Linda Steedman on the attraction of online assessment
Over at least the last 40 years, the increasing application of technology has changed the corporate learning and development (L&D) world. In particular, technology-delivered assessment – eAssessment – offers organisations cost savings, greater convenience and ease of marking compared with traditional paper-based assessments. Moreover, in addition to speeding-up qualification-awarding processes, eAssessment can be less open to manipulation – making it more reliable in terms of regulatory and compliance issues. Organisations using online assessment can benefit in many ways.
1. Administration is reduced
eAssessment saves time printing and distributing exam documentation. Relevant information is sent via email and, depending on the question types used, L&D professionals don’t spend hours marking papers and coordinating the results delivery. Furthermore, an eAssessment solution which includes digital micro-credentialing – issuing digital badges to recognise skills and knowledge gained – avoids logistical challenges involved with issuing paper certificates. For security, digital badges include a unique code and meta-data allowing accredited centres, potential employers, organisations and individuals to confirm the badge is valid and identify the badge-issuing organisation.
2. Trainers can develop candidates’ competency
This is because, with eAssessment they spend less time preparing and marking exams. Most modern assessment systems allow developers to create a large question bank set so every candidate gets a random selection of questions. This helps minimise question order bias and improve the assessment’s overall quality. Question bank compilers can work collaboratively, wherever they are in the world, to update or add questions to keep the question bank fresh and relevant.
We’re familiar with this way of working and are, arguably, now more comfortable interacting via technology than with paper and pen
3. Tools to create accessible assessments
Platforms can be programmed to allocate extra time to specific candidates. Tools such as navigation features and screen readers can be used to aid understanding along with other tools, such as voice recognition, that help with question answering. Not limited to the assessment stage, simply changing background colour and fonts improves accessibility, these tools can be applied to the digital learning materials made available before the eAssessment is taken – to enhance and transform the way a person learns.
eAssessment gives organisations access to quick, clear reports on each candidate’s progress, identifying areas of strength and areas for further learning. L&D professionals can generate reports on how questions are being answered – to spot questions that are too easy or difficult. Reports can be generated on assessment completion rates across the organisation and by department – to provide accurate, up-to-date reports for compliance/ regulatory purposes.
5. Assessment becomes eco-friendly
The paperless approach eliminates printing and transporting exam-related papers. There’s less need to travel to and from exam locations – reducing organisations’ and candidates’ carbon footprints.
6. Candidates get direct, immediate feedback
Feedback is delivered as soon as possible after assessments. Automatic marking reduces marking time. In some cases, results can be delivered to candidates on the day of the assessment. This helps L&D professionals assess large numbers of candidates more easily and allows candidates to re-book immediately any tests they haven’t passed – which is helpful where compliance/ regulatory issues are concerned.
7. Taking exams digitally is now preferred
Using technological devices as part of our daily lives, both at work and leisure, means we’re familiar with this way of working and are, arguably, now more comfortable interacting via technology than with paper and pen.
8. Increased security
The best of todays’ eAssessment platforms store all data safely and securely. For example, they can prevent candidates navigating to other websites, closing down the browser or opening any applications. It uses the latest encryption techniques and employs new security tools as they become available.
9. Offering flexibility, scalability and worldwide reach
Scaled to meet any organisation’s needs, eAssessments enable candidates, regardless of location, to take exams via mobile phone, tablet or PC. So, candidates can use the most convenient device for them or one that best suits the assessment type. Moreover, some eAssessment platforms offer a secure offline option, enabling testing centres with internet connectivity issues to offer the same eAssessment experience as those using online assessment.
10. Notable cost saving
Traditionally, key areas of assessment that incur cost are:
• Creation – Test design, item development and subject matter experts’ travel expenses.
• Production – Printing, collating, posting papers and handling papers at the testing centre.
• Delivery – Venue and equipment hire, security, special needs adaptation, and posting papers to the test administrators’ headquarters.
• Invigilator and Administration costs.
• Travel for quality assurance/site audit – Hotel costs, subsistence and travel.
• Marking and scoring – Posting papers to markers; marking assessments; posting papers from markers to administration centres, and post-marking moderation.
• Certification – Certificate creation and posting.
eAssessment can encourage active learning, especially when the assessment delivery is innovative and engaging. Using visuals and audio can help candidates focus on the exam subject matter, rather than looking at words, page after page – which can strain the brain. Content can have a variety of question types, making it easier to suit all types of assessment needs.
Linda Steedman is chair of the digital learning and assessment specialist, eCom Learning Solutions