2006-05-26T11:52:47Z (GMT) by
Assessment is widely regarded as the critical catalyst for student learning (e.g. Brown, Bull and Pendlebury, 1997), and there is considerable pressure on higher education (HE) institutions (HEIs) to measure more formally how learning outcomes (LOs) have been met by students (TQEC Cooke Report quoted by Dearing, 1997; Farrer, 2002; Laurillard, 2002). This has been widely interpreted as a demand for more frequent assessment s a way of better assuring the quality of learning, although few if any additional resources have been available for this: in fact financial resources generally are seen to be static or dwindling. The potential for information and communications technology (ICT) to automate some aspects of learning and teaching (L&T) in HE is widely acknowledged (e.g. Conole, 2004) although promised productivity benefits have been slow to appear (Conole and Dyke, 2004). Computer-aided assessment (CAA) has considerable potential both to ease the assessment load and to provide innovative and powerful assessment modes of assessment in HE (Brown et al., 1997; Bull and McKenna, 2004), and as society shifts inexorably towards technology-based practices there may be ‘inherent difficulties in teaching and learning on-line and assessing on paper’ (Bennett, 2002b; Bull, 2001). The article pulls together a number of important strands in the literature and addresses key issues of why CAA isn’t more widely used. Links are made between competing pressures on academics and uptake in terms of established diffusion trends.