Is computer-based assessment good for students?
conference contributionposted on 23.05.2006 by Chris Ricketts, Sally Wilks
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One of the benefits of computer-based assessment is that, if used for formative assessment, it can improve student performance in summative assessments (Charman & Elmes 1998; Sly & Rennie, 1999). During the introduction of computerbased assessment in a first-year module on numeracy and statistics in Biology, online assessment was used to replace OMR-marked multiple-choice tests. The online system was used to provide improved feedback to students, rather than formative or pre-testing. Analysis of student results in two successive years shows that students using on-line assessment did not perform as well as those using OMR-marked multiple-choice questions, even when the same questions were given to the students. The difference in performance cannot be attributed to a weaker student cohort, as their performance in other areas showed no differences. This suggests that students may be slightly disadvantaged by the introduction of on-line assessment. This drop in performance took place in the face of general student acceptance of the introduction of on-line assessment. Students generally (66%) felt that they had been given enough preparation, and had not (78%) prepared differently for this examination. The most striking finding was that 88% of students liked having their mark instantly available. A few students felt that on-line examinations were more stressful or had disadvantaged them because they hate computers. This is in line with the comments of Brosnan (1999) about computer anxiety affecting performance. However, it is interesting to note that one dyslexic student found the on-line examination an advantage. In addition, a number of other students remarked that this format was less stressful than other exams. The most common negative remark from students related to the difficulty of interacting with the assessment because it was presented on a computer screen. We therefore suggest that the mode of presentation of assessments can significantly influence student performance, and that appropriate screen design is an important factor in on-line assessment.
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