Computer Aided Examination

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Electronic supported assessment or e-Assessment is a field of growing importance, but it has yet to make a significant impact in the Australian higher education sector (Byrnes & Ellis, 2006). Current computer based assessment models focus on the assessment of knowledge rather than deeper understandings, using multiple choice type questions, and blocking access to more sophisticated software tools. This study explored a new system based on a customised version of an open source live CD, based on Ubuntu which was used with three groups of pre-service teachers (N=270). Students had divided opinions about using computers or paper for their examinations, but prior exposure to computer based assessment was a highly significant factor for preferring the computer medium. Reflecting upon their experience, students found the noise of computer keyboards a distraction during the eExamination and preferred fewer on-screen windows. The new system allowed eExaminations to be taken securely on student owned laptop computers and was supervised by invigilators without specialist information technology skills. The system has been made available for other researchers to use at http://www.eExaminations.org/ Introduction

Many educators ‘teach to the test’, with varying degrees of institutional support (Mathews, 2006). Therefore for information and communication technology (ICT) to produce educational transformation (Downes, Fluck, Gibbons, Leonard, Matthews, Oliver, Vickers & Williams, 2001, p.10; Finger, Russell, Jamieson-Proctor & Russell, 2007, p.73), educators must consider which assessment techniques permit students to utilise the affordances of new technology. Without a suitable, computer based way of conducting examinations (as an example of rigorous or standardised assessment), curriculum transformation may be unlikely to occur because assessment is a major determinant in teaching (Ainley & Searle, 2007, p.7). This report is preliminary, describing the development of an eExamination method and its use in pre-service teacher education. Using open source software developments, a set of tools has been created and trialled for candidates to use their own personal computer under examination conditions. These tools are available for others to investigate and download.

As flexible and online learning mediated by ICT becomes more pervasive, there is a growing need for educators to consider modes of assessment using similar tools. The cost of assessment in higher education is the most rapidly growing component of tuition fees (Ricketts, Filmore, Lowry & Wilks, 2003), whilst open content shrinks the cost of tuition and learning materials (Wales & Baraniuk, 2008). However, the increasing discrepancy between teaching through blended or online delivery with a learning content management system, and assessing using pen and paper, is another reason to consider ways in which candidates can verify their achievement whilst using510 Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 2009, 25(4) computers. In our experience online, computer based assessment is fraught with difficulties which are discussed in this report. Therefore the study focuses on a new proctored and offline, computer based assessment system.

Previous studies
The role of ICT in supporting the curriculum has been extensively evaluated by some large, governmen sponsored projects. The ICT and attainment review in England (Cox, Abbott, Webb, Blakeley, Beauchamp & Rhodes, 2003) found positive effects in almost all subjects, but particularly with specific uses such as word processing in English, modelling in mathematics, or using simulations in science. The authors noted: Researchers have often measured the ‘wrong’ things, looking for improvements in traditional...
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