From education to employment

How Remote Assessment has shone during COVID-19

Kelle McQuade

Remote assessment is nothing new to Training Qualifications UK; it’s not even new to the sector. We’ve been keen advocates of it for a little over three years now; ever since we embarked upon our End-Point Assessment journey in April 2017.

Where Apprenticeship Standards’ assessment plans have permitted, we’ve always sought to embed remote assessment methodologies during our End-Point Assessment design stage. This has ranged from the use of remote exam invigilation to the use of virtual meeting platforms for assessments such as professional discussions, presentations and interviews. Our Verve management system also enables links to be shared with a range of on-programme e-portfolio systems, making access to completed project work, reports and portfolio evidence easy.

Overall the appetite from partnering training providers and employers has been positive in terms of their readiness to undertake assessments in this way. Whilst some did express initial reservations about how it would work for their sector, over time they too have witnessed how this approach is as straightforward as more traditional methods.

This has been particularly evident during the last three months as the current pandemic has forced us to remove on-site face-to-face and paper-based assessment options. Feedback from concerned providers and Apprentices has confirmed that any nervousness they may have had was instantly removed when the process started. As a result, Apprentices have given positive feedback about how they were supported, put at ease and able to make the most of all assessment opportunities given to them.

We’ve always understood the benefits of remote assessment and the flexibility it brings to the delivery and undertaking of assessments. Equally, alongside that, we’ve also very clearly understood the need to balance flexibility with quality assurance to maintain assessment rigour throughout.

This has never been tested more than during recent times! As said above we’re very experienced at delivering assessments remotely, however the requirements have shifted now. Typically we’ve supported Apprentices to undertake remote assessments from a suitable environment within either their employer’s premises or their training provider’s, as these are locations that Apprentices are familiar with and therefore hopefully more comfortable in. Employers and On-Programme Assessors support the process well in working with us to review and secure a ‘controlled environment’ where the assessment can take place so that the Apprentice isn’t disturbed and there is less chance of the assessment being deemed invalid.

With more Apprentices being at home or working in slightly different locations or environments, we’ve needed to review our remote assessment guidelines in order to accommodate individual Apprentice circumstances whilst still ensuring that assessments are conducted in a suitable environment. This has included providing further detail and guidance to Apprentices around the use of remote invigilation, as well as spending more time with Apprentices during their assessment planning meetings.

In these meetings, Apprentices have an ideal opportunity to talk through where they might be planning to undertake their assessments and make sure they feel comfortable there. Assessors have the chance to ensure that they will be able to verify their Apprentices’ identity by asking a series of questions if webcam functionality is not available, confirm the environment as suitable by conducting a video sweep of the selected area and make sure that no assessment breaches occur. Recording assessments makes it easy for us to ensure that assessments take place appropriately.

The key to successful remote assessments is in making sure that the Apprentice does not feel overwhelmed.

End-Point Assessment can be a daunting prospect for Apprentices at the best of times, as it marks the climax of a lengthy training programme. Undertaking assessment during this period, where routines and ‘the norm’ are not in play, could very easily add to this apprehension. Our End-Point Assessors have understood this well and have skillfully used approved flexibilities and support techniques to try and make the experience as smooth as possible, ensuring comparability with the assessments undertaken by Apprentices before COVID-19.

So, where do we go from here? With so much unknown about what the future may bring and what ‘back to normal’ actually means, one thing we can be certain of is that there’s a meaningful place for remote assessment. We’ve seen how remote methods can overcome barriers to assessment, offer flexibilities for assessors and Apprentices, and give training providers and employers the reassurance they need that rigorous assessments are taking place. As the industry continues its path out of lockdown, we’re confident that even more learnings can be taken and innovations discovered, so that remote assessment can be the preferred method of assessment in the future.

Kelle McQuade, End Point Assessment Director, TQUK

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