The benefits and problems of Online Assessment
Assessment in schools has for centuries been accepted as integral to teaching. SATs, O-levels, A -Levels, GCSEs, Baccalaureates, end of year exams and a host of others are used in schools across the globe.
In addition Psychometric Assessments are used to identify problems, set baselines and a host of other things.
Until recently this was all done by hand, but then computer based testing (CBT) arrived.
Assessment in schools
As governments and educationalists promoted the use of tests, their importance grew, and therefore so did the cost of mistakes. paper and Pencil versions of Assessments such as the popular Cognitive Abilities Test from Granada Learning (formerly NFER-NELSON) typically required teachers to hand score answers, look up tables, transcribe scores across sheets and transcribe again for each report they wanted to look at.
The opportunities for transcription errors made many teachers nervous about using these highly complex assessments.
The arrival of Computer Based Testing
Granada Learning, EDI and other assessment publishers saw the need for computer software to automate the scoring and report generation tasks, thereby eliminating transcription errors.
Complex formulas replaced lookup tables and computer scoring was offered to schools from the mid 1990s onwards. Schools were slow to take up the offer at first, perhaps put off by the high price tag. However, when the time saving was factored in, there was a clear financial benefit to schools in using these services. However, they still relied on shipping large volumes of completed test papers back and forth via the post, with all the issues surrounding confidentiality that that entailed.
The next step for assessment publishers was to take the computer scoring tools and wrap them together with the actual assessment questions in an online format.
The benefits to the school were security of data, instant turnaround and more in depth reporting possibilities.
The benefit to the publishers were that their assessments now became e-products with very low overheads once initial development was completed.
Granada Learning now have more than 10 of the UK's most popular assessments used in schools available as online assessments.
Problems with Online Assessment.
Moving online required complete restandardisation, but the largest unanticipated problem was actually that the resource in schools does not generally exist for each child to sit an online assessment at the same time in the same room. There simply are not enough computers in schools. Splitting the class up is the solution, but then there is a supervision overhead to be added to the process. So, despite all the technological complexity of online assessment, the biggest barrier to adoption is currently class size.