|Ben Newby our Chief Digital Officer explores the development of digital assessment, particularly in relation to Qualifications Wales’ ‘Qualified for the Future’ project, and how we can utilise digital tools to improve learners experience.|
“The world around us is changing rapidly and my team is looking closely at how we reflect those changes in the way we embrace technology in the assessment space.
“We’ve been offering on-screen exams for the past fifteen years and are very proud of our heritage and experience. We’re committed to continuing the provision of assessments that are more engaging, provide a richer experience for learners and overcome both social and physical challenges, of which digital assessments play a very large part.
“At present, we offer two types of digital assessments: E-assessments, which are exams completed and marked electronically, on a screen, and E-submissions, where a learner’s coursework is submitted electronically and assessed via a secure web-based platform. This summer, over 12,000 candidates sat e-assessments across general and vocational qualifications. In one subject alone, Digital Technology, there were over 5,000 simultaneous candidates. We also assess over 200,000 pieces of digital coursework each year.
“Working within a consortium of tech providers, consultants and specialists in assessment design, we are proud to also offer personalised e-assessments. These provide a position of learners as they go through their secondary school career in reading and writing, and is an area is which Wales is really leading the way.
“As with any form of examination, accessibility for learners has and will also continue to be a key consideration. Our e-assessments come with a number of adaptations, including a range of colour palettes, font sizes and audio options.
“Looking to the future, Qualification Wales’ ‘Qualified for the Future’ project is a massive opportunity for us to allow even more learners and centres to experience the many benefits of e-assessment, evolving at a pace which the system can support.
“Learners are already used to an environment where teaching comes in many digital formats, and homework is completed electronically, and so it makes absolute sense that as an exam board we reflect this changing world of education.
“In terms of scale, currently, 80% of our vocational qualifications and 15% of our GCSEs have an e-assessment option. For our GCSEs, of those 15%, around 3% are currently sat online. By the end of this new suite of general qualifications, we expect that number to rise to around 25%.
“The technology and capability are already there, so it’s about how quickly we move through that change, ensuring integrity and robustness at each stage. In the background, we’re redeveloping our systems to be more intuitive and will be scaling up our team to help support our centres and learners during this period of growth.
“We’ll of course be consulting with our stakeholders at every step of the way. As part of our work to develop a new suite of qualifications for Qualified for the Future, we’ll be taking the views on digital assessment from a cross section of stakeholders, from learners, teachers, lecturers and business leaders to subject specialists and diversity and inclusion experts.
“We’re mindful that each centre has different capabilities in terms of technology and resources, and we’re very much developing our solutions accordingly. We have a dedicated bilingual support team that is solely focussed on e-assessment and are there to help each centre begin or expand their e-assessment journey, as well as supporting them with any queries along the way.
“Teachers, lecturers and learners are given access to our on-screen platform well in advance, so that they can familiarise themselves with the software. We also provide extensive guidance documents and video toolkits to further assist with the installation and delivery of e-assessments.
“Our continual feedback from centres is that they are surprised by how simple the process is for administering e-assessments, and we’re very proud of that but will continue to invest to make our systems easier to use.
“There are so many benefits to learners, teachers, lecturers and administrators in terms of digital assessment, and I’m looking forward to those being realised as we continue on this journey.”
To keep you up to date with the latest news, opportunities and FAQs regarding the new GCSEs and related qualifications, visit our ‘Qualified for the future: WJEC is ready’ web area. This area hosts a wealth of material, including an introduction to our Qualification Development Team who will lead the creation of the new GCSEs.