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eAssessment ticks all the boxes

eAssessment offers awarding organisations many advantages over a traditional paper-based approach, including cost savings, convenience, ease of marking as well as speeding up the process of qualifications being awarded. Amongst candidates, there is also greater awareness, understanding and acceptance of eAssessment. However, a study by three UK exam regulators* found that only 37% of assessments have digital or eAssessment equivalents. What would help greater uptake?

In an increasingly competitive sector for learners and centres, one major challenge is understanding the potential commercial gains. Research from vendors and regulators shows that eAssessment will generally deliver returns within 3-5 years. In eCom Scotland’s recent webinar, Benchmarking the cost of Assessment, we quantified and compared the costs at each stage of the process for eAssessment and a paper-based system. We identified that moving to eAssessment could produce savings of up to 82%, depending on an organisation's attitude to risk. Once the identification, understanding and mitigation of eAssessment risk is managed by the host organisation (with cooperation from vendors, subject matter experts and other stakeholders) the potential for efficiency savings is dramatically increased.

A major advantage of eAssessment is that with auto-marking and extended-response marking times significantly reduced, result availability and certification can be expedited – eCom’s eNetAssess product has helped deliver this for customers such as the International Well Control Forum and the Chartered Banker Institute. Some examination technology offers immediate feedback with insight following a test session, something eCom have implemented for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. Some even offer a digital credential for the learner in recognition of their learning experiences and achievement, something eNetBadges can deliver. Qualifications that use eAssessment are viewed as more flexible, relevant and aligned to an employer’s needs (who may be sponsoring the candidate) and this can result in an increase in market share for the awarding organisation.

Concerns of being left behind in the competition for learners and centres is another driver for awarding organisations switching to eAssessment. In being quick to do so, however, they must ensure that qualifications remain fit for purpose and they are viewed as such by potential candidates, employers and indeed the general public for them to remain attractive.

Greater confidence in IT, both software and hardware, as well as data encryption/transfer have helped with eAssessment adoption along with a general increase in IT literacy. That said, concerns over security, candidate authenticity and cheating (particularly accessing the internet whilst completing an exam) remain. With keen invigilation, physical or remote, these concerns can be mitigated. Remote invigilation allows monitoring of exams over the Internet using a webcam, including all the processes for authenticating candidate identity, and making the event as secure as possible. Coupled with technology such as two-factor authentication, computer/system lockdowns, keystroke monitors and the ability to halt/start a test, the multi-layered monitoring process is fully integrated and there are also solid cost advantages.

Concerns over hardware availability and suitability for eAssessment remain prevalent and organisations need to reach out to learners to understand if their chosen technology is a good match for that at the assessment centre.

Of course, eAssessment is not immune to the growing trend towards ‘Bring-your-own-device’ (BYOD) which has seen users develop a preference for their own personal computing device. According to Harvard Business Review, 90% of high-performing organisations now experience BYOD in the workplace. Therefore, due consideration must be given to compatibility testing of assessments across a wide range of devices/operating systems.

eAssessment can also help learners who have additional support needs: Tools such as navigation features and screen readers can be used to aid understanding as well as other tools that help with question answering such as voice recognition. Of course, these are not limited to just the assessment stage and good practice is to ensure that accessible digital learning is offered. According to a recent article from JISC, ‘modest changes to teacher practice and IT infrastructure can transform the learner experience’. This can include providing teaching materials in an accessible format, something eCom have done for RNIB, helping them incorporate new learning technology while still following accessibility best practice.

To conclude, the benefits of eAssessment are clear: with cost savings, expedited marking, issuing of results and qualifications (sometimes digitally), potential competitive advantage as well as making assessment accessible for all learners, there are compelling reasons to choose eAssessment for both awarding organisation and candidates.

eCom helps organisations achieve a wide variety of assessment objectives from skills assessment in corporate academies to apprenticeship end-point assessment and professional examinations. To find out more about how your organisation could benefit from eAssessment, please get in touch.

*from Centre Readiness to use E-Assessment report (CCEA, SQA and the Welsh Government)

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