Professor Keith Straughan is the CEO and co-founder of Axiologs

“Let’s stave off another crisis in UK schools and universities in 2021 by embracing online assessment” says Professor Keith Straughan 

Last week, schools in Wales closed their doors to pupils and staff in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. A similar picture looks likely for other parts of the UK, too, as we move into 2021.

Almost every academic institution has faced unprecedented disruption this past year.

Many have, perforce, shifted their learning online, and taken on partnerships with major Ed-Tech providers, such as Chegg, Google and Microsoft, to cope with the loss of physical provision, while leading universities including Cambridge, Durham and Oxford have moved some courses online, in their entirety.

Taken together, these changes have altered the learning experience for millions of UK students and thrust the role digital learning – a hitherto niche component of institutional frameworks – to the centre of academic planning.

As we approach the end of 2020, blended learning – of digital and traditional teaching methods – is now a staple in many education settings. The perception of EdTech has, in turn, shifted, from being a pragmatic emergency solution, to a transformative and long-term educational tool.

Moving critical assessment online has lagged behind

Yet, the situation for examinations has so far lagged, and comparatively few institutions have taken the step of moving critical assessment online. The disparity between learning and assessment was evidenced, earlier this summer, when almost all UK schools and universities, having pivoted adroitly to on-line teaching, suspended their end-of-year examinations – and shifted from a starting position of algorithm-led grading back to the determinations of teaching staff. Chaos ensued.

The media storm that surrounded the summer crisis proved how messy assessment has become in the current climate – a reality that was hammered home, again, last month, when Wales’s devolved administration extended its suspension of examinations through to the end of 2021.

It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that government bodies, and a large number of schools and universities, are now seriously exploring the possibility of moving critical assessment online, where possible, in an effort to avoid a second suspension next year.

Technology has come a long way this past year

Previously, the underlying difficulty with the deployment of technological solutions has centred on identifying a platform that can accommodate multiple disciplines, and which can be tailored to the needs of individual institutions. There have also been reasonable concerns by awarding bodies, and traditionalists, about the rigour of online platforms in comparison to physical in-person testing.

Fortunately, technology has come a long way this past year, and there are now a number of options that institutions can use, and scale up, across their disciplines.

Due to its adaptability, one such platform, Tenjin, offers real hope for those looking to escape the COVID quagmire. Designed by a global team of academics, innovators and Ed-Tech professionals headquartered in London, it provides its partner institutions with a secure and scalable platform in which to host critical examinations. Among its many features, Tenjin utilises sophisticated biometric verification to confirm the identity of a candidate from facial and voiceprints. It also checks-in on their test environment and location on a semi continuous basis throughout the assessment and ensures that the security of a traditional exam hall is largely replicated.

The benefits of having such a platform, and the ability to host examinations remotely, en masse, are enormous. For academic decision-makers, it strips away costly invigilation, printing and administration, while, at the same time, offering additional capacity. While, for students, it provides the opportunity to sit an exam in a location of their choice – be that from their halls of residence, university library, or their parents’ home – and ensures that their assessment is both rigorous and fair.

Although adoption of digital assessment tools is now growing at pace, it unlikely that they’ll be ready, as a substitute, for in-person testing by January. However, it is reasonable to think that the likes of Tenjin, and other platforms, could be ready in the time for the May-June examination window – with the backing of government and awarding bodies.

If this happens, and exams can be saved in any measure in 2021, the damage wrought by COVID-19 will have at least yielded some silver linings in the UK. Technologies, which were previously on the margins of institutional frameworks, will have established their place as key items of delivery – while stakeholders, government, and unions, will have shown that they are prepared and willing to embrace technological change for the benefit of students.

Professor Keith Straughan is the CEO and co-founder of Axiologs

Five major barriers to online and on-screen assessment:

  1. IT provision in schools and colleges
  2. Insufficient or unreliable internet and local network capabilities
  3. Staffing
  4. Security
  5. Planning

Online and / or on-screen assessment has been successfully implemented in a number of international jurisdictions, an Ofqual review has found (14 Dec).

The review, however, found five major barriers associated with taking this approach in England. 

None are insurmountable, given the will, but together they do confirm that England could not move large-scale standardised tests (such as such as GSCEs and A Levels) on line in the immediate future, unless the five key barriers to greater adoption of online and on-screen assessments in high stakes qualifications are overcome.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page