At Pearson, our vision for onscreen assessment is to accelerate the education world’s transition to onscreen learning, teaching and assessment that is authentic to learners’ home and work lives. In doing so, our mission is to create an onscreen learning programme that culminates in low and high stakes assessment that accurately and fairly assesses students’ learning, enabling all students to access and achieve their potential.
In both the formative and summative assessment space, we believe that onscreen assessment has the ability to unlock real benefits for learners and teachers. These may include improved authenticity of assessment and delivery of assessment, insights and results, plus potential reduction in teacher workload and administrative burden.
Our customer research
The Covid pandemic and school closures accelerated the use of digital technology in teaching, learning and formative assessment within schools in the UK and internationally. We have spent a significant amount of time talking with teachers and school leaders over the past few years, and our market research suggests there is strong appetite for a move to onscreen assessment.
In mid 2021, we surveyed 1,000 teachers and school leaders in the UK and more than 120 teachers and school leaders in international schools, to understand what they see as being the key drivers and barriers to onscreen assessment at GCSE and International GCSE level.
- 51% of respondents to our onscreen assessment survey said that they would be interested in adopting onscreen assessment now, if it was available in their subject, with 65% saying they would be interested in adopting onscreen assessment in the next four years.
- Key drivers for teachers and school leaders included having assessments that better reflect learners’ use of technology in and outside of the classroom, more accessible assessment for learners with SEND, and the potential for improved security of assessment.
- Key challenges included access to technology, reliability of and familiarity with the testing platform, and consistency/comparability between onscreen and paper-based assessments.
We were keen to dig into the data in more detail, and so in late 2021, we carried out a number of focus groups and interviews with school leaders and teachers globally to better understand the ways in which digital technology might lead to more valid, more flexible assessment for secondary qualifications in the future.
These focus groups were insightful on a number of levels. Firstly, the appetite for onscreen assessment was strong. Secondly, we were struck by the range of digital tools that are being used in the classroom, across all subjects. From Mathematics and Sciences to Humanities and Music, the role of technology continues to increase in teaching, learning and formative assessment. But high stakes exams are yet to catch up.
And, why shouldn’t they?
Technology is not only an enabler of communication for young people, it is central to it. Technology not only opens up opportunities in terms of the flexibility of teaching, learning and assessment, but also the authenticity and accessibility of the experience. Think about the possibilities for augmented and virtual realities to transport learners to a place, an environment they could never dream of physically visiting in the context of Geography – or how completing laboratory experiments for science could take place without the barriers of physical space.
What if assessments could be taken on demand, taken when students are ready, taken remotely, with invigilation software that ensures the security of the exam when schools are inaccessible (as with our Functional Skills and PTE Academic English tests)? Delivering assessments onscreen opens up a range of innovative possibilities that could unlock a number of benefits to learners and teachers.
There are, of course, countries across the globe who have made significant progress at national level, towards transformation of their assessment systems, with onscreen technologies at the heart.
Egypt, New Zealand and Finland are three of these – each have started their journey at different points in time, with different approaches and at different rates of speed and scale. But in each of these jurisdictions there were key drivers in common: to modernise the assessment system, and to ensure that the assessment of skills and knowledge was better aligned to the use of digital technologies in teaching and learning, in learners’ lives and in the future world of work.
In Egypt, Pearson has played a pivotal role in the transition to onscreen assessment
In 2019, Pearson delivered a transformational project forming part of the educational reform program being introduced by Egypt’s Ministry of Education, with the financial support of the World Bank. This is expected to deliver 125 million online assessments over a four-year period.
The project’s principal objective is to improve educational learning outcomes for Egyptian students and improve student engagement. It focuses on assessment in year groups 10, 11 and 12 and aims to improve assessment design and quality, as well as modernise the delivery, marking and standard setting process. Millions of assessments have been delivered to date, and the onscreen delivery has enabled the continued functioning of Egypt’s examination system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This video provides a fantastic overview of the project to date.
New Zealand’s transition to onscreen assessment has been more of an iterative process
Interest in digitising assessments for secondary students was sparked in New Zealand around eight years ago, with the first trials and pilots taking place in 2016. It’s fair to say that there was significant opposition at the beginning of the journey, from teachers, from government, from wider society. There was fear of the unknown – of the potential for things to go wrong – of what the impact might be if they did go wrong.
Schools have had the opportunity to ‘opt-in’ to onscreen assessment as new subjects come online, with a transition first to literary-based subjects.
The point of curriculum reform in New Zealand is being seen as an opportunity to design content that is digital first: content designed to be assessed onscreen, rather than digitising content originally designed to be tested on paper.
Key to the approach in New Zealand has been government provision of the technology, of the infrastructure and connectivity that allows for a level playing field across schools. The process has been iterative – trialling, piloting, building confidence and gaining momentum over time.
New Zealand have made significant progress on their journey towards a fully digital assessment system. We have a lot to learn from their approach and look forward to seeing the progress they make in the coming years.
Finland has also seen a huge shift to onscreen assessment in recent years
Their matriculation exam (taken by students at the age of 18) has now been transitioned to online for every subject, with the first subject digitised in 2016, and Mathematics being the last subject to move onscreen, in Spring 2019.
One of the key reasons for the shift to onscreen in the Finnish context has been the gap between the low levels of digital literacy in the classroom, and the high levels of digital literacy in the workplace. Policy and decision makers in Finland saw that there was a disconnect between the two – and that there was an opportunity to close this gap by increasing the use of digital technology in school education and assessment.
It’s worth noting that the Finnish context is very different from the British education system – in fact, the matriculation exams are the only national level, externally marked exams that students are required to sit during their secondary schooling. Teacher involvement is valued to the extent that, when the exams have been sat, teachers mark their own classes’ onscreen assessments before they are marked by examiners. This activity serves a number of purposes including:
- Benchmarking/comparison of marking standards across teachers, schools, regions etc
- Evidence that can be used in appeals/requests for remarks
- A proof point of teacher engagement in the assessment process for their students.
These three examples demonstrate what can be achieved in assessment transformation when there is clear mandate and goal to do so.
Our experience and capability
At Pearson, we have a wealth of experience in designing, developing and delivering onscreen assessments and we are excited about the opportunities it might provide to create authentic learning and insights, powered by technology, in the coming years.
Our capability and experience in onscreen assessment spans across a broad range of qualification types and assessment and delivery models:
- We have been delivering onscreen tests for Functional Skills Maths and English and BTEC qualifications at school and Professional level in the UK for over ten years. Our Functional Skills tests now offering remote invigilation for candidates taking assessments at home, providing additional flexibility around test taking conditions whilst ensuring the security of those assessments.
- PTE Academic is a fully onscreen English Language test delivered globally and used by the UK, Australian and NZ Governments for visa purposes and trusted by professional bodies and over 3000 Universities across the world. PTE is now also available to be taken at home, with the use of remote invigilation software
- In the context of academic secondary qualifications, we are already making strong progress towards our vision, with a number of exciting products and services already launched and more in pilot and development stages.
- This summer, Pearson will run the first technology enabled GCSE Computer Science assessments, which will assess a candidates’ coding skills under exam conditions. The coding takes place in a development environment familiar to the candidate, that could be different in each centre or even different for individual student. This is a fantastic example of how onscreen assessment can be used to allow more personalised solutions.
Onscreen mock exams
We currently offer Onscreen GCSE and International GCSE Mock exams for English and Mathematics. These were of particular interest to teachers during school lockdowns, but and demand has continued since schools have returned to classroom teaching. Our Mock exams for English prepare learners either for paper-based or onscreen assessment and provide efficient, seamless delivery, with fully onscreen marking by our expert examiners. Read more about our Onscreen Mocks and register your interest.
Our first onscreen exams for International GCSE English Language
In our International GCSE English qualification, we have been working with a small number of schools in the Middle East and Europe, who will be completing their final assessments in May onscreen, rather than as a paper-based exam.
Participating schools started partnering with us on this exciting journey in September 2021, with learners and teachers having access to practice assessments within the onscreen platform for familiarisation and to build their confidence in using the available tools.
Students completed their first onscreen mock exam in November, and most participating schools completed their second onscreen mock in February. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with 78% of students expressing a preference for completing their assessment onscreen, rather than on paper.
97% of students said they used digital technologies in their classes on a daily basis and the same percentage said they completed and submitted homework using digital technologies every week.
For these students, the transition to onscreen assessment is a natural progression. It is still a transition – the role of practice, of familiarisation, of building confidence in the technology and the layout of the assessment is so important – but it’s a journey they’re happy to be on with us.
Having the learner voice and experience at the heart of our approach to design, UX and delivery of onscreen assessment is vitally important. As we continue to test, trial, pilot and grow our onscreen assessment offer, we look forward to partnering with international schools to ensure we can truly deliver the benefits of innovation to our customers.
Want to find out more?
Read more about our onscreen assessment roadmap.
Work with us to help us shape our maths onscreen assessments. We are looking for teachers and learners to work with us throughout spring and summer 2022 on trialling innovative onscreen assessment solutions in maths.
Read more about our Onscreen Mocks and register your interest.
Watch our Big Think webinar on onscreen assessment (recorded 23 March 2022) to hear more about our progress with onscreen assessment. See a walkthrough of the onscreen assessment environment and learn more about our Mocks Service.
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