Feeding back from eAssessment Scotland

 Posted by Steve Lay

eAssessment Scotland is an annual event hosted by the University of Dundee in Scotland.

This year’s conference had a very clear theme: Feeding Back, Forming the Future. I have to say that the programme was managed very well to fit with this theme and that the theme also fits well with the current mood of the wider community. For example, in the UK as a whole the JISC have an ongoing programme on assessment and feedback, and this event provided an opportunity for some of those projects to report on their progress.

I do find that ”feedback’ can be a very general term. In the opening keynote, Professor David Boud, University of Technology Sydney provided an analysis of the subject through a 3-generation model of feedback. At one point he encouraged us to “position feedback as part of learning and not as an adjunct to assessment”.

I sensed that assessment was being used in an Assessment of  Learning sense here. This contrasts with “Assessment for Learning”, these phrases are simpler ways of expressing the basic idea behind summative and formative assessment respectively. It is the latter which generates the type of feedback that could potentially meet the challenge posed by Dr Steve Draper, University of Glasgow: What If Feedback Only Counted When it Changed the Learner?

From the tone of the discussion at the conference, I do sense that the higher-education community is trying hard to adapt to the new perceptions of formal, informal and experiential learning reflected in the 70:20:10 model of education and development — by continuing to embrace the value of formal learning while adopting other modes of learning.

The 10% is sometimes summarised as being the part of our learning effected by formal courses (and reading). Feedback is reserved for the 20% where we learn from our peers. Many of the presentations were about embracing social systems to attempt to exploit these modes of feedback.

Clearly, assessment can have an important role to play in assessment for learning but I took away the impression that this community sometimes needs reminding that understanding the purpose of an assessment is vital to its success. Combining assessment for learning and assessment of  learning may not be fruitful.

eAssessment in the Cloud, Sunshine or Thunderstorm?

Sunshine or Thunderstorm?Posted by John Kleeman

Earlier this week, I presented at the online part of the eAssessment Scotland conference on the advantages and disadvantages for academic institutions of using eAssessment in the Cloud “on-demand” or installing it “on-premise” within the institution. Does an on-demand eAssessment service give continual sunshine to a university or college? Or is it safer to install it locally and go on-premise? What questions do you need to ask about the potential thunderstorms using the Cloud?

Questionmark offers both Questionmark Perception, an installable assessment management system, and Questionmark OnDemand, our scalable software-as-a-service system, so we can see the pros and cons of both approaches- and can offer some unbiased advice.

Here is the presentation I gave – you can see it embedded at the end of the post or else view it on the Questionmark Slideshare site.

The presentation suggests that for a university or college, on-demand may be stronger in these areas:

  • Access to innovation
  • Speed/flexibility of deployment
  • Reliability and uptime
  • Scalability
  • Security and cheating
  • Getting IT bandwidth

And that 0n-premise may be stronger in these:

  • Ease of customization/integration
  • Connectivity
  • Governments accessing your data

In these areas, you need to look into the details to determine what would work best in your situation:

  • Data protection
  • Can you change providers?
  • Costs, features and other factors

I believe that for a lot of universities and colleges on-demand offers a lot of value. This is especially so if their IT department is focused elsewhere and does not easily have the bandwidth to manage eAssessment. But it is very important to get your solution right, and if you’re looking at On-demand, you might like to read a paper I presented at the 2012 International Computer Assisted Assessment Conference on How to Decide between On-demand and On-premise eAssessment. This includes a lot of useful questions to ask potential providers when evaluating potential on-demand solutions. You can see the paper here.

I hope you find the presentation useful.