InsperaUniversity assessment for the digital age

University assessment for the digital age

Digital tools have the potential to revolutionise the student journey, offering more flexible and relevant assessment alternatives to the traditional pen and paper exam. But is higher education ready to embrace them?

 Higher education’s digital transformation was undertaken in haste as the sector responded to the pandemic, but it presented universities with an opportunity to revolutionise the student journey. Digital technologies now complement the in-person delivery of teaching and learning and allow for a range of alternatives to traditional exam hall assessment.

At a round table, hosted by Times Higher Education in partnership with Inspera Assessment, industry leaders discussed the lessons higher education could take from its emergency pivot to digital delivery, and what this meant for the future of assessment.

Deveral Capps, dean at Leeds Beckett Law School, said the “genie is out of the bottle” – students liked the flexibility of digital assessment. There is an expectation from students that this is the new normal. Furthermore, digital platforms allowed universities to design assessments relevant to the subject, enhancing the student experience.

“From a teaching and learning, pedagogical perspective, the ability for us to be able to get some individuals to think differently and assess differently has been wondrous,” Capps said. “It is about what we call authentic assessment, or real-world assessment. It is about stepping away from three hours of trying to put as much as you possibly know on a page just to answer a question.”

Capps noted that students often performed better when assessment methodology was made appropriate for the learning outcome, and urged universities to take the opportunity to learn from their pandemic response and to incorporate their successes into a long-term assessment strategy.

Patrick Ryan, joint director of online learning at the Inns of Court College of Advocacy, agreed. “We are in a world now where we look at what we are assessing and figuring out the best method of assessment, and we do that from a point of view of not only the content of what we are assessing but also in terms of the access that students have,” Ryan said. “If we are honest with ourselves, there are better ways of assessing in certain areas than we have been used to previously, and what the pandemic has done is speed up our thinking on these things.”

Ishan Kolhatkar, UK general manager at Inspera Assessment, said assessment design was not an either/or question of having students sit tests on computers, perhaps remotely, or with pen and paper. The process is more complex and requires input from all stakeholders. “It is that collaboration of people making that digital/paper decision and then finally deciding what configuration would work best,” he said.

Ultimately, student feedback would be key. Kolhatkar said universities can assuage concerns surrounding issues like proctoring, and build consent for innovative assessment models by offering students a choice of assessment formats as Leeds Beckett does.

Challenges remain, with professional, statutory and regulatory requirements often complicating digital assessment design. Digital poverty is a key consideration to ensure all students enjoy a level playing field. But these were not insurmountable, the panel argued, and the potential for digital assessment to improve the student experience made them worth tackling head on.

The panel:

  • Deveral Capps, dean, Leeds Beckett Law School
  • Ishan Kolhatkar, UK general manager, Inspera Assessment
  • Alistair Lawrence, special projects editor, Times Higher Education(chair)
  • Patrick Ryan, joint director of online learning, Inns of Court College of Advocacy

Watch the webinar on demand above or on the THE Connect YouTube channel.

Find out more about Inspera.

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