One way of beginning your digital assessment journey is by piloting digital examinations for a select number of exams or departments. Pilot projects are a good way to reduce risks and to make sure that the project is anchored within your organisation. 

We recommend that institutions pilot online assessment before beginning a full rollout. A pilot project helps to trial the different processes in a controlled and managed environment. The lessons from these early-stage pilots can inform and direct the strategy for a wider adoption of digital examinations. In this article, we will take a look at the initial phase of a pilot project.

Defining the project background

The benefits of switching from pen and paper to digital assessment are numerous. However, it is important to identify which of these factors will be of the greatest benefit to your institution and the specific departments within. Identifying why you are switching, and the rewards that the transition will achieve is integral in both aligning the implementation strategy and gaining support from other stakeholders within the organisation. 

You can use the box below to define the project objectives and to list the key points:

Objectives List of key points

The overall vision for the digital examinations project.


  • Full-scale digitisation of the exam workflow
Key drivers:

The key drivers for implementing digital exams.


  • The need for modernisation and improved exam workflows
Faculty benefits:

The key benefits for faculty.


  • Ease of marking clearly typed exam submissions
Student benefits:

The key benefits for students are.


  • A more seamless experience for the students, due to using tools they are used to.

Potential obstacles or setbacks.


  • Infrastructure requirements

What are the pilot objectives?

Now that you and your organisation have defined why you want to implement digital assessment, you can focus on the objectives of your pilot project. For most pilots, the main objective should be to test the organisations’ ability to transfer to a digital assessment process. Piloting is really less about technology and more about people and change. To test the benefits of and readiness of the organisation against a digitalisation of exams processes should, therefore, be essential to the pilot project.

With that in mind, a recommendation for a pilot is not to trial all assessment formats, but to start with the basics: essays and multiple-choice, for instance. Your internal IT department can check the tech abilities and stress-test the platform. 

To summarise, the overarching objective of the first pilot is for your institution to successfully host a series of digital assessments for a small number of exams and subjects. The pilot can be seen as a test environment to understand the benefits and areas needed for improvement when going forward.

The following principles underpin a first successful pilot: 

  • All project team members are clear about how the pilot will be rolled out and their respective role in delivering the outcomes.
  • The pilot is to inform the university on how to proceed with a wider rollout.
  • All impacted stakeholders are informed and understand the change relative to their role and can deliver the expected outcomes.
  • To have clearly defined exam and technical protocols in place for the pilot and agreed by key stakeholders.

Defining the pilot scope and the success criteria

It is important to begin by defining the intended scope of the first pilot. It’s a good idea to set up a project team workshop, where together, you can establish what is and is not to be included within this first outing with digital assessment.

At this time, the project team should also define the success criteria of the first pilot, including the affected stakeholders and factors that will be used to measure the extent of this success.

Want to learn more about pilot projects?

You can learn more in our ultimate guide for everyone who wants to plan and roll out a digital assessment project. Among other things, you can find examples of pilot success criteria and use our templates when planning your pilot project. Download the free eBook.



Written by Jo Bowden

November 24, 2020