Distance learning is on the rise in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. And 49% of remote college students say they intend to stay remote, even after their institutions re-open. Echoing this, 33% of school administrators want to continue teaching remotely to some extent when campuses get back to normal.
Yet, one of the biggest concerns about remote learning is how do you accurately assess the level of learning, especially in high-stakes areas such as medical examinations. That's where online assessment tools such as TestReach can help.
TestReach and other digital exam platforms can allow students and other test-takers to sit assessments on a computer, rather than on pen-and-paper, with the option of sitting them remotely. Depending on the solution used, candidates are monitored online by supervisors, who connect to the candidate using different types of technology. The supervisors ensure the correct person has presented to sit the exam, and that the test is conducted with integrity. This avoids the requirement of groups of people congregating in test centres to sit exams.
With the right online assessment tool, you can create any type of exam paper using a variety of different question types and in-exam resources. When it's time to administer the assessment, you can deliver the exam to as many candidates as you wish, in any time-zone. This gives a great deal of flexibility to both administrators and candidates.
Read on to learn ten informative facts about how online assessment tools can help.
1. Online assessment tools are not just for examinations
Online assessment tools can also be used for managing formative assessments. Depending on the platform you use, the software can help streamline the creation, submission and marking of assignments and projects. This means that all exam data for students across formative assessments and final exams can be managed in one software solution.
2. Practice tests are a useful online assessment tool
Don’t forget that you can also create practice tests for students in your online assessment solution. Practice tests can be set up so that the student can sit as them as often as wished to test their own learning and see in what subject areas they are performing well or not. This reduces the stress on students as they have a chance to try out the exam in advance and be familiar with the in-exam environment. This is invaluable as a way to help students test retention of knowledge and self-analysis of learning.
3. Reduce your fixed costs
With a digital assessment platform, you can administer exams to students anytime at any location. You don't have to provide a test centres, an exam delivery device, or the in-person supervising personnel. These types of things are fixed costs which you will incur no matter how many students you are testing. However, with a cloud-based online model, you only pay for the number of students you have sitting the exam, which can amount to a large saving.
4. Online Assessment Tools Streamline the Question Authoring Process
A comprehensive online assessment solution will help streamline of the management of the question authoring process. In a good solution, there can be collaborative workflows to enable authors working remotely to create questions, with other users enabled to review questions and comment before they are added to the live item bank.
Useful digital tools include the ability to view the question as the candidate will view it, add in-exam resources and assign the marks for auto-scored questions, or rubrics or marking schema for constructed response questions.
You can then, if wished, automate the construction of exam papers, using blueprints or linear-on-the-fly testing methods.
5. Collect Data Over Time for Analysis
Online assessment tools offer data functions to provide detailed feedback not only on the test results, but psychometric analysis of question performance and in-exam data such as how much time candidates spend on certain questions. By using online assessment tools, you therefore collect useful data every time an exam is run which can then be used to further improve the validity and reliability of the exam questions.
For example, you can tag questions according to the statistical information on question performance, so that future exam papers can draw questions that are more or less difficult, depending on how they performed in previous live exams. In this way, the question bank becomes more valid over time and the exams produce more reliable results.
6. Online Assessment Tools transform the Moderation of Exams
When an exam is over, and then it appears the pass rate is too low, or the marks given for a particular question were too high or too low, this will mean some level of moderation is required to ensure that the result is fair to all students. However, moderation without an online assessment solution can be very time consuming and difficult. With the right computer-based moderation tool, you can adjust the marks given for a certain question or paper, and then view the impact on the overall exam before applying the change. This is a considerable time saving versus doing any results and marking manipulation in excel.
7. Online Assessments Foster Remote Learning
For professional students, who may choose to study from home because they are juggling full-time work and study, the ability to both study and take their exams remotely is extremely important. It is also very useful to be able to give professional students the option to sit their exam at a time that is convenient to them. When you switch to online assessment, depending on the platform you use, you can enable the exam to be delivered with remote proctoring. This means the student can sit their exam from home but still have it conducted under secure conditions to protect the exam integrity and your exam question content.
8. Protect your exam content and maximise question longevity
By moving to computer-based assessments, you can introduce tools which help you to protect exam content from being shared around. For example, online tools enable you to use randomised question selection for exam papers. This means that each student sits an exam which is unique to them, but which is examining the same topic areas at the same difficulty level as other students. This helps to ensure that exam content is protected and not shared with other students. Using live remote proctoring where students are monitored online will also provide more security, as the proctors will be watching the student to ensure they are not copying down questions or taking photographs of it. Some software solutions like TestReach also use secure computer lockdown, which means that when the candidate is taking their exam they cannot navigate away from the exam environment to check other applications or browser windows – which is another level of security for the examining body.
9. You can try an e-assessment pilot before making any major change
Don’t forget that if you are starting on a digital assessment journey, you can pilot online examinations for one department or faculty, and assess the experience before making any major changes. This is a great way to ensure that the software you are considering is a good fit for your organisation in practice. You can also run a survey as part of the pilot exam to obtain feedback from candidates as to what the experience was like to use the software and whether they would welcome using this approach in future. Gathering data like this can then help engage all stakeholders who may be unsure about any digital changes. It can be hard to engage stakeholders with something that is of low interest to them but of really high importance to the organisation! A pilot project can therefore be the best way to get the e-assessment project started and get everyone on-board.
10. Digital assessment enables accessibility for all individual students
Unlike pen and paper assessments, computer-based examination tools give more flexibility to adjust the in-exam environment to enable access by disabled learners. For example, when an exam is provided on-screen, the paper can be modified to suit students who have visual impairments or dyslexia. In addition, when exams are provided on a computer, the exam timer can be adjusted to give extra time to students who require special considerations. You can read more about this on our accessibility blog here.