The Power of Computer Based Question Authoring Tools

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Improving the Quality of Tests by Moving from Paper-Based Tests to E-assessment Technologies.

While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced the question of online assessment for examiners, it will be asked again… and again… and again as the extent of the digital landscape continues to dominate our daily lives.

Online assessment is known to be a powerful tool in assessing globally dispersed learners and for increasing flexibility for test takers. But one major advantage of computer-based exams that does not make the headlines is the wide range of question types available. Online assessment allows examiners to move beyond multiple choice, without a great increase in administration, since many of the available question types can still be autoscored.

Building Practical Assessments for Students

When we have conversations about what makes a high-quality assessment, we must also consider how these assessments reflect the real-life scenario that they are trying to assess. While fairness and security often top the list of assessor requirements, practicality and comfort are just as important. Many professionals could not fathom taking an exam with pen and paper after years of working with powerful Excel worksheets, word processors and video conferencing software.

One of the most obvious examples is a written driving test. While it can be useful to test knowledge alone, such assessments are wholly insufficient in measuring a test takers readiness for the road. So why then are so many assessments at not only the secondary and university level, but also professional level, taking place on pen and paper still? When examining bodies do eventually decide to make the move, we find they are astonished at the possibilities.

The reality is some accounting exams are still taking place on pen and paper while there are no professional accountants still using such deprecated calculation methods. Computer-based tools that students use daily can easily be mimicked within a computer-based exam, so that the candidates will be as comfortable filling in their essay or spreadsheet response as they would be typing into a Word document or Excel spreadsheet. Practical tests can use video resources to create a real-time scenario-based type assessment. In addition, assessors can use video recording questions to allow candidates to recreate presentations or interview type responses.

Choosing the Right E-assessment Tool for Question Authoring

When making the switch to online assessment, examining bodies are often looking to re-create their current tests like-for-like. This is a very practical way to make the switch since it will cut down on the time it takes to get the assessment up and running. However, it remains very important for examining bodies to understand the e-assessment landscape and the varying degree of functionalities offered through the different types of assessment authoring software. It is important to keep this in mind early on in any transition to computer-based exams, because when an organisation is ready to explore the possibilities of complex question types, it would be a shame to be hindered by using a solution that only provides the option to ask basic multiple choice style questions.

When assessing potential online assessment suppliers, look at the full range of question item types available, both auto-scored and constructed-response questions. Also, look at how flexible the solution is in allowing in-exam resources to be displayed alongside questions. With auto-scored questions, is there a lot of variety of styles of questions, to enable flexibility when an organisation wish to move away from single-best answer MCQs? What innovation is employed in providing more advanced question styles using mixed-media, such as images, audio playback, video capture and more? Think to the future and what types of questions may be useful as your organisation expands question styles and qualification types.

Other Benefits of Computer Based Question Authoring

A good range of question types gives a great deal of flexibility in constructing your exam papers and helps to create an immersive assessment experience for exam candidates. There are also many other benefits to creating questions online, which are worth considering:

  • When multiple writers and subject matter experts are writing question items, using a collaborative online authoring system helps give a structure to the item creation process. There is a central repository where all questions are stored, and depending on the system, you can manage access and permissions so authors can access only the question banks relevant to them.
  • Being able to review questions, provide comments, and share them around online, before agreement is reached to add them to the question bank, greatly reduces the amount of time involved in developing and approving new questions.
  • Being able to preview questions in the form they will appear in an actual exam paper, as you write them, can really help authors to construct the question in a user-friendly way.

The Experience of the Question Author

If the realities of using an online question authoring tool like TestReach are of interest, you can read more in this blog post from exam writer Charlotte Warr. Read more here: A Personal Experience of On-Screen Question Authoring.

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