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How online assessment affects students


2022 saw the third year of evaluation of the move from the historic model of examination hall assessment to on-line examinations in the University of London, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a paper presented at the Innovating Higher Education conference, CODE fellow Stylianos Hatzipanagos reported that 82% of the student respondents (77% in 2021 and 66% in 2020) would like to see online assessment continue in the future.

The Innovating Higher Education conference, organised by EADTU and the Hellenic Open University, focused on trends and high impact factors in global and European higher education. This year's theme was: Digital Reset: European Universities Transforming for a Changing World. The paper ‘Measuring the impact of the move to online assessment in the University of London international programmes 2020-2022’, by Amrane-Cooper, L., Hatzipanagos, S., and Tait, A., examined the impact of the pandemic on assessment practices and the pivot to online exams.

In the investigation, developments in higher education informed the research team’s methodological approach. Developments focused on modified assessment strategies to address challenges imposed by the move to online assessment by higher education providers and adopting alternative modes of assessment. Universities moved thousands of exams from in-person to online and many approaches were followed: open-book exams with a variety of prescribed timeframes, online timed assessments and assessments based on digital scenaria. At the same time, providers implemented additional measures to support academic integrity and the security of digital assessments. COVID-19 also showed the need for more flexible assessment methods and more authentic, real-world assessments at scale. In recent debates, many institutions reported planning a permanent move away from traditional exams and using online assessments more.

A key characteristic of the move in the university of London (and a related achievement) was the scale and the volume at which assessment was moved to an online format in so many countries. The university and its partner universities teach around 36000 students in Bachelors and Masters programmes in more than 185 countries around the world, in an operation that began in 1868. The longitudinal evaluation focused in particular on the student experience along with that of the teaching and support staff. The research has for 3 years been based on a large scale student survey, a survey of examiner attitudes, along with interviews with students and programme teams. The research team was able to demonstrate how after the initial shock, online assessment became normalised for students, teaching and professional staff, but has at the same time provided the opportunity to rethink the purposes and character of assessment in a distance learning environment.

A dominant characteristic of the investigation has been the appetite of students for online assessment. Online assessment has also created new challenges for academic integrity, and this has in part driven the refocus on assessment design in order to provide assessment that is robust in the face of the increased challenges in online environments, and in particular from commercial companies that provide opportunities for academic misconduct online. As the threat of the COVID pandemic declines, the researchers reported on the new normal in assessment in this large-scale international Higher Education system and what this meant for pedagogic approaches to authentic assessment, academic practice and the universities’ commitment to academic integrity.

Download the presentation slides here.