Education not technology must dominate online exams

13 September 2011

Speaking at the Westminster Education Forum event in London today (13 September 2011), Cambridge Assessment's Group Chief Executive Simon Lebus will explain that many schools simply do not yet have enough machines to allow high numbers of students to take exams at the same time. Tests must be taken at the same time to ensure fairness.

Computer-based testing is widely used for practical and professional certification in the aviation, medicine, law and finance industries. In the education sector, despite technology playing a key part in examination administrative processes with millions of GCSE exam papers being marked online every year, the use of computer-based testing in high-stakes assessments (those leading directly to higher education or employment) remains low.

In the UK, we are beginning to move to an internet-enabled model of e-assessment, using students' own laptops. Computer-based testing can bring benefits to education by offering on-demand testing, quicker turnaround of results, better and authentic item types and improved security.

In terms of high-stakes examinations it is important, Simon warns, to ensure that tests are 'fit for purpose' and used to measure subject knowledge, not students' ICT skills.

Speaking earlier this year, he commented: "It's no idea having the technology right if we haven't got the ideology and philosophy right. In fact, we should only ever switch where high stake e-assessment is more effective than pen and paper."

Simon predicts that over the next 10-15 years, the UK will continue to see a migration, albeit a slow one, towards e-assessment in high stakes examinations, with different subjects migrating at different paces.

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