How digital assessment can maximise skills and employability in ANZ

Universities in Australia and New Zealand must ensure that assessments are equitable, accessible and flexible, while equipping students with relevant skills to prepare them for the workplace

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7 Nov 2022
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Find out how Inspera makes assessment more inclusive, fair and relevant

At a round-table session held by Times Higher Education in partnership with Inspera, experts from Australia and New Zealand’s higher education sector discussed the ways universities set assessment criteria and the importance of equipping students with the skills to enter the workforce. The round-table discussion also raised questions about what measures universities could implement to tackle academic misconduct.

Jennie Shaw, deputy vice-chancellor and vice-president (academic) at the University of Adelaide, said one way to ensure that students graduate with workplace skills is through “either a compulsory placement or, in some cases, a voluntary internship”. “You’ve got to balance what the student wants to do and what the university expects in terms of standards that will be met at the end of placements,” she said.

The need to offer flexible assessment was stressed by Dawn Bennett, assistant provost at Bond University. She noted that students are managing multiple commitments during their studies, which stretch beyond just learning: “They need to be maintaining, for instance, part-time work in order to feed themselves.” By making assessment more flexible, institutions ensure that all students are able to access fair assessment.

Trevor Richard Nesbit, academic developer at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, said one way his institution was designing more equitable assessment was by making resources available in the Māori language and encouraging students to submit assessments in Māori if it is their first language.

The panellists also discussed how digital transformation is changing the way assessments are set. Andrew Woodward, executive dean of the School of Science at Edith Cowan University, explained that digital and hybrid assessments have increased flexibility, improving access for students in different locations. However, he said, for subjects where in-person lab work is essential, digital assessment isn’t always the most effective option.

One challenge that universities face when designing assessment is limiting academic dishonesty. Grant Beevers, senior digital assessment consultant (ANZ) at Inspera, suggested that measures such as “implementing an education programme to students, implementing some technology that’s going to allow you to reduce that [academic dishonesty], changing and redesigning the way in which we deliver assessments” could work together to reduce misconduct.

The discussion moved to microcredentials, with Robyn Latimer, associate dean of design and creative technology at Torrens University Australia, suggesting that many students prefer not to complete a whole course made up of microcredentials. These stackable modules were better suited to “broader rather than deeper learning experiences, particularly for people wanting to upskill”, she said.

Bennet highlighted that Australia’s current policy framework makes it difficult for universities to provide teaching in the form that lifelong learners require. “The ways in which the workforce wants to [upskill] is through just-in-time learning, microcredentials, not-for-credit microcredentials and single-subject enrolments…What we really need for Australian universities to be able to meet the needs for lifelong learning is some policy change.”

Beevers noted that universities must listen to what students want in order to best meet their needs and design new models of teaching and assessment, such as subscription learning. “It’s a great and exciting time to be involved in this. Where it goes at this stage is hard to say,” he concluded.

The panel:

  • Grant Beevers, senior digital assessment consultant (ANZ), Inspera
  • Dawn Bennett, assistant provost, Bond University
  • Liz Goode, senior lecturer, office of the pro vice-chancellor (academic quality), Southern Cross University
  • Gitanjali Goswami, branded content manager (APAC), Times Higher Education (chair)
  • Robyn Latimer, associate dean, design and creative technology, Torrens University Australia
  • Joanne Munn, senior lecturer, academic practice, Centre of Teaching and Learning, Southern Cross University
  • Trevor Richard Nesbit, academic developer, University of Canterbury
  • Jennie Shaw, deputy vice-chancellor and vice-president (academic), University of Adelaide
  • Rachel Spronken-Smith, professor in higher education and geography, University of Otago
  • Andrew Woodward, executive dean, School of Science, Edith Cowan University

Find out more about Inspera.

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