Digital assessment (DA) is the delivery of assessments, tests, surveys, and other measures via digital devices such as computers, tablets, and mobile phones. It typically leverages additional technology such as the Internet or Intranets. The primary goal is to be able to develop items, publish tests, deliver tests, and provide meaningful results – as quickly, easily, and validly as possible. To produce digital assessment, its design, performance, and feedback must be driven by modern technology, typically cloud-based digital assessment platforms. Such platforms do much more than just the delivery though, and modules include:
- Item banking (authoring, review, metadata)
- Online test delivery
- Remote proctoring
- Adaptive testing
- Essay scoring
Why is Digital Assessment Getting So Popular?
Obviously, it is not solely because of the pandemic, it is because people have seen that things can be done differently and in more efficient ways than before. Globalization and digital technology are rapidly changing the world of education. Teaching and learning are becoming more learner-centric, and technology provides an opportunity for assessment to be integrated into the learning process with corresponding adjustments. Furthermore, digital technology grants opportunities for teaching and learning to move their focus from content to critical thinking. Teachers are already implementing new strategies in classrooms, and assessment needs to reflect these changes, as well. Even after the pandemic ends, the education will never be the way it was before, and the world will have to admit the benefits that DA brings. Let’s look critically at pros and cons of DA.
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Advantages of Digital Assessment
One of the main pros of DA is the ease-of-use for staff and learners—examiners can easily set up questionnaires, determine grading methods, and send invitations to examinees. In turn, examinees do not always have to be in a classroom setting to take assessments and can do it remotely in a more comfortable environment. In addition, DA gives learners the option of taking practice tests whenever they are available for that.
DA allows educators quickly evaluate performance of a group against an individual learner for analytical and pedagogical reasons. Report-generating capabilities of DA enable educators to identify learning problem areas on both individual and group levels soon after assessments occur in order to adapt to learners’ needs, strengths, and weaknesses. As for learners, DA provides them with instant feedback, unlike traditional paper exams.
Conducting exams online, especially those at scale, seems very practical since there is no need to print innumerable question papers, involve all school staff in organization of procedures, assign invigilators, invite hundreds of students to spacious classrooms to take tests, and provide them with answer-sheets and supplementary materials. Thus, flexibility of time and venue, lowered human, logistic and administrative costs lend considerable preeminence to DA over traditional exam settings.
In this digital era, our utmost priority should be minimizing detrimental effects on the environment that pen-and-paper exams bring. Mercilessly cutting down trees for paper can no longer be the norm as it has the adverse environmental impact. DA will ensure that organizations and institutions can go paper-free and avoid printing exam papers and other materials. Furthermore, DAs take up less storage space since all data can be stored on a single server, especially in respect to keeping records in paper.
Enhanced privacy for students is another advantage of DA that validates its utility. There is a tiny probability of malicious activities, such as cheating and other unlawful practices that can potentially rig the system and lead to incorrect results. Secure assessment system supported by AI-based proctoring features makes students embrace test results without contesting them, which, in turn, fosters a more positive mindset toward institutions and organizations building a stronger mutual trust between educators and learners.
The benefits of DA include setting up an automated grading system, more convenient and time-efficient than standard marking and grading procedures, which minimizes human error. Automated scoring juxtaposes examinees’ responses against model answers and makes relevant judgements. The dissemination of technology in e-education and the increasing number of learners demand a sophisticated scoring mechanism that would ease teachers’ burden, save a lot of time, and ensure fairness of assessment results. For example, digital assessment platforms can include complex modules for essay scoring, or easily implement item response theory and computerized adaptive testing.
Those involved in designing, managing and evaluating assessments are aware of the tediousness of these tasks. Probably, the most routine process among assessment procedures is manual invigilation which can be easily avoided by employing proctoring services. Smart exam software, such as FastTest, features the options of automated item generation, item banking, test assembling and publishing, saving precious time that would otherwise be wasted on repetitive tasks. Examiners should only upload the examinees’ emails or ids to invite them for assessment. The best part about it all is instant exporting of results and delivering reports to stakeholders.
- Public relations and visibility
There is a considerably lower use of pen and paper in the digital age. The infusion of technology has considerably altered human preferences, so these days an immense majority of educators rely more on computers for communication, presentations, digital designing, and other various tasks. Educators have an opportunity to mix question styles on exams, including graphics, to make them more interactive than paper ones. Many educational institutions utilize learning management systems (LMS) for publishing study materials on the cloud-based platforms and enabling educators to evaluate and grade with ease. In turn, students benefit from such systems as they can submit their assignments remotely.
Disadvantages of Digital Assessment
- Difficulty in grading long-answer questions
DA copes brilliantly with multiple-choice questions; however, there are still some challenges with grading long-answer questions. This is where DA intersects with the traditional one as subjective answers ask for manual grading. Luckily, technology in the education sector continues to evolve and even essays can already be marked digitally with a help of AI-features on the platforms like FastTest.
- Need to adapt
Implementing something new always brings disruption and demands some time to familiarize all stakeholders with it. Obviously, transition from traditional assessment to DA will require certain investments to upgrade the system, such as professional development of staff and finances. Some staff and students might even resist this tendency and feel isolated without face-to-face interactions. However, this stage is inevitable and will definitely be a step forward for both educators and learners.
- Infrastructural barriers & vulnerability
One of the major cons of DA is that technology is not always reliable and some locations cannot provide all examinees with stable access to electricity, internet connection, and other basic system requirements. This is a huge problem in developing nations, and still remains a problem in many areas of well-developed nations. In addition, integrating DA technology might be very costly in case of wrong strategies while planning assessment design, both conceptual and aesthetic. Such barriers hamper DA, which is why authorities should consider addressing them prior to implementing DA.
To sum up, implementing DA has its merits and demerits, as outlined above. Even though technology simplifies and enhances many processes for institutions and stakeholders, it still has some limitations. Nevertheless, all possible drawbacks can be averted by choosing the right methodology and examination software. We cannot reject the necessity to transit from traditional form of assessment to digital one, admitting that the benefits of DA outweigh its drawbacks and costs by far. Of course, it is up to you to choose whether to keep using hard copy assessments or go for online option. However, we believe that in the digital era all we need to do is to plan wisely and choose an easy-to-use and robust examination platform with AI-based anti-cheating measures, such as FastTest, to secure credible outcomes.
Laila is an experienced educator and an Educational Measurement specialist with expertise in item and test development, setting standards, analyzing, interpreting, and presenting data based on Classical Test Theory (CTT) and Item Response Theory (IRT). As a professional, Laila is primarily interested in employing IRT methodology and AI technologies to educational improvement.