currently available for any other qualification. The eAssessment and Learning team is keen to extend the use of CLASS and will facilitate its adoption by any interested teams. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Veronica Harris or Tel: 0776 855 4004.
JISC has published a briefing paper aimed at policy makers, senior managers and practitioners who are interested in an overview of game-based learning and how it may be used to support effective learning and teaching practice.
Although this paper concentrates on game-based learning, it does contain information relevant to game-based assessment.
You may find the following links about mobile learning and assessment useful.
The Deskspace Mobile approach has now been trialled and tested and is available for download from the Add Ons section in the Deskspace Tools menu. The application is a simplified version of the e-portfolio with ability to send pictures and record evidence straight into your e-portfolio account. We hope this will help overcome difficulty in accessing suitable ICT equipment and time available to upload material to the e-portfolio. There are three formats available to suit a range of mobile phones.
Deskspace Mobile - Basic: A basic WAP enabled interface which is visible on all web enabled phones including an upload function.
Deskspace Mobile - PDA: This includes the functionality above but is designed to operate on Windows Mobile PDAs and Smartphones.
Pebblepad iPhone app: This is an approved app by Apple. However, this version is currently only available under the Pebblepad branding and costs £1.79 to download, but may be customised for Deskspace at a later stage.
DeskSpace Mobile final report
Skills for Work ePortfolios (DeskSpace)