Supporting the assessment community – COVID-19
As the coronavirus continues to impact our everyday lives, Matt Wingfield, Chair of the e-Assessment Association reflects on the ways in which technology can be used to overcome current challenges and to provide for more resilient approaches to learning and assessment for the future. Matt also provides links to a range of resources suitable for supporting formative and summative assessment in this challenging time.
Setting the scene:
There is little doubt that we find ourselves in difficult and challenging times in dealing with the implications of the COVID-19 outbreak. Our personal and professional lives are restricted and within the education sector we are needing to make significant changes to the ways in which we support teaching, learning and assessment.
A plethora of robust, well-designed and increasingly mature digital technologies already exist to support on-going learning and assessment in times of crisis. In this article I hope to shed light on some of these, each of which offer practical support for teachers and learners in the here and now.
Yet the same challenges that we face today also offer opportunities for a paradigm shift in the way that we should be thinking about teaching, learning and assessment delivery in the future, and I also hope to get you thinking about opportunities to break away from more traditional, less flexible, physical methodologies which, as we are seeing, are so prone to disruption in times of crisis.
Supporting education continuity:
On-screen marking and on-screen/online assessment technologies are now very mature. These technologies, coupled with others like e-portfolios, the increasingly sophisticated options for remote invigilation (aka remote proctoring) and the use of augmented intelligence to support personalised learning, offer truly flexible and highly resilient ways to deal with extraordinary crises like the one that we are tackling now – offering learners education continuity.
Furthermore, by shifting the focus from purely physical delivery methods to online or hybrid methodologies, learners, be they in formal education or professional learning contexts, can be offered ‘assessment when ready’ options. This also offers more intuitive teacher management of personalised assessments, significant operational and cost benefits to educational institutions, and generally easier options for supporting times of disruption such as the here and now.
It is worth stressing that these opportunities don’t just exist for summative assessments, the technologies also exist to revolutionise the learning process, both to address current needs and also to support a more proactive and responsive ‘learning journey’ for our learners, that evidences all of their achievements, which is again more resilient in times of disruption.
Here learning delivery can be combined more seamlessly with formative assessments, to provide a flexible and timely approach to learning, where ‘assessment for/as learning’ is the default. The key benefit of this more tightly integrated formative approach to assessment is a richer, more contextual and thus more meaningful insight into learner progression for the learner and for their teachers.
Learning from the experience of others:
There is no doubt that the education system in almost all countries around the world is currently facing significant challenges, but let’s not forget that some countries have been here before – in 2003 with the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak.
This outbreak had a significant impact on the education systems in several countries, including Singapore and Hong Kong, where schools, colleges and universities had to pivot their teaching and learning models to cater for online delivery to ensure students were not disadvantaged by the break in physical teaching delivery.
These countries learnt from this experience and introduced procedures to facilitate easier switching between, and blended approaches to, physical and online learning and assessment as required. It could be argued that they were better prepared for the challenges of COVID-19 as a result.
I found this article from Richard R. Smith, professor at Singapore Management University, particularly insightful in terms of some leadership lessons learnt as a result of the 2003 SARS outbreak, which has been put into good practice in dealing with the current COVID-19 crisis.
I also came across this post in the South China Morning Post that describes how the experiences of schools in Hong Kong during the SARS outbreak in 2003, meant that they were able to respond quickly to the current COVID-19 crisis. They were not only able to quickly shift to a distance learning model, but also to ensure that this went beyond simply sending out worksheets, utilising a range of interactive online tools to keep students learning in a supported and suitably paced way.
Creating opportunities for positive change:
By embracing radical changes now, we offer options for the whole education sector to deliver approaches that are truly designed with 21st Century learners in mind. In so doing, we not only future proof our education system, but also offer significant benefits to all education stakeholders, particularly the learners, through fit for purpose approaches to learning and assessment.
The potential here is to banish the ‘big-bang’ approaches to summative assessment, where hundreds of learners sit in drafty, poorly lit gymnasiums at uncomfortable desks within pre-set assessment windows at the same time each year, a model that, as we are seeing, is significantly prone to disruption.
Of course it’s not just a case of having access to the technologies to support these innovative approaches, it is also about shifting our curriculum policies to be less driven by yearly and termly cycles, which in turn will require political will. However, often it is in times of significant disruption and forced change, such as the one we are experiencing now, that we get a glimpse of what is possible, not only to be better prepared for such periods of crisis, but also to better support teaching and learning in general.
Finding resources and guidance to support the here and now:
So, what tools exist to support such models of adoption and where can you find help in pivoting the learning and assessment delivered by schools, colleges, universities and training providers in a way that provides critical support to learners at this difficult and challenging time?
The e-Assessment Association (eAA) is a professional membership body representing and promoting all forms of technology enabled assessment within all sectors of both formal education and work-based learning.
The work of the association is supported and funded by a range of commercial sponsors, all of whom have a wealth of knowledge and experience in supporting online assessment delivery – be this formative or summative – from on-screen/online knowledge testing, standardisation of teacher assessment, supporting non-examined coursework capture and assessment, through to on-screen marking and remote invigilation.
All of the eAA’s sponsors are working very hard in these challenging times to support their customers and the wider e-assessment community and I would definitely recommend reaching out to them if you have questions or need support in delivering viable alternatives to physical assessments – you can find out more about all of our sponsors on the eAA website here.
Several of the eAA’s sponsors are offering specific support and guidance for the sector that help address the short-medium term implications of the COVID-19 outbreak. You can find further details of these at the end of this article.
Now, more than ever, it would seem vital to share our sector’s knowledge and experience collectively as one strong voice and source of information, to build approaches that not only help address the short-medium term challenges of the current crisis, but that also provide insight and exemplars of a possible way forward, which more fully embraces technology to deliver learning and assessment approaches fit for the 21st century.
Chairman, the e-Assessment Association
Email: [email protected]
The following is a summary of resources, guidance and support available from some of the e-Assessment Association’s sponsors to help and support organisations through the current COVID-19 crisis:
AlphaPlus Consultancy: (http://www.alphaplusconsultancy.co.uk/)
AlphaPlus is a specialist assessment organisation – our mission is to help make educational assessments better, and we have teams of assessment experts and psychometricians working across school, vocational and professional assessment. We are helping certification bodies with selecting and implementing the best approach for awarding certifications in the absence of final exams, which includes
- Options appraisal for how evidence is used and combined, including if appropriate prior attainment data
- Modelling of outcomes (experimental methods to see which options work best)
- Processing of data to produce outcomes
If you think this might be of interest, contact [email protected] for a confidential discussion about how we can help.
British Council: (https://www.britishcouncil.org/education/exams)
The British Council Global Account Management team in the UK is working closely with our Awarding Organisation clients to provide updates on exam delivery worldwide, communications to candidates and to support clients with future exam planning.
For more information please contact the team at [email protected].org
Whether your school in delivering the British Council’s International Award or not, teachers may also find the following online learning resources helpful in supporting and delivering on-going learning for their students at the current time: https://www.britishcouncil.org/school-resources/accreditation/international-school-award/tips-ideas
To help universities, colleges and other educational institutions who have been affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and are unable to deliver exams on-site, BTL are offering access to our Surpass Online Invigilation Service, so that students can continue to sit their exams in a secure, invigilated environment from their home. Click here for further details.
Until the end of August 2020 Calibrand and Caliqual are offering test publishers the chance to deliver practice assessments free of charge using our SnapAssess app (https://bit.ly/39zOW4F). Tests are delivered using the app or android store and are multiple choice only.
For further details please email [email protected]
Inspera Assessment: (https://www.inspera.com)
Inspera Assessment is a secure cloud-based e-assessment platform that covers the entire digital examination process from initial question creation to exam delivery and collaborative marking.
Join our free live webinar onThursday, 16th April, 4pm CEST to learn more about how to safely do high-stakes assessments from home, and ask questions to our educational experts. Click here to register for this webinar.
PebbleVision is a newly created series of videos inspired by examples of practice from the PebblePad community. From the flipped classroom to supporting extra and co-curricular learning, through to personal tutoring and authentic assessment, it’s hoped that the video series will spark ideas to help educators during these challenging times. Click here to access PebbleVision.
The days when invigilation/proctoring was restricted to a scheduled time and physical exam location or test centre are over. The advent of Internet Based Testing (IBT) created a need for secure administration and technological advancements have made online proctoring/invigilation possible.
This e-book from PSI offers a high-level, practical introduction to the different elements of online proctoring/invigilation, providing a really useful resource for anyone considering this approach to invigilation to support assessment at this challenging time.
Discover Online Proctoring – an e-book available here.
If you are considering remote proctoring/invigilation within higher education, you may also find this article in Education Technology by PSI Executive Vice President Doug Winneg of interest, detailing what should be considered before moving assessments online.
RM Results: (http://rmresults.co.uk/)
- RM Easimaths (rm.com/products/rm-easimaths)
With many school children currently at home, RM would like to offer schools access to RM Easimaths for free for 4 months as a way for children aged 4–12 to keep their maths skills up to date. Just 10-15 minutes a day can maintain and improve core maths skills and allow children to grow at a pace that suits them.
Suitable for primary and special schools of any size, the online lessons are compatible with most devices and operating systems, except iOS.
Note: School licensing only – RM Easimaths cannot currently by licensed directly to parents.
- RM Compare (rmresults.com/rmcompare)
Utilising Adaptive Comparative Judgement (ACJ), RM Compare is suitable for organisations across the educational spectrum, from primary schools to awarding organisations, to facilitate the marking, standardisation and moderation of assessments.
It also offers a unique way to support online formative assessment, peer-to-peer and on-going learning to support students’ understanding of what good looks like, particularly in relation to open-ended pieces of work such as essays or projects.
Read more about how RM Compare is being used to support summative and formative assessment here.
TCS iON: (https://www.tcsion.com/)
These are challenging times and TATA Group has pledged nearly £170m to protect and empower the affected communities. Knowledge management is a key initiative and so we extend our support to all the schools, universities, training providers and awarding bodies of UK. TCS has launched a new offering – TCS iON Glass Room – a mobile and web education platform where we have tried to mimic every activity of learning/ assessments virtually. TCS iON Glass Room is now free for a limited period of 3 months with absolutely no obligations in future.
Please register at the link – https://learning.tcsionhub.uk/organisation/intl-glass-room/
The platform enables real time sharing of lessons, videos, worksheets, assignments and assessments, using interactive methods like polls, debates, quiz, surveys and many more tools, with an option to offer an embedded live classroom to support teaching.
If it is of interest, please contact me at [email protected]
Remote invigilation offers an opportunity in these difficult times to continue to offer formal exams online, without requiring candidates to come to a test centre.
For example, the TestReach remote invigilation service continues to be fully operational.
If you’d like to learn more about remote invigilation (or online proctoring) and how it might help you, please download a free Whitepaper: Guide to Remote Invigilation here.
- Intromath (www.intromath.ca)
During the remainder of this academic year, Vretta is offering colleges and universities the ability to host and administer tests and examinations in maths free of charge. Using its award winning Intromath platform, we will support departments/staff to ensure that students can access learning supports for preparation and complete their courses as seamlessly as possible.
- Elevate My Maths (www.elevatemymaths.co.uk)
In the coming academic year (2020-21), universities and colleges will be admitting many students with less than the usual evidence of knowledge and skills in maths. Vretta’s Elevate My Maths platform is designed to support precisely those students through diagnostic assessment, online interactive upgrading lessons as required, and summative assessment. This proven and award-winning program is available at low cost to all universities and colleges in the UK.
For details on both of the above please email [email protected].