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Wednesday, 26 January 2011

How Effective are Online Assessment Systems?

Image - Computer mouse linked to 'HELP' This guest post is contributed by April Davis. She raises several important issues but her description of the existing scenario raises questions for me about whether we should be expecting more from 'assessment'. Should assessment be only summative, or if formative, when? - and by whom? Does assessment really help the learner? April writes:

"There are many ways for students to assess their capabilities, and online assessment systems are just one of these. They’re being increasingly used today, not just by organizations and educational institutions to gauge if students and employees will be a right fit for the job or the degree, but also by those who want to assess themselves and see how good their chances are of getting into a course or gaining employment in the organization of their choice. Most online assessment exams test attitude and personality (or psychometric capabilities), and pre-employment skills. The efficacy of these assessment systems depends on a number of factors:
  • The standardization of the tests – an online assessment system comprises a question bank and a question engine. The question bank must hold standardized question definitions in organized categories and contexts and the question engine must be able to pull these definitions based on user interaction. Also, the organization using the test must be sure that the assessment and analysis returned by the system are in conjunction with their values, beliefs and needs.

  • The robustness of the system – since the tests are held online, the system has to make allowances for unexpected occurrences like lost connections, users pressing back and forward buttons indiscriminately or closing browser windows by mistake, server crashes, broken connections to the database and loss of data that has already been filled, and so on. Where these tests are timed the above problems could influence the accuracy of the results.

"For organizations that use these assessment systems, the relative success or failure of these tests can be gauged only in hindsight – the performance and attitude of the employees that the test recommends, when assessed over a period of time, helps companies decide if online assessment systems are effective in their hiring policies.

"However, it should also be noted that these tests are not a perfect science and that every employee changes in their attitude and personality based on the nature of the job and the environment in which they work. So while the test may throw up a few suitable candidates, it’s unrealistic to hope that they’re all going to be a good fit. The key to assessing the efficacy of these tests with some degree of accuracy is to give them some time, use a large number of employees as a test pool, and allow a few variances in your interpretation of the results."

This guest post is contributed by April Davis, she writes on the topic of Accredited Degree Online . She welcomes your questions and comments at her email id: april.davis83(@)gmail(.)com.

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