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Beyond remote: why digital assessment is about more than flexibility

Suzanna Doran
December 10, 2021

Illustration by Benjamin Westerfjell

When you think about digital exams, what are the benefits that first come to mind? 

It’s likely that the ability to hold remote exams is one of them. After all, with widespread institution closures and a growing student appetite for flexible learning (source), remote exams increasingly feature in institution assessment strategies. 

But, while the ability to offer remote assessment is certainly important, it’s not the only benefit of digital assessment. In fact, some Inspera customers choose to hold assessments on-site but still see a number of advantages in comparison to traditional assessment methods. Let’s have a look at a few of them.

Alignment between teaching and assessment tools

Many institutions around the world use digital tools in the classroom. Whether sharing resources through an online library, collecting coursework submissions via a virtual learning environment or setting practical tasks in specialist software applications, technology is the norm for students today.

It makes sense, then, that students are assessed in the same way that they learn. After all, students don’t often handwrite their work during the rest of the year. Asking them to do so during an exam may add additional pressure to an already stressful time. 

Reinforcement of digital skills 

Similarly, the tools of many modern trades are now digital. An increasing number of career paths have sprung entirely from the digital revolution including software development, digital marketing and data science to name a few. Yet even careers as old as time, from teaching to farming, require digital skills. 

Using an e-assessment platform allows students to reinforce these skills in a number of different ways. The first is that it inherently requires basic digital skills, such as word processing and information retrieval, which are essential for life post-education. Exam authors can go one step further and incorporate industry-specific tools or resources into an assessment so that test-takers can showcase their skills in real-world scenarios.

Efficient examination processes 

One of the key benefits that digital assessment users may notice is an increase in efficiency. If you currently use paper exams, you’ll know only too well the time-consuming process of booking exam venues, organising printing and transporting papers. And that’s before even considering authoring the exam, preparing candidate lists, arranging invigilation, grading submissions and sharing feedback.

Although digitising your assessments won’t make all of these elements go away, it can significantly reduce the logistical tasks associated with delivering paper exams. Because everything takes place on-screen, time is saved transporting exams to venues and then re-distributing to makers, for example. Plus, a single platform provides an easy way for planners, authors and graders to collaborate without needing to use multiple documents. The University of Gothenburg, who have been working with Inspera Assessment since 2015, have saved 4-6 hours on the administration process of each exam in some cases.    

Greater transparency

When everything is in one place, it’s easier to get a clear overview of each part of the process. During the exam, invigilators have an overview of how each student is progressing and can see how long it has taken to complete the test. Afterwards, administrators can see how many exams have been graded, allowing them to follow up with graders if necessary. Perhaps best of all, staff can completely forget the worry of lost exam papers. Plus, with all examination data stored in a single system, dealing with student appeals is much quicker and more efficient. 

Reduced environmental impact 

An Australian university previously held 360,000 exams every year which used 8.5 million sheets of paper, equivalent to 1,000 trees (source). This is before taking into account the transportation required to get exam scripts to venues and back. When exams take place digitally, it’s possible to significantly reduce this impact. According to Donald Lancaster, Senior Lecturer at The University of Bath, 2 hours of laptop usage would only be about 0.00007-0.00020 kg CO2 in comparison (source).

If digital assessment is here to stay, institutions can expect to see a variety of benefits for students, staff and the planet. If you’d like to hear more about the long-term advantages of digital assessment, tune in to episode 2 of The Digital Assessment Podcast with Suzanna Doran and Ishan Kolhatkar. You can find all of our new episodes here as well as on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts

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