What’s happening with digital exams?

Issue: Volume 99, Number 14

Posted: 3 September 2020
Reference #: 1HAAXR

We ask Andrea Gray, Deputy Chief Executive Digital Assessment Transformation, NZQA for the latest update on the delivery and direction of digital NCEA exams.

Where are you at with delivering digital NCEA exams?

This year NZQA is offering 58 digital NCEA exams across 21 subjects at all levels.  Last year around 200 schools participated, with more than one in 10 students sitting at least one digital exam. We are currently delivering most of the text-based subjects. For harder to digitise subjects, like maths and sciences, we need to develop credible assessments with a good user experience before we offer them. 

What’s the longer-term vision for delivering digital exams? Why does it matter?

Most jobs require digital skills. How we assess students’ learning needs to reflect the digital world they live and learn in, supporting their transition to work or further study. Our vision is to offer digital exams that are authentic, relevant and credible. 

We also know new ways of assessing will support innovative teaching and learning and drive equity of NCEA outcomes for Māori and Pacific students. This includes different ways of asking questions and students showing what they know and can do. 

What is most important to deliver a successful digital exam experience?

To do their best work in the exam, students must be familiar with the device they are using and be experiencing digitally enabled teaching and learning. They must be familiar with the exam platform, including using features like spellcheck or toggling between te reo Māori and English for translated papers, The school network and internet connectivity must be secure and reliable, and students need connectivity beyond the school gate for learning and assessment.

As schools scale up their use of NCEA Online, we are working with Network for Learning (N4L) and the Ministry of Education, focussing on security, reliability and performance from the exam platform to the student’s device. $49 million is being spent over four years on ICT and cyber security support. 

What difference has Covid-19 made?

Many schools increased online teaching and learning in their response. Covid-19 has highlighted that NCEA Online could support a more flexible approach to teaching, learning and assessment. For example, NZQA has research projects exploring options for exams being offered at different times of the year and remotely supervising exams. 

What sort of investment is involved?

Almost $39 million over four years will enable NCEA Online to continue to grow and become embedded as digital learning increases.

What’s your message to schools that have yet to start offering digital exams?

When you are teaching digitally, start small and scale up, and work with NZQA and N4L to get the right supports.

When will all exams be delivered online and there are no paper exams?

We have no definitive date but we expect digital exams will be routine for most schools in two to three years. Ninety-seven percent of students who responded to our 2019 survey found it an overall positive experience and they may drive demand. 

What other things are you working on to deliver in the future?

  • How we can integrate tools used by Special Assessment Conditions students into the exam platform so more of these students can be examined in the same way and place as their peers.  
  • A new student interface for the exam platform, to implement from 2021, to give a better user experience generally, including for those with undiagnosed learning difficulties who work best on a computer.
  • Starting on 31 August, for the first time, using the NCEA Online platform to facilitate access to some subject association practice exams, and we will further develop this service for 2021. 
  • A trial to provide audio which complements text in a digital Te Reo Rangatira assessment to reflect the oral learning experience and the traditions, and research into te reo Māori text to speech and spellcheck.
  • Trials of prototypes of new types of mathematics and statistics digital assessment activities. 

See the NZQA (external link)website for more information about the direction digital assessment is taking.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 1:32 pm, 3 September 2020

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts