E-assessment journey. Examining excellence

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In December I attended a conference on e-assessments at BPP University. For me the day seemed to develop in two ways; one focusing more on the philosophy of assessment and the other on the practical side of implementing an e-assessment tool, which in this case was a platform that I had not come across before called Inspera

An introduction by BPP’s Ishan Kolhatkar, focusing on lessons learnt when BPP implemented online assessment on their Law courses, set us up for the day. Then there was a presentation on the language of e-assessment by Peter Alston, BPP University.  Peter carried out institutional ethnographic research around e-assessments which involved interviewing 23 staff as well as reviewing institutional documentation. Based on the idea that we are all carriers of specific workplace routines, multiple pattern configurations develop within different departments across the same university resulting in inconsistent practices. Therefore, universities need to engage across the institution to facilitate innovation by bringing together these fragmented aspects. What I personally liked was Peter mentioning the notion of a third space. Within this space there tend to be the disrupters and innovators; including learning technologists and educational developers (yay!).  However, most educational institutions tend to hold a binary view of how roles are structured, implicit in the institutional language, which can result in tensions in work practices. Therefore for successful e-assessment implementation, and presumably any other innovation, rigid frameworks need to be dismantled; definitions clarified and communicated around what e-assessment actually means in different contexts. It is a discursive process, contextually mediated and rendered at an institutional level.

Next was Mary Richardson. Associate Professor in Educational Assessment at UCL. She also gave a rather philosophical look at assessment in HE and put forward the idea that assessment is the creation of a story/ narrative around learning that should go way beyond an individual test or exam. Furthermore, the notion that all assessment in HE is high stakes is so ingrained in the system that it can impact life chances on an unreasonable level. Lastly, the point that anonymous marking does not allow the lecturer to see the distance travelled for individual students, was one that I always wondered about.

One of the last presentations of the day was from an employer. Adam Curphey from Reed Smith, an international law firm, argued that there should be more of a focus on the skill sets needed in the legal world. However, students will not really give much importance to the development of these much-needed skills as they are not usually part of a formal assessment. Again something that is so ingrained in current thinking and practice but that Adam felt needed to be revised.

On a practical level, and punctuated across the day, were presentations from different universities including Bath University, Charmers university, and the Kozminksi Business University In Warsaw. All sharing their experiences of setting up the e-assessment tool Inspera.

In summary, it was felt that Inspera can be a little overwhelming, to begin with. However, potentially less time is spent on marking, though more time on setting it up, and teachers can collaborate remotely. Furthermore, it allows for much richer feedback to students, which resonated with the day’s theme of a more rounded approach in assessing. Inspera also supports the lock-down browser; locking students’ device into a full-screen testing environment until they submit their assignment. Other positives were that complex questions can be set up without reverting to the essay function and if the WiFi drops students’ work is not lost (that seemed particularly popular). However, PDF functionality is not very good and the headache of thinking about the implications of BYOD, such as ensuring there were enough power points, was a common issue.

Final tips were training up lots of invigilators, check WiFi coverage and signpost clearly to students what and when support is available, particularly if they are doing an open book exam at home.

Case studies around the use of Inspera here.


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