Guest Columns

Testing and Assessments –Riding the technology wave

The last two decades have seen technology transform the way we have lived our lives. The concept of technology has changed during this period and what used to be restricted to large factories and laboratories has now found its place in the pockets of individuals. With over 900 million mobile connections, India could achieve cent percent in mobile coverage, much earlier than literacy.

Like in every other walks of life, technology has gradually permeated in testing and assessments as well. Use of printing technology in exam administration was one of the first interventions of technology in this space. Efficiency brought about by OMR sheets for Multiple Choice Exams allowed exam bodies to administer tests faster, deliver accurate results and manage scale. Use of Computer Based Tests further enhanced the security, transparency and efficiency of testing process. We also have technology solutions that help enhance efficiency in evaluation of descriptive answer scripts. While these instances of use of technology in testing and assessments have definitely contributed to our ability to manage quality at large scale, a question still is left unanswered. Are we doing enough?

Testing and assessment is typically the process of ascertaining in measurable terms, knowledge, skill, attitudes, and personality for entrance into education courses or recruitment into jobs. This objective should drive the selection of methods and tools for testing and assessments.

We have observed that testing and assessments has recently witnessed blind adoption of technology. Only a few of these technology adoptions have resulted in enhancement in the quality of assessments. The reason for this could be that many times, the focus shifts from the use of TECHNOLOGY FOR ASSESSMENTS to TECHNOLOGY IN ASSESSMENTS.

Technology should be used to ensure that organizations are able to measure the right attributes better. At MeritTrac, we have a dedicated Test R&D team which has been focusing on improving measurement of candidates. Technology is one of the key pillars to achieving this. Some of the experiments that are undertaken include the following.
Use of Multimedia: 3D and videos are much richer content than traditional 2 dimensional images. Using such media tools to assess understanding and knowledge of concepts can enhance the quality of measurement. The use of high performance computers in testing and advancement in video storage, transit and display have enhanced the possibility of using this media for better measurements:

Serious Gaming and Simulations: Gaming has come a long way in the last few years. For over a decade, pilots and formula one car drivers have been using high end aircraft and car simulators for practice. Imagine a situation where a prospective doctor is asked to administer a heart surgery before he or she is qualified to be called a surgeon. We have been experimenting the use simulations and serious games for testing other skills as well.

Making Assessments Mobile: Mobility is a trend that we believe will cause disruptive changes in testing and assessments. Tablets and mobile devices are today some of the most powerful computing devices and the possibility to administering assessments anytime-anywhere has enhanced with the emergence of these devices.

Clickers for Formative Assessments: Industry has understood the importance of assessments for learning in the learning lifecycle. Traditional testing approaches have its limitations. We have been experimenting the use of clickers to administer quick dip-stick tests of learning. These experiments are proving to be fostering student retention and success by engaging them in their own learning process. They have also been helping instructors adjust to learners’ needs in real time. It enables instructors to conduct many assessments quickly and easily and provide valuable teaching data that will contribute to a faculty member’s instructional development.

In testing and assessments, technology has the potential to introduce disruptive changes in the future. It is important to ensure that technology is used for enhancing quality of measurement and assessment. Use of technology for the sake of technology will be counter-productive.

The writer is Mr. Premjith A C- Marketing- Head, MeritTrac Services


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