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Problems within assessment 

A lot of awarding bodies are trying to make that transition to e-assessment. Some of them have done so successfully; others, for a number of reasons, have not. The major issue is making that shift of resources from the actual delivery of e-assessment to the creation of e-assessment. It's moving the money, or being familiar with the costs incurred when transporting a lot of scripts around the country by post, and understanding the cost of creating e-assessment obviously making sure you"re dedicating resources to ensure they are a fair reflection of the curricula.

How e-assessment would alleviate problems

A lot of the issues with the transportation of scripts are well documented. What we tend to say, in terms of creation, is that by really talking to examiners, to assessors, is to move them into writing really good exam questions, and to really do the job that they are supposed to be doing. As opposed to instances where, for example, "office staff" were marking GCSE papers, or people who don"t have the same level of experience as a good assessor or good examiner.

E-assessment is really taking away a lot of that burden, and really enabling the assessors to do the job that they love, and want to do.

Would e-assessment would create easier exams?

Not necessarily. I think the main thing with e-assessment is that you must have comparability with the previous paper-based exams. E-assessment should enable students, parents and organisations to be able to measure year-on-year, to ensure it remains robust.

Bureaucracy

I think technology has really opened a lot of eyes, in terms of what's available and whilst you must appreciate that there are certain rules and regulations you must adhere to, particularly in an international context where you have people taking UK exams outside of the national boundaries, you do have to have those checks and measures to make sure people are doing what they say they should be doing in an exam.

In terms of bureaucracy, we"re in a better position now as we have a lot more clarity about the exam process "“ I don"t think we"re quite there yet with the full clarity, but e-assessment does allow an organisation to get real transparency on the costs of assessment. I talked before about shifting a lot of the resources toward the creation of exams "“ a lot of large organisations are fully conversant with the costs of developing exams.

The reaction of assessors in implementing e-assessment 

Kathleen talked about assessors requiring the skills to implement the technology - it is probably to the same degree [of difficulty] as a word processing package, or a package you use on a common desktop computer. It is not in anybody's interests to make this technology hard to understand. The good thing is that there is visibility of e-assessment within a number of different areas; that people are more comfortable with the technology, and the security that you have in an e-assessment exam centre is the same or even higher than what you would get in a normal exam hall.

How Government can help

I think a lot of Government agencies have their hands in e-assessment to a certain extent. If Government can raise visibility we"re not asking for pots of cash here then we can highlight the numerous good examples out there.

Funding

Cost is obviously an understandable concern, but a lot of the infrastructure is already in place. If you want to book your candidates through an exam centre, then there are a number of e-assessment channels throughout the UK. If you have candidates who want to study at your UK college, we can provide that as a service. A lot of the costs are really in trying to shift the resources from getting examiners into an exam hall and getting those papers printed up at the delivery stage. The greater transparency of exam development is really starting to come to the fore, and that is where, increasingly, the money and resources will have to go.

Fees are rising within certain examinations the people who are buying into these exams have got to see that they are value for money. What we will probably see is that different organisations will start to look at this market and they will start to compare whether it is good value for money or if it is applicable to the subjects they are teaching. E-assessment is becoming a differentiator for them.

Awarding body problems

A lot of the larger awarding bodies do have the resources and have overcome a lot of the problems. A lot of niche players such as beauty therapy for example, will come to a crossroads probably in the next couple of years, to assess their own relevance outside of an e-assessment context. I think there will be a period of activity where a lot of alliances will be formed [where smaller bodies ally with larger, more resourceful ones].

The bigger picture that we are seeing is that while a lot of the UK organisations are trying to extend their geographic reach, you are seeing a lot of international organisations delivering in the UK now.

International differences

The international guys do tend to take a lot of best practice that they see from private business, and try to take a more holistic view.

Is the UK's assessment base is falling behind?

Not at all. There are a lot of great examples and there is a lot of visionary work being done, not just by our company, but a lot of Government organisations and many private companies too. There are good examples of diagnostic assessment. In terms of high stakes exams, the UK, US and Australia are really the countries at the forefront. However, while there are outstanding examples, I don't think we can afford to become complacent.

Assessment is going to have to become more attuned to the needs of business, but also, it is going to have to be more attuned to the needs of candidates and people who buy into learning programmes.

E-assessment is going to be a huge differentiator.

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