The e-Assessment Question | Ufi VocTech Trust

The e-Assessment Question

Tuesday 16th April 2019Blog By Bob Harrison, Ufi Trustee

A few years ago a major concern expressed by teachers and educationists at the Ministerial Education Technology Action Group was that the testing regime was influencing how pupils and learners were being taught. Indeed 'teaching to the test' and 'the assessment tail wagging the pedagogical dog' were phrases often used to describe what was happening in schools and colleges.

How times have moved on.

Evidence from this year's e-Assessment Question conference suggests the situation has now flipped and that teaching and learning may benefit from looking closely at some of the technologies and assessment processes currently being used and piloted by a wide range of assessment organisations who are members of the e-assessment association (Membership is free).

Previously the robust discussions with the awarding organisations and the exams regulator Ofqual seemed like a never-ending version of pass the parcel - the awarding organisations were, and still are, anxious to ensure the assessment process is relevant to learner needs and takes advantage of digital technologies but remains reliable and valid. This undercurrent was still alive at the 17th e-Assessment Question Conference 'Transformation, Change and Evolution' held last week at the America Square Conference Centre and organised by the e-Assessment Association.

Almost two hundred delegates attended the two-day event which also coincided with the e-Assessment Awards event and dinner on the evening of day one.There were some big name players and there’s been some big investment in the digital dimension of assessment by several companies and they were all on show at the awards evening where I was privileged to be invited to give the keynote address inbetween the smoked mackerel starter and main course mutton. A list of the finalists and winners is here (new window).

The conference was a two-day smorgasbord of how digital technology is making assessment more accessible, engaging, reliable, relevant, robust, efficient and effective. It also explored how some new technologies, AI, Blockchain, VR, and more are beginning to shape the direction of travel and shift the paradigm from rows of desks, stifling exam halls, and the increasingly obsolete use of paper and pen.

One fascinating session entitled ‘The tension of e-assessment: Innovation versus Regulation’ explored the old chestnut once again and the presentation from the Scottish Qualifications Authority and Qualifications Wales suggests progress is being made towards a more innovative approach. Ofqual’s approach seemed more cautious.

Glasgow College showcased some interesting work they are engaged in supported by a £50K grant from the Ufi Trust to explore the use of blockchain for digital credentialing. Other fascinating sessions included remote invigilation, portfolios and assessment feedback, ensuring compliance in high risk markets, virtual assessments, diagnostic national assessments and many more. 

Ufi Trust supports innovative use of digital technology in further, vocational, and adult education and has grants up to £300k available across a series of project calls - sign up to the e-mail newsletter to stay up to date with the latest funding call information - newsletter sign up.

So the central challenges remain;

  • In a rapidly changing and evolving digital world how do awarding organisations ensure their methods are relevant, reliable, valid and offer value for money? 
  • How do schools and colleges and employers ensure they have a robust and secure digital infrastructure to support this obvious direction of travel?
  • Most importantly how do we all ensure that the assessment tail and pedagogic dog stay connected and wag together?

Next year's International e-Assessment Question Conference and Exhibition will take place in late April and have the overarching theme 'Diversity and Sustainability on a Global Scale'.

Bob Harrison is the Chair of Governors at Northern College, A school governor of a Secondary Modern in Trafford, An Honorary Life member of City and Guilds, a judge for the TESFE awards, BETT awards, E-Assessment awards and Learning Re-imagined awards. He is a visiting assessor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education Master’s degree in Learning Design with Technology and a Trustee of Ufi Trust.

You can follow him on Twitter @bobharrisonedu or contact him