This research report from 2014 is now publicly available via the three UK regulators, SQA, CCEA and Welsh Government. It looks at the readiness of schools and colleges to undertake e-assessment opportunities for accredited qualifications for 14-19 year olds.
Hardware and Estate The variety of computer hardware for eAssessment usage varies incredibly by type, availability and amount. Although we read stories about beacons of usage, the research states the ratio of learners to hardware varies from better than 1:1 to a stubborn 1:2.
While not explicity stated, centres appear to be reaping benefits of more flexible approaches to managing their estate, whether due to the boom in tablet ownership, or better design of classrooms. Intriguingly, the development of more 'free schools' may see demand for eAssessment enabled facilities, designed for technology first, rather use 'blackboards and desks' as a starting point, as we see in the Middle East.
Infrastructure Quite often, despite the multi-millions spent on hardware, the internet pipe to many schools and colleges (for bandwidth, latency, concurrency etc.,) is not of a standard to exploit integrated assessment technology such as e-Portfolio, which require significant upload capabilities. The visibility of regulators such as Ofcom were outside the report's remit, but making them aware of how internet provision is holding back learner development would be helpful.
Training A common theme in the research is the chronic need to have scheduled, systematic and continuing eAssessment training for teachers, educators and lecturer. Training and formal certification of centre readiness has been common in the commercial field for many years. With 83 awarding organisations delivering 2,211 accredited qualifications by eAssessment, there's a call-out to technology providers and regulators to design systems which are built with intuitive and superior user experience and interface.
A Higher Level Strategy While the research provides a good snapshot of what is happening at the centre level, a key blockage to usage is the lack of government and/ or regulator high-level strategy on how each stakeholder will benefit.
High level objectives that would appeal to centres could be:
"Reduce results processing time, so we can abolish university clearing and students can
choose university after their results."
"Exam questions and scenarios that are developed as part of classroom learning should be
captured and utilised by exam writers."
"Test students when the teacher believes they are ready, not when dictated by the exam
board/ awarding body."
"Every school, college, university and 'designated place of learning' that undertakes any
form of eAssessment should have fibre to the premises internet by 2018. No charge will be
levied for up to five fibre lines to these premises to facilitate assessment of any kind."
Reflection When governments and administrators detemine such higher level, medium-term strategies, then centres will feel more confident in immersing themselves in eAssessment. Clear policies arising from these strategies will mean centres can plan resources more effectively.
The report is very clear that a lot of good work has been done in creating country-wide networks (Northern Ireland), having a diverse, innovative suite of tools for centres to choose
from (Scotland) and generating centre-led enthusiasm for eAssessment (Wales). However, co-ordination across exam developers, technology providers, policy makers, infrastructure specialists/ regulators is key to delivering the centres that technology-led learners deserve.