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By Patrick Coates, director at International Skills UK and board member of The e-Assessment Association
e-Assessment is increasingly the norm in the professional world, with e-Testing having been used for IT exams for over 30 years.
Although this was typically in objective questions format, driven by the 'license to practice' market in the USA where legal defensibility of exam results was and is still required, the system has become more sophisticated over the years; including simulation in the IT world or the use of video in the medical sectors.
Inevitably, the UK has followed suit, with a broad range of e-assessment being introduced increasingly to improve the speed and efficiency of the examination process. e-Portfolios have been used widely in the vocational qualification market for the last 15 years and e-marking has been used in the last 10 years for education exams with all the unitary awarding bodies having adopted e-marking; a process where scripts are scanned in and then human-graded using simple work-flow or complex tools to manage the marking and quality checking of exam scripts.
As a judge in the inaugural e-Assessment Awards, I had the opportunity to review and acknowledge those that had delivered excellence in e-assessment. A wide range of industries were represented, including: degree and masters-level business qualifications; IT qualifications in India, Oil and Gas Safety; several Accountancy exams; Corporate Treasurers, Journalism as well as Midwifery and Reproductive Health.
While e-assessment has been widely used for a long time in a whole range of professional areas, if we look at mainstream education specifically, then could it radically transform the sector? The increasing use of technology will certainly be seen in some areas, but how will e-assessment change the entire market?
Let’s start with MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) for their global impact. When MOOCs were first introduced, they didn’t have the expected revolutionary effect in education. For me, the challenge was that MOOCs were not that ground-breaking (we used to call lots of freely-accessible content in a single location a library) it was giving away your intellectual property that was revolutionary. If an academic institution is giving away their content for free, how do they make money? Well one way is in the use of assessment, but this poses a number of questions. How do you deliver assessment anywhere in the world? How do you deliver it securely? And how do you deliver it cost-effectively?
There are other technologies in development that could really change the way that assessment is undertaken, if we are able to move away from our current limitation to how we conduct exams and assessment, but that’s for another day.
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