A partridge in a pear tree

Day 1. Before you start….Think!  What is the purpose of this assessment?  What are you trying to achieve? Is it assessment of learning (summative) or assessment for learning (formative)? Or perhaps it is diagnostic – providing information for your students and you about how well they are doing. How important are the feedback interventions that you provide for students? What are you trying to assess? – knowledge or skills?, recall or problem solving?

Before I go any further, I’d better revisit my definition of ‘eAssessment’. This can be taken to refer to any assessment-related activity in which technology is used, so might include the electronic submission of tutor-marked assignments, the use of e-portfolio or the assessment of student engagement in a synchronous or asynchronous discussion. For most of the ‘Twelve Days of Better eAssessment’ I will restrict myself to assessment that is delivered online and marked automatically, simply because this is what I know most about. However, I prefer the broader definition and will probably return to other types of eAssessment around the time Lords are Leaping, Pipers Piping or Drummers Drumming – I’ll just have to wait and see how the series of blog posts pan out. But for now, for ‘eAssessment’ think automatic marking of student responses to questions, delivered online.

Returning to the importance of thinking before you start, it is very important to consider whether you should be using eAssessment at all. eAssessment’s big advantage is its ability to provide instantaneous feedback,  but in some situations (e.g. the assessment of performance) it is simply not the right tool to use. Sometimes people use eAssessment to save money, but well written questions don’t come cheap or easy. So for cost effectiveness to be a good reason for using eAssessment, you need high student numbers and/or assessment that can be re-used from year to year.

Some people use eAssessment for its perceived objectivity, but be careful – your questions may not be assessing quite what you think they are – a theme to which I will return! There is some evidence that some students find it easier to accept feedback from a computer – perceived to be impersonal – than from a human marker. However, if a computer delivers feedback which the student does not find helpful, the electronic approach will soon go out of favour.

My final ‘thinking point’ is a reminder that questions that were written for pen and paper tests will not necessarily behave in the same way if delivered electronically.

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