Agony aunt

November 16, 2001

Q: Are we any nearer a computer system that meets the assessment needs of students, lecturers, administrators and technical staff?

You hate marking. Students don't much like the assessment process either, but they accept that it motivates them to learn and gives credibility to their qualifications. So can computers make the process any easier?

The nightmare scenario of a lab full of angry students who lose their work five minutes before the end of an exam is a disincentive to would-be computer-based assessment pioneers. Not to mention the subsequent recriminations at departmental meetings.

This is unfortunate because there are sophisticated and reliable systems that allow students to engage in innovative assessment, assist those with special needs and improve the validity of the process.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority debacle aside, computers mark multiple-choice exams as consistently and more accurately than humans do. They cut out administrative work. We will be seeing a lot more of them.

Niall Sclater
Manager Educational Systems
University of Strathclyde

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