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Coming of Age – the e-Assessment Question

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Reaching the age of 18 is a momentous birthday year, celebrated in western societies with the gift of porcelain. 2020 sees the 18th E-Assessment Question (EAQ) event. Moving online for this year, EAQ is an excellent indicator of the e-assessment sector’s health.

E-Assessment had been around for a while, but there wasn’t a focal point for the sector, at least in Europe. Marketing folk might argue it wasn’t ‘codified’ yet. Guises included computer-based testing, on-screen psychometric tests, and nascent e-portfolio deployments.

Here’s where it began EAQ #1 was held on 27th and 28th February 2003 at the Cavendish Conference Centre in London. The website quaintly described it as dealing with CBT&A (‘computer-based testing & assessment), posing questions that still resonate today: How will it affect learning and teaching? Which products and services can be used?

Many of those early presentations were in the digitisation of paper practices: paper-on-screen or industrial efficiencies through better logistics. Gaining a wider audience for these contemporary innovations.

Performance Time 2006 to 2009 saw a move to the Shaw Theatre – venue of Live Aid rehearsals, theatre productions, and pantomime. The sector had quick-step momentum: positive regulator speeches, fascinating supplier case studies, and pertinent research presentations. Who said assessment was a slow-moving sector? The good times were here.

Expertise from the Gloom It couldn’t last. The recession saw regulators either disbanded or hibernating to focus on core delivery; customers retrenching or de-scoping e-assessment deployments; and suppliers radically adjusting their commercial expectations.

EAQ moved to its current ‘home’ of America Square in 2010. The gloom of the first half of the decade was offset by an emergence in discussing ‘better’ assessment, enabled by e-assessment. The sector survived by tapping into the deep assessment expertise that the sector developed, whilst exploring and deploying e-assessment systems. New roles emerged from this activity, such as ‘Learning Technologist’ and ‘Remote Proctor’.

Internationalists As confidence finally returned, the last five years has seen EAQ become a diverse, international event. A major catalyst for this was the introduction of the eAA’s E-Assessment Awards in 2017, held on the evening of EAQ’s first day. Opening the sector to a wider audience and embracing the rapidly growing supplier base, is a big positive - ensuring that good practice is celebrated.

Recent winners have come from Brazil, Netherlands, Canada, Luxembourg, Ireland, and the Caribbean. Finalists for 2020 are projects from India, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa.

2020 was to see EAQ become part of the EAA. Current circumstances has forced EAQ to be a virtual conference and award ceremony. Commercial and customer uncertainty has returned again.

What’s Changed? Why is this change different from last time? In 2009, the shutters came down pretty quickly. Regulatory changes, de-scoped agendas and projects, and an icy bath for any nascent innovation.

This time round, there’s opportunity, but it’s hard won. To survive, customers are compelled into rapid, pragmatic changes. Solutions providers have either had to ramp up massively, or perform a hard pivot from BAU to grasp opportunities. E-Assessment’s worth is actively being proven.

Hot and Salty But what of the future? Will e-Assessment facilitate the ‘new normal’? Will EAQ grow in stature accordingly? We’ve seen individuals from suppliers give ‘hot and salty’ evidence to government committees: one saying that ‘tech companies will destroy exam boards’.

Hopefully, EAQ and EAA can continue to be a broad, internationalist church of e-Assessment views and flavours, but also increase its influence to positively influence policy and learners’ education paths.

A sector sage once said, ‘Introducing e-Assessment is almost like ‘a bull in a china shop’’. Here’s to EAQ’s 18th birthday – remember to bring your finest Wedgwood!


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