Data is widely acknowledged as the world’s most valuable digital resource – and the ability to harvest value from it is what sets one organisation apart from another. As with other sectors, higher education must adopt innovative technologies to continuously realise the benefits of the data within their assessments. Gartner, the global tech advisory experts go as far as to list digital assessment technologies as being of strategic importance for the higher education sector.
This experience reflects what Rob Dear, Head of Sales at Speedwell Software, is seeing when universities adopt eAssessment technologies. “The democratisation of these technologies presents a real opportunity,” says Dear. “The ability for departments and teams of any size to access data smarts and use them to inform and improve the quality of their assessments will provide academics and departments with a huge potential advantage and capacity to differentiate themselves.”
When it comes to eAssessment, schools, departments and faculties that are realising gains in quality are pairing sophisticated question banking with statistical analysis and exam blueprinting, says Dear – allowing them to continuously improve their assessments, and in the process improve their institution’s reputation.
“As this technology becomes more accessible, processes that were complicated and time consuming become automated. Software, such as Speedwell’s eSystem, provide a powerful combination of actionable insights on each question and exam and information on whether the proposed exam assesses the course learning objectives – and this is where the potential for improvement lies for many assessors. This is low hanging fruit for teams who are keen to improve the quality of their assessments – and in the process enhance their school’s reputation.”
One team that is seeing the benefits of using the eSystem is the Faculty of Medicine, McGill University in Montreal, Canada. When McGill transitioned to a new undergraduate medical curriculum in 2013, it took the opportunity to adopt a single online assessment system to create, administer, analyse and report on all formative and summative exams for the program.
The advanced design and functionality of the eSystem’s question bank meant that McGill gained the visibility they needed, immediately. With multiple banks, questions tagged to several groups across the banks and the growing history of questions’ performance statistics is allowing it to continuously improve their assessments. Assistant Professor Valérie Dory comments: “Rethinking our approach to question banking has paid off for the Faculty of Medicine. The visibility we now have over the entire online examination management process means that we know where we need to improve – as educators and course directors we can see each individual question and exam and see at a glance how the assessment is performing and how our students are performing on course and programme objectives.”
When it comes to preparing exams, McGill relies on the blueprinting functionality. Dory comments: “With Speedwell’s exam blueprinting, we can see really easily where the gaps are in our item bank – and we know where we need to apply more effort, whether that is to create more questions or improve what we have. I am confident that the blueprinting function in addition to the statistics on a question’s performance will drive incremental improvements to our exams.”
Continuous improvement isn’t just the realm of educators, Dear points out. “Students can leverage their personalised exam and test feedback – directing more effort towards areas of the curriculum that need it, is easy when you can see at a glance how well you performed compared to your peers for example.”
For Dory having powerful feedback on questions, exams, candidates and programmes at her fingertips allows her to shape and make improvements: “From the outset, we were looking for exam management software that would support the Faculty’s move towards online learning and assessment. However the solution had to do more than this – we needed intuitive software that would support an integrated approach to assessment across teaching teams enabling efficiencies and improvements. And this is where the eSystem really stands out – the insights that the eSystem provides us means we can improve both our assessments and our teaching. Stronger, more robust assessments provide reassurance that our medical graduates will meet the high standards we demand of our graduates.”