In 2018, The University of Queensland (UQ) initiated The eAssessment Project with the objective of improving all forms of assessment, including exams and formative assessments. The project, led by Dr Sam McKenzie, aimed “to identify electronic assessment options that facilitate improved pedagogical practices and address existing administrative issues.”
Before the project UQ held around 250 thousand on-campus exams, using approximately four million sheets of paper, every year. Most of these exams were handwritten even though many of the tools now used for learning, as well as future careers, are digital. So, taking exams online not only helps to reduce UQ’s environmental impact but also provides flexibility to candidates when it comes to exam day and better aligns with how students work now and in the future.
In 2018, little did they know that the need for digital exams would be more urgent than ever two years later. Dr McKenzie says that the pandemic amplified the need for assessment that is “flexible, accessible, available anytime and anywhere”. She also says that an effective solution will help to future-proof assessment so that if there should be another global event such as this in the future, The University will be more sustainable.
Implementing Inspera Assessment
The planning and consultation process examined requirements from stakeholders across The University, which revealed a need for an end-to-end assessment solution that integrates into The University’s VLE. The eAssessment Project Team then investigated solutions on offer, closely analysed those that met their requirements and collected feedback from stakeholders. After this, they decided that Inspera Assessment was the right solution for UQ’s needs.
The implementation was carried out in three stages:
- First semester: Initial Pilot (Jul–Dec 2020)
- Second semester: Extended Pilot (Jan–June 2021)
- Third semester and beyond: Begin gradual school-based rollout (Jul-Dec 2021)
During the initial pilot, a range of courses from different disciplines were selected so that the team could see how Inspera Assessment performed for different types of assessments. The initial plan was to hold exams on campus in July 2020 but, due to COVID, the team had to work quickly to move exams online so that students could still be assessed during university closures. This meant that the eAssessment Project Team needed to provide support to staff and students so that this transition could be as smooth as possible. This involved, for example, providing examples of best practices for digitisation to staff and being on call for student support. During this first stage, 120 assessments were carried out covering 16 courses with 700 students and 70 staff.
In the second phase, the eAssessment Team focussed on training more groups from around The University to use and support the use of Inspera Assessment. This included the student technical support departments who were able to take over technical support responsibilities from the eAssessment Team. The Team also created case studies so that academic staff could share ideas for digitising their assessments.
In the third phase, which is still ongoing, the Team took a school-based approach to online assessment onboarding so that everyone in a teaching and learning role within a particular school could be onboarded more effectively.
Reflections and lessons learned
The rollout of Inspera Assessment has been a success at The University of Queensland. In fact, it’s been so popular that the demand for online assessment was greater than the eAssessment Team’s capacity to roll it out across The University.
Academics at UQ have been satisfied with the variety of question types, stimulus materials and the option to include un-graded information. Having all of these things in the same place is useful because it eliminates the need for academics and students to use multiple platforms. For example, when creating assessments as a team, academics are no longer working from several separate word documents but instead can work together in the same place.
Students expressed similar sentiments in that they liked using a single platform to complete their assessments and the majority found Inspera Assessment easy to use. Sam McKenzie said, “They just got on with it; it was kind of a non-event.”
From an administrative perspective, Inspera Assessment has helped to streamline examination workflows. The platform provides transparency into students’ progress during the assessment as well as academics’ grading afterwards, allowing administrators to follow up if there are any issues. Plus, the time spent on tasks associated with paper exams is significantly reduced because “you don’t have to shuffle papers around, you don’t have to wait for them to pick up secure exam papers and take them elsewhere,” according to Dr McKenzie.
In short, Inspera Assessment has made assessment smoother for stakeholders across The University because, as Dr McKenzie says, there are no “additional convoluted processes, it’s all in Inspera.”
Looking to the future
In the long term, Sam McKenzie says that the ideal scenario would be to transition the majority of The University’s assessments into Inspera Assessment. Then, she would like to see exams replaced with more authentic assessments throughout the semester in which students receive feedback as they go. However, she says that this goal is ambitious and may not be realistic for every course. What is realistic, though, is integrating Inspera Assessment with The University of Queensland’s virtual machine which allows students to use software relevant to their courses and future careers under exam conditions. These kinds of activities would be impossible with paper exams and provide students with an opportunity to showcase more of their skills.
To find out more about how Inspera works with institutions all over the world, visit our customer stories where you can read case studies from The University of Oxford, The University of Oslo, Caribbean Examinations Council and many more. You can also get in touch with our team if you have any questions about digital assessment.
Written by Jo BowdenOctober 11, 2021