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The impact of COVID-19 on learning and assessment: Views from the 2020 Surpass Conference

The impact of COVID-19 on learning and assessment: Views from the 2020 Surpass Conference

No matter where we are located, we’ve all experienced rapid change during 2020.

Unsurprisingly, the impact and opportunities as a result of COVID-19 was a common theme throughout many of the presentations delivered at the 2020 Surpass Conference, which due to restrictions, was held virtually for the first time. The virtual event brought together 400 delegates from the international testing community to share experiences and discuss the key topics for learning and assessment.

Read on for a summary of some of the insightful presentations about how the community has adapted during the pandemic, the true potential impact, and how we can use this as an opportunity for long-term change. You can re-visit all of the presentations now on the website.

Romana Moss - purple_sq

The community is adaptable during times of disruption

One thing we’ve learned this year is just how adaptable the assessment community can be. This was particularly evident with the closure of test centres in March, leaving organisations faced with a decision to either cancel and reschedule exams, or look at alternatives, such as the implementation of remote invigilation.

The Surpass team has helped many organisations rapidly implement remote invigilation recently, but what happens when you’re just about to take your first steps into computer-based testing, you’ve got a plan in place, and COVID-19 hijacks all that careful preparation?

That’s exactly what Romana Moss, Project Manager from WSET shared with the community in her presentation.

Romana spoke about WSET’s existing paper-based processes and decision to transition qualifications on-screen. With lockdown hitting during the CBT pilot for their Level 1 Sake qualification, existing roll-out plans came to halt, and with no access to print exam papers or classroom exams, an alternative had to be found.

COVID-19 became the catalyst for change, and WSET underwent a rapid implementation of remote invigilation, running the first pilot within just 5 weeks, and have now successfully delivered more than 8000 remotely invigilated exams. 

‘Using the blueprint that had worked well for Level 1 Sake, we followed the same journey to introduce RI (Remote Invigilation) only this time on a much shorter timescale…just 5 weeks. A lot of hard work, but we got there.’ – Romana Moss

Watch Romana’s presentation in full to hear more about WSET’s journey to introducing remote invigilation and their key learnings.

Amanda Dainis

Test Development activities have had to adapt too

It’s not just exam delivery that has been disrupted. Office closures and social distancing rules mean that alternative methods have had to be found for conducting traditionally in-person test development activities too.

Amanda Dainis, CEO and Lead Psychometrician at Dainis and Company gave a helpful overview of the various stages of the test development process, drawing a comparison between how these work in-person vs. remotely, keeping validity at the forefront every step of the way.

Amanda discusses a four-branch validity model for certification exams linked to test development steps including Job Task Analysis, item writing, standard setting and auditing of results.

Amanda’s presentation is an informative insight into the stages of the test development process and how it’s possible, with technology such as Surpass, to continue these important activities remotely.

‘One of the fall-outs from the pandemic is that even when things go back to ‘normal’…a lot of people are going to end up doing this virtually anyway because we’re really discovering the tools and creating the processes that allow us to do it just as well as we would it person. So I would encourage you to explore those options now, and not let any of them hold you back from launching your programme.’ - Amanda Dainis

Watch Amanda’s presentation in full to find out more, or find out more about conducting standard setting activities remotely in this recent webinar.

Harry Patrinos - purple_sq

The potential impact of school closures is huge

We’ve all had to deal with the immediate impact of the pandemic, but one of the most eye-opening presentations came from Harry Patrinos, Practice Manager at World Bank Education, who presented some shocking predictions about the true cost of school closures, which has impacted more the 90% of the world’s learners.

Harry discusses the impact of learning loss, and the potential long-lasting effects of the pandemic, predicting that school closures will have a significant impact on future earnings, with an estimated 12-18% loss of future GDP.

Watch Harry’s presentation in full to learn more about the potential long-term impact of school closures.

David Price

We can’t let opportunities for change go to waste

Despite a year of disruption, all of the stories this year had an overwhelming sense of positivity and desire to build upon some of the positive changes that we’ve been forced to make over the last few months.

David Price OBE gave his reflections on the ‘learning moments’ from recent disruption to exam delivery and issuing of results, before urging us to maintain the momentum and become advocates for change.

‘This is our opportunity to do things differently, that we thought we couldn’t do before… you’ve only got to look at the way in which schools and colleges were able to flip almost overnight to remote learning, to see that blended learning…is not as difficult as we thought it was going to be.’ - David Price OBE 

Whilst many of the presentations reflected on the reaction to the pandemic, Microsoft’s Liberty Munson gave a passionate overview of the potential for technology to shape the future of assessment. Liberty called on delegates to challenge the status quo, and re-think how we assess skills.

‘The Cloud is fundamentally changing the way we interact with the world. Through the power of the Cloud, AI, machine learning, and associated technologies will fundamentally change how we think about skills validation and assessment design, development and delivery.’ – Liberty Munson

This year’s conference was a great success, and it was fantastic to hear so many positive stories from the community as well as hearing from some special guests.

Visit the conference site to re-visit all of the presentations mentioned above, as well as stories from Graeme Clark (SQA), Dave Mellor (AlphaPlus), Lori Severino and Mary Jean Tecce DeCarlo (Drexel University) and the Surpass team.

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