E-Assessment Implementation Unravelled: Platform Setup and Developing Expertise

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After much deliberation, you’ve chosen an e-assessment platform that’s a perfect match for your organisation—the first crucial step is now behind you. With the discovery phase completed, where your needs and expectations have been meticulously mapped, the foundation for a successful implementation is already laid. 

What lies ahead is the exciting part: putting everything into action. It might seem daunting to set up the infrastructure, migrate your data, and train your users—on top of all your other daily workload. However, with a structured approach, clear goals, and the right support, it turns into a straightforward, step-by-step journey. 

To shed some light on this process, let’s take a closer look at how we manage it at Cirrus. Our aim is to make the transition as smooth as possible for our clients, enabling them to not only adopt our platform but to enhance their assessment capabilities in a way that truly fits their organisational needs.

Step 1: Setting Up Your Cirrus Environments

When you’re starting with an e-assessment platform (like Cirrus), setting up the e-assessment environment is important. It creates a space where you and your team can test things out, play around, and get familiar with the platform. Let’s walk through the three critical environments you might expect during this step. Each one is designed to help you and your team get comfortable and confident with the system before you go live. 

Training Environment

The training environment on the Cirrus platform is like a safe playground for your team to explore all its features. Here, everyone can get comfortable with the basics without worrying about impacting real data. It’s a perfect spot for hands-on learning—from entering data and generating reports to running assessments—mirroring the actual system you’ll use later. Plus, this stage is crucial for giving feedback. Your insights on what’s working (or not) help us make tweaks to ensure everything runs smoothly once you go live. Best practices here include diving in fully, being open with your feedback, and using this opportunity to iron out any kinks before moving to the real deal.

Sandbox/Test Environment

After mastering the basics, you’ll advance to the sandbox environment, which is essentially your testing ground. Here, we customise the platform to meet your specific needs. This means setting up unique assessment formats, integrating with your current systems, and adjusting user roles and permissions to precisely fit your organisation. Your IT team and ours will thoroughly test everything from system integrations to data migrations to ensure the platform is stable and ready for launch. If any issues pop up, no worries—we’ll tackle them right here in the sandbox. This way, we solve problems before they can affect your live operations or your data.

Production Environment

Finally, you reach the production environment—this is when everything goes live and becomes real. The platform is now fully operational, processing all your actual data and serving as your daily work environment. As you begin using the system, we’re right there to support you. We’ll monitor the platform and provide real-time help with any issues to ensure a smooth transition. But our job doesn’t end at the launch. We’re committed to ongoing improvement. We’ll keep refining the system based on your feedback and actual usage, making sure it continues to meet your needs well into the future

Step 2: Content Migration

This is not an essential step for everyone, but for those shifting from one platform to another, content migration becomes a big step, especially for those with extensive databases of existing content. Following the preparations outlined in our previous blog—evaluating and cleansing your items/item banks, and planning the migration project—you’re now set to transition your questions and data to Cirrus. 

The Migration Process

The migration process involves transferring content and data from one platform to another, most notably, your item bank.

The process

We use a batch migration strategy, moving data in manageable batches to minimise downtime and disruptions. Continuous monitoring ensures any issues are quickly identified and resolved, with our support team ready to assist immediately.

The benefit

This approach ensures a smooth transition, protecting your data and enhancing system stability. By minimising disruptions, it maintains operational efficiency, allowing you to quickly benefit from the new platform’s features without losing productivity.

Testing and Quality Assurance

Testing and Quality Assurance are crucial phases following content migration to a new platform. This stage ensures that the system works well with your newly migrated data and meets user expectations.

The process

The process begins with rigorous functional testing of the platform to confirm that all features and functionalities work as expected without any glitches. Following this, User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is conducted, where end-users test the system in real-world scenarios. This step is vital for validating the migration’s success from the user’s perspective.

The benefit

Thorough testing and UAT provide several benefits. They ensure that the platform not only performs technically as intended but also aligns with the practical needs and expectations of its users. This dual approach helps in identifying and fixing any issues before full deployment, thereby enhancing user satisfaction and reducing the risk of future complications. This thorough validation process ultimately ensures a smoother, more reliable user experience when the system goes live.

Step 3: Setting up integrations

The integration phase is essential for customising your e-assessment platform to fit seamlessly with your existing systems and improve the overall efficiency and user experience. As your team undertakes the internal setup of integrations, we ensure you have our expert assistance at every point. Here’s what this partnership looks like::

Skins – We customise the visual and functional elements to match your organisation’s branding and user interface preferences.

Single Sign-On (SSO) – SSO simplifies user access to Cirrus by using one set of credentials managed through SAML 2.0. We handle the initial setup and provide the necessary configurations, and your team finalises the integration by setting up your Identity Provider (IdP) with our guidance. This ensures a secure and efficient user login experience across your platforms.

User Provisioning – We assist you in automating the creation, updating, and deletion of Cirrus user accounts by syncing with your HR databases. This ensures that any changes in HR are instantly updated on the platform, reducing administrative work and enhancing data security and accuracy.

Hierarchies – Together we structure our platform according to your organisation, defining access and permissions based on roles and departments. This mapping ensures secure, role-specific data access to content, making all your data safer and more secure.

Results and webhooks – We help you set up the automatic sharing of results immediately after an assessment is completed. Webhooks are small pieces of code that send notifications to other systems as soon as results are available, meaning there’s no need for manual data transfer. This process provides quick insights and allows for immediate responses based on the assessment outcomes.

Testing – During the integration phase, together we check that all parts of your e-assessment ecosystem work together correctly. It involves running tests to ensure each component functions as expected and that data flows properly between systems. This thorough testing helps prevent errors when the platform goes live, ensuring it operates smoothly and efficiently.

Step 4: Training 

While we set up your environment and integrate your data into our platform, training begins concurrently, fostering an interactive learning process that allows for immediate adjustments based on real-time feedback. Length of training varies case by case, but generally speaking, it takes 4 weeks to get your key users familiar with our platform. 

Training is customised to the specific needs of different users, ensuring everyone can effectively use the platform according to their role. For instance, item authors receive focused training on topics that ensure they can create and manage exam content effectively. Marking coordinators delve into marking workflows to streamline their processes, while super users undergo comprehensive training on all platform features, equipping them to support and train other users within your organisation effectively. This tailored approach guarantees that each user is well-prepared and confident in their ability to maximise the platform’s capabilities.

During the training, depending on their roles, users will engage with various key areas to maximise their proficiency with the platform:

Candidate experience – How your student interacts with their exams, their candidate dashboards, results, and much more. See the platform through their eyes.

Collections & items – get familiar with your item banks. How to access them, add, edit, or remove items, and how to easily add them to exams.

Assessment creation – the bread and butter of e-assessment: how to make the exams themselves. Whether you want to manually create exams or use a blueprint to create them for you, this is all about the creation of exams.

Blueprint, Learning Objectives, Taxonomy & Topics – Speaking of the blueprint, you will learn how to create them using learning objectives (specific skills and knowledge students are expected to achieve from a course/exam), taxonomies (frameworks for testing knowledge during an exam, such as Bloom’s taxonomies), and topics (the category content found in the exam). By defining the parameters, you can create a framework for your exams.

LOFT (Linear on-the-Fly Testing) – Using the blueprint, LOFT 3.0 will then create completely unique exams pulling from a large pool of items at the time of testing, tailored to the exam’s specifications and difficulty level you set at the blueprint stage.

Multiple forms – Learn how to utilise various versions of exams to maintain test integrity and manage retakes. Each form contains different questions but assesses the same concepts, ensuring fairness across test-takers.

Assessment security – Learn to safeguard exams from unauthorised access. We’ll go over all of the protocols in our platform that keep your exams cheatproof.

Roles and Permissions – Understand how to assign and manage access rights within the system to control who can view or edit different aspects of the platform.

Scheduling – Organising and managing the timing of exams for different groups or individuals efficiently.

Invigilation & user management – Discover techniques for monitoring exams effectively and managing user data to ensure compliance and security.

Admin essentials – Master the basic administrative functions necessary for running and maintaining the e-assessment platform smoothly.

Integrations – Learn how to connect and synchronise the e-assessment platform with other software systems, if applicable.

Marking – Get acquainted with the tools and best practices for accurately and efficiently grading exams.

Reporting – Learn to generate detailed reports that provide insights into performance trends, psychometric data, and all other relevant information regarding how your exams are performing.

Service & Release Management – Understand the process of when, why, and how we release updates, and how it might affect you.

This approach not only accelerates the readiness of your team but also allows us to fine-tune the platform configuration and training content to better meet your needs.

Cirrus Top Tips For Effective Implementation

Leverage your training and test environments effectively: Before going live, make extensive use of the training environment provided by your platform provider. This phase allows your team to become familiar with the platform’s functionalities without the risk of affecting real data. Encourage your team to explore all features—from data entry to report generation—and provide constructive feedback. This hands-on learning and feedback are critical for smoothing out any issues before progressing to more critical stages.

Take full advantage of the training hours: Develop a good relationship with your trainer/account manager, and squeeze their brain as much as you can during these weeks of training. Training duration and methods should be adapted to the specific needs of your users, to ensure they understand both basic functionalities and more complex features like assessment creation options and data security.

Establish (and engage in!) ongoing support: After the initial training period, establish a continuous learning and support framework for users to adapt to platform updates and new features. Continuous education and support can make or break user satisfaction and proficiency with the platform, as Cirrus can and will update/improve the platform from time to time. This includes periodic refresher courses, access to a dedicated support team, and regular updates on new functionalities. Keeping your team well-informed and skilled in using the platform ensures that your organisation is empowered going forward.

In our next release, we will go more in-depth about the final stage – Launch Phase. Arguably the most exciting (and nerve-wrecking, but don’t worry, if you’ve gone through the first two stages with us, launching is a breeze 😉 Stay tuned for practical tips, expert advice, and detailed walkthroughs that will empower you to leverage the full potential of your e-assessment platform. 

If you missed part 1, check it out to learn more about the first step of the e-assessment implementation process.  

And as always, we’ll see you soon!

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Cristina Gilbert
Copywriter and digital content enthusiast, Cristina is motivated by the fast-paced world of e-assessment and the opportunities online exams give students to thrive.
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