Over at least the last 40 years, the increasing application of technology has been a key factor in changing the corporate learning and development (L&D) world. Among other things, it’s changing the way organisations deliver education to their workforces and the way they evaluate potential, as well as their existing, workers.
In particular, technology-delivered assessment – eAssessment – offers organisations cost savings, greater convenience and ease of marking compared with a traditional paper-based assessments. Moreover, in addition to speeding up qualification-awarding process, eAssessment can be less open to manipulation – making it more reliable and trustworthy in terms of regulatory and compliance issues.
According to Linda Steedman, CEO of the digital learning and assessment specialist, eCom Scotland, organisations that use eAssessment can benefit in ten ways:
- Administration is reduced. Before the exam, eAssessment saves time on printing and distributing exam documentation. Relevant information can be sent via email and, depending on the question types used, L&D professionals don’t need to spend hours marking papers and coordinating the delivery of results. Furthermore, an eAssessment solution which includes digital micro-credentialing – where digital ‘badges’ are issued to recognise skills and knowledge gained – avoids logistical challenges involved with issuing paper certificates. For security, micro-credentials include a unique code and meta-data allowing accredited centres, potential employers, organisations and individuals to confirm the credentials are valid and identify the credential-issuing organisation.
- Trainers can develop candidates’ competency. With eAssessment, L&D professionals can spend longer developing a candidate’s future skills because they spend less time preparing and marking exams. Most modern assessment systems – including eCom Scotland’s eNetAssess – allow developers to create a large question bank which can be set so every candidate gets a random selection of questions. This helps minimise question order bias and improve the assessment’s overall quality. Question bank compilers can work collaboratively, regardless of where they are in the world, to update or add questions to keep the question bank fresh and relevant.
- Tools to create accessible assessments. Using eAssessments, L&D professionals can make assessments accessible – for example, by changing background color or font size. The platform can be programmed to allocate extra time to specific candidates, if required. Tools such as navigation features and screen readers can be used to aid understanding along with other tools, such as voice recognition, that help with question answering. Not limited to the assessment stage, these tools can be applied to the digital learning materials made available before the eAssessment is taken. These changes in tutor practice and IT infrastructure can enhance – and transform – the way a person learns.
- Reporting. Using eAssessment gives organisations access to quick, clear reports on each candidate’s progress, identifying areas of strength and areas for further learning. L&D professionals can generate reports on how questions are being answered – to spot questions that may need changing, because they are too easy or difficult. Reports can be generated on assessment completion rates across the organisation and by department – to provide accurate, up-to-date reports for compliance/ regulatory purposes.
- Assessment becomes eco-friendly. Going paperless – via eAssessment – eliminates printing and transporting exam-related papers. There’s less need to travel to and from exam locations – so organisations’ and candidates’ carbon footprints are greatly reduced.
- Candidates get direct, immediate feedback. Many professionals believe that feedback is most effective when delivered as soon as possible after both formative and summative assessments. Automatic marking reduces marking time. In some cases, results can be delivered to candidates on the day of the assessment. This helps L&D professionals assess large numbers of candidates more easily. It also allows candidates to re-book immediately any tests they haven’t passed. This can be particularly helpful where compliance/regulatory issues are concerned.
- Taking exams digitally is now preferred. Globally, people are increasingly accustomed to using technology. Using technological devices as part of our daily lives, both at work and leisure, means we’re familiar with this way of working and are, arguably, now more comfortable interacting via technology than with paper and pen. eAssessments could even make candidates more relaxed and engaged when taking exams.
- Increased security. While managing and maintaining the security and safety of traditional exam paperwork can be stressful, many L&D professionals are sceptical about ensuring security with eAssessments. The best of todays’ eAssessment platforms – including eNetAssess – store all data safely and securely. For example, eNetAssess prevents candidates navigating to other websites, closing down the browser or opening any applications. It uses the latest encryption techniques and employs new security tools as they become available.
- Offering flexibility, scalability and worldwide reach. Easily scaled to meet the needs of any size of organisation, eAssessments enable candidates, regardless of location, to take exams via mobile phone, tablet or PC. So, candidates can use the most convenient device for them or one that best suits the assessment type. Moreover, some eAssessment platforms, including eNetAssess, offer a secure offline option, enabling testing centres with internet connectivity issues to offer the same eAssessment experience as those using online assessment.
- Notable cost savings. According to eCom Scotland’s calculations, switching to eAssessment can reduce costs by up to 43 per cent. Traditionally, key areas of assessment that incur cost are:
- Creation -Test design, item development and subject matter experts’ travel expenses.
- Production –Printing, collating, posting papers and handling these papers at the testing centre.
- Delivery -Venue and equipment hire, security, special needs adaptation, and posting papers to the test administrators’ headquarters.
- Invigilator and Administration –Invigilators’ and test administrators’ costs.
- Travel for quality assurance/site audit -Hotel costs, subsistence and travel.
- Marking and scoring -Posting papers to the markers; marking assessments; posting papers from markers to administration centres, and post-marking moderation activity.
- Certification -Certificate creation and posting.
“In addition,” believes Linda Steedman, “eAssessment can encourage active learning, especially when the assessment delivery is innovative and engaging. Using visuals and audio can help candidates focus on the exam subject matter, rather than looking at a long string of words, page after page – which can strain the brain. Content can have a variety of question types, making it easier to suit all types of assessment needs.”
By Bob Little
Bob Little is a UK-based writer, commentator and publicist, specialising in the corporate learning industry. Introduced to the corporate online learning technologies industry in May 1990, Bob now works globally, advising and helping promote organisations including the digital learning and assessment specialist, eCom Scotland, which creates solutions aimed at increasing learning engagement and driving productivity to help organisations achieve their goals.