Selecting an e-assessment platform is essentially a process of elimination. Simple, right?
As you may have already guessed, we wouldn’t have a multi-part series on this if it were a breeze, for starters. Although selecting an e-assessment process isn’t simple, we can provide you with a handy guide to begin the process. Selecting the ideal e-assessment platform begins with forming a shortlist of potential candidates, tailored to your specific needs. It starts with clearly defining what you require from an e-assessment tool, considering factors like assessment types, user-friendliness, integration capabilities, and unique features like analytics. Then, research extensively to understand the options available, focusing on how each platform aligns with your criteria. Additionally, trials or demos provide a hands-on perspective of how these platforms perform in real-world scenarios.
In this blog, we will guide you through the first step: forming an initial shortlist to demo. There is a big step between “seeing what’s out there” and “scheduling a free demo”, and knowing what to look out for will bridge this gap.
The Need for Digital Transformation in Assessment
First, let’s clarify: why switch to a dedicated exam platform at all? Before 2019, the need for e-assessment was largely optional. And now that the lockdown is a thing of the past, why bother? You may have heard of the little phrase “the new normal”. It has become almost cliché, said so many times that it’s nearly COVID jargon that’s lost all meaning, especially regarding how the pandemic has reshaped the world. But it’s not a meaningless buzzword; the world has changed significantly.
Education stands out in this transformation. We’ve witnessed a significant shift from the 6 million students who took at least one online course in 2016 to nearly every learner globally having to adapt to online education and e-assessment by 2020 or facing having to put their education or career on hold. Surprisingly, the anticipated “new normal” of every organisation fully embracing online platforms hasn’t materialised as expected.
So why do organisations still use traditional paper and pencil tests or legacy LMSs that fall short?
The short answer? Time. Many organisations are well-acquainted with the traditional methods of paper exams. The uncertainty and reluctance to leave the comfort zone of paper-based exams are considered time-consuming. Finding the ideal e-assessment platform that aligns with industry-specific needs without breaking the bank is daunting, to say the least.
In our upcoming series, we aim to ease this transition. We will guide you through critical steps, from posing the right questions to vendors, and understanding the tender process, to what should be anticipated during implementation. Cirrus has got you covered!
Not yet decided whether you need to switch to a (new) e-assessment platform? These resources may be helpful:
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Examination System
- Paper vs Online Testing: 12 Questions To Consider
- LMS vs Online Test Platform: 10 Questions To Help You Decide
- Is It Time to Upgrade Your Assessment Software? 5 Key Questions & Red Flags
How to Select an E-Assessment Platform
Now for the meat and potatoes: selecting the right platform for your organisation. This is a huge decision for educational institutions and businesses alike, and it involves understanding not only your current needs but also anticipating your organisation’s future. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you make an informed decision, beginning with understanding your needs and researching what’s out there.
Step 1: Identify the Decision-Making Team
Before selecting an e-assessment platform, assembling a team that understands your organisation’s assessments’ unique challenges and requirements is important. Depending on your organisation, this team could comprise:
- Assessment and Curriculum Experts: These individuals deeply understand assessment design, standards, and curriculum requirements. They can evaluate whether the platform aligns with educational goals and assessment integrity.
- Technical and Integration Specialists: Responsible for assessing the technical capabilities of the platform, including integration with existing systems, scalability, and data security.
- Regulatory and Compliance Officers: Essential for ensuring that the platform adheres to all relevant legal and regulatory standards, particularly in data protection and candidate privacy.
- Operational Managers: They look at the platform’s efficiency in exam delivery, user management, and overall operational feasibility.
- Finance Analysts: To provide a clear picture of the financial implications, including cost-benefit analysis and long-term financial sustainability.
- Representatives from Candidate Services: To provide insights into the user experience from a candidate’s perspective, ensuring the platform is accessible and user-friendly.
- IT Security Experts: Given the sensitive nature of assessment data, ensuring robust cybersecurity measures are in place is essential.
Each member brings unique insights, ensuring a well-rounded evaluation of potential platforms.
Step 2: Understand Your Needs
This might seem obvious, but before diving into the sea of available e-assessment platforms, you must have a strong sense of who your organisation is and what you need. This means taking a step back and evaluating your goals with your exam process. Are you looking to streamline marking, provide more engaging assessment methods, or gather detailed analytics on student or employee performance? Your organisation’s specific goals will significantly influence the platform that best suits your needs.
Consider various factors like the size of your user base, the types of exams you will conduct and any specific compliance requirements. Accountancy awarding bodies or software developers will need different question types than medical exams. Understanding these elements will help you identify the essential features you need and prevent you from investing in complex functionalities you might never use.
These are the top 10 factors we discuss with potential clients to assess their e-assessment needs:
- Reason for transitioning: Clearly define what you aim to achieve by moving to a (new) online exam platform, such as enhancing assessment quality, increasing accessibility, or streamlining the exam process.
- Candidate Demographics: Consider the characteristics of your candidate base, including their geographical locations and technological proficiency, to ensure the platform is accessible and user-friendly for all candidates.
- Assessment Types and Formats: Identify the variety of assessments you conduct, such as multiple-choice questions, essays, or practical simulations, to ensure the platform can support these formats effectively.
- Regulatory Compliance: Determine the specific regulatory standards your assessments must adhere to, including data protection laws like GDPR and industry-specific accreditation standards.
- Integration with Existing Systems: Lay out the required integrations with your current technological infrastructure, including compatibility with student information systems and learning management systems.
- Scalability and Flexibility: Evaluate how the platform will need to accommodate future growth in candidate numbers and adapt to changes in assessment types or regulations.
- Security and Data Privacy: Understand your requirements for exam and data security protection, like proctoring solutions, Linear On the Fly Testing Capabilities, data encryption and an ISO certification, to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of exams and personal information.
- Budget: Consider the availability of human and financial resources for the transition, including costs for training, data migration, and ongoing maintenance.
- Long-term Vision: Align the platform selection with your organisation’s broader educational or operational objectives, ensuring it supports your long-term strategic goals.
- Technological Advancements: Stay informed about emerging technologies in e-assessment, such as AI-driven analytics or advanced anti-cheating measures, and consider how these might be integrated into your future assessment strategies.
Step 3: Research the Market
With a clear understanding of your needs, the next step is to research the market. Start by exploring various e-assessment platforms available, focusing on those that align with your identified needs. Given the niche nature of e-assessment platforms, traditional methods like online reviews may not always provide the depth of information required. Instead, consider these approaches:
Industry Events and Conferences
Attend relevant industry events such as the E-assessment Conference in London, E-ATP, ATP in the US, and OEB in Berlin. These events are rich in information and provide opportunities to network with peers and experts. Engaging in discussions and panels can offer valuable insights into the latest trends and best practices in e-assessment.
LinkedIn Groups and Online Communities
Participate in LinkedIn groups and online forums related to e-assessment. These platforms host active communities where you can ask questions, share experiences, and gain insights from those who have firsthand experience with various e-assessment platforms. You might try LinkedIn groups that are specific to your industry or focus on group that focus purely on e-assessment, such as:
- E-ATP Discussion and Meeting Point (European-Association of Test Publishers)
- eAA Members Discussion Group
- Association of Test Publishers
- Education 2.0: Educational Innovation Through Technology
Leverage Your Professional Network
Reach out to your network, especially those in similar industries. Colleagues and industry connections can provide honest feedback and recommendations based on their experiences.
Direct Research on Platform Websites
Visit the websites of various e-assessment platforms. While it’s advisable to hold off on requesting demos until you understand your requirements clearly, gathering information from these websites can be a good starting point. Look for case studies, whitepapers, and detailed descriptions of features and services offered.
Request Detailed Information
Once you have a shortlist of potential platforms, contact these companies for more detailed information. This can include brochures, product specifications, a list of features, and any other relevant documentation that can aid in your decision-making process.
By combining these methods, you can comprehensively understand the e-assessment platform market. This approach ensures that you are not solely relying on one source of information but considering various perspectives.
Step 4: Identify Essential Features
Having prepared for the selection of an e-assessment platform, the next vital step is to identify the core requirements and features that are essential for your organisation. This process is critical to ensuring that your chosen platform meets your current needs and is robust enough to evolve with your organisation’s future demands.
First and Foremost
Before we get into basic features, above all else, your platform should have a team in place that can support you every step of the way. Having a good e-assessment platform is like finding a good relationship. Your partner should be eager to get to know important details about you, listen to you, support you, anticipate your needs, and have your back no matter what. Although we’re not a matchmaking service and should probably refrain from giving dating advice, we DO know e-assessment.
Choosing the right e-assessment platform is about finding a platform that truly understands your journey as an organisation, not just a service provider. The importance of a knowledgeable and personable onboarding experience cannot be overstated. It’s like having a guide by your side, making sure you’re confident every step of the way. This will continue with ongoing training and consultancy, which are more than just formalities; they are opportunities for genuine connection and tailored support. The ideal platform is one that anticipates your needs, addressing challenges even before they come to your attention. In the e-assessment space, platforms are generally privy to insider information, new features, and potential threats, and they should keep these in mind when it pertains to you.
In this organisation-platform relationship, you are never just a number; your needs, goals, and concerns are heard and valued. It’s about forming a bond where your success is their success, ensuring that the platform meets your immediate needs and evolves with you, ready for whatever the future may bring.
Essential Features At-A-Glance
Regarding e-assessment platforms, four basic features are universally regarded, irrespective of the organisation’s size, type, or sector. Understanding these features will help you make an informed decision:
- User-Friendliness: The platform should have an intuitive interface that is easy to navigate for both administrators and end-users (candidates or employees). User-friendliness ensures that users can efficiently use the platform without extensive training, saving time and resources.
- Scalability: The platform should be capable of handling growth. This means accommodating an increasing number of users or a growing volume of assessments without a drop in performance. Scalability is crucial for organisations planning to expand or those with fluctuating user numbers.
- Security: Given the sensitivity of high-stakes assessment data, the platform must have solid security measures in place. This includes secure data storage, encryption of data in transit, and compliance with relevant data protection regulations. A breach in security can have serious implications, including loss of trust and legal repercussions.
- Integration Capabilities: The ability to integrate with other systems, such as learning management systems (LMS) or other educational/professional platforms, such as Office365, is essential for a seamless workflow. This ensures data can flow between systems without manual intervention, enhancing efficiency and accuracy.
Selecting the right e-assessment platform is a critical process for any organisation. It’s not just about choosing a set of features and requirements; it’s about finding a partner that resonates with your organisation’s values and needs. This process requires a thoughtful and strategic approach, from understanding your unique requirements to researching the market and identifying essential features. Remember, a good e-assessment platform is more than just a service; it’s a relationship where your success is integral to their service.
Get ready for “Part 2: Take a Demo Like a Pro”! This next part of our series will empower you with the knowledge and skills to confidently navigate e-assessment platform demos. We’ll dive into how to prepare effectively for a demo: what critical aspects to focus on, the checklist you should come armed with, which questions to ask, and how to discern the subtleties that differentiate a good platform from a great one. Whether you’re a first-timer or looking to switch platforms, this guide will provide invaluable insights to make the most informed decision.
Stay tuned for practical tips and expert advice on mastering the demo process, bringing you one step closer to selecting the perfect e-assessment platform for your organisation’s needs.