Recently, Rob Bright from Cloud Assess hosted a live webinar with David Garner, Principal Consultant at [consult dg], where they discussed the unknown requirements of an Online Assessment System.
The webinar was a Q&A session where they covered some key trends of RTOs adopting and adapting to an Online Assessment System and what you really need in a compliant and efficiency driving fit-for-purpose solution.
We summarised the key findings from that webinar to create this blog.
A Brief History
Over the last several years, and particularly over the last 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a growing need for RTOs to take assessment online. The reasons are many, from the desire to eliminate paper, reduce administrative tasks for staff, and offer a more flexible and convenient option for students, to name a few.
The Learners of today expect everything to be done quickly. The days of posting paper assessments out now seems old fashioned. There is almost nothing you can’t find online these days and assessment is no different.
Many have moved to electronic documents with electronic transfer (ie. email, drop box, google docs), while others have embraced the electronic embedded form within a process so responses are gathered individually.
Any step on that ladder will give an RTO a benefit, but there is a downside as well. Some who have adopted these generic systems are now looking for a more aligned, fit-for-purpose solution.
The availability of tech and the SaaS model has made it more affordable, accessible, and with so much software that now integrates it means we don’t have to have disconnected systems anymore.
It’s an exciting time!
“I’ve been a bit of a tech early adopter and a champion of using technology where it can actually be beneficial”, David says.
Let’s take a look where that is.
Online Assessment: Getting it Right
Ten years ago going online was about the front end of learning and displaying the requirements and resources to the students, and perhaps adopting electronic means to share and store data and information. Fast forward to 2020/21 and we’re seeing the cracks in this idea of online.
Those using generic online solutions like Moodle or Google Docs are experiencing challenges and see the value in taking the next step in the online journey.
Educators have a better understanding of their requirements and the intricacies of the tools, mechanisms, functions and features that they need to manage those assessment processes better; whether it’s resource development, revision control or deploying new changes.
So, what information is needed in order to make an informed, thoughtful decision about the type of solution required?
What are the unknown requirements of an online assessment system?
1. Built for Australian Vocational Education and Training (VET)
Before making a decision about the online assessment system you’ll need, it’s important to identify the key areas specific to VET around compliance, efficiency and the student experience to make sure the system is aligned to your requirements from the get go.
2. Allows Assessors to Conduct Assessment Online, Even When Face-to-Face
One of the biggest misconceptions about Online Assessment is that it means ‘remote’, and while that is definitely one option, it's not the only one.
There is a huge benefit in taking assessment online, even if it takes place in the classroom. Taking assessment online means eliminating the paper processes and repetitive tasks that don’t add anything to the Learner Experience.
This has the added benefit of securely retaining assessment records with a full visual and exportable Timeline, designed to have a chronological list of actions taken by your Learner. Years after an assessment is done and dusted, you’ll know when it was created, issued, submitted, saved, opened, marked etc.
3. Conduct Practical Assessment
Your Online Assessment System must be set up to accommodate the submission of evidence by a workplace supervisor from an actual or simulated workplace. The options must allow for assessment to be designed in a way that allows demonstration of the performance evidence. These options should be robust and include:
- Observation Checklists
- 3rd Party Reports
4. Stays Current and Up-to-Date
The last thing anybody wants is to make a large investment of money and resources in an Online Assessment system that will not be current for long. It’s imperative that the system provider not only be up-to-date with the Standards, but be continuously upgrading and adding new features that will help you create, conduct and control assessment.
When looking at software providers, some questions to ask are:
- What was the last feature upgrade?
- What do I have to do as the end user when the system is being upgraded?
- What upgrades are planned for the next 12 months?
Be wary of providers who ‘talk the talk’ but don’t ‘walk the walk’. If there are lots of features ‘coming soon’ but there isn’t historically a consistent cycle of upgrades, it’s likely a red herring.
5. Features designed to make your job easier
The right online solution should use the terminology aligned to the VET sector. Does it speak in AQF Framework, qualifications, units of competency, etc.?
The following features are a must:
You should be able to Map your Units of Competency to the requirements on training.gov.au with a click of a button. This is to ensure you get an insight into how your assessments or clusters are meeting the requirements of Validity and Sufficiency.
This should enable you to prevent errors and manage sample rate checks for quality control purposes.
Third Party Features
RTOs need to both gather supplementary evidence from third parties, ie a workplace supervisor AND allow RTOs to provide safe and secure access to their associated Learner's progress, ie to parents.
Avoid platforms that are rigid. You need a solution that is flexible enough to satisfy any assessment requirement. Knowledge assessment, practical assessment, observation checklist, evidence portfolio, log book, 3rd party report, RPL.
A robust system will allow you to provide a consistent and automated experience for all of your users. This increases efficiency by eliminating manual and laborious tasks and supports your processes and procedures for your compliance obligations.
There are many messaging apps out there and of course email, however there are many benefits to communicating with your learners right from the online solution interface. It ensures conversation records are maintained, creating a bullet-proof audit trail.
When your Learners login they shouldn’t be distracted by unnecessary features and functions. A clear dashboard that is easy to navigate around is a must for your students.
The solution should allow you to keep you students on track with a Calendar where you can invite them to training sessions, etc. It will allow them to see what is happening for their enrolment at a glance which helps organise your Learners to avoid them missing any parts of their training and assessing including due dates.
This list is not exhaustive, but gives you a good indication of what level of detail is required in a system to provide you with the best possible outcomes. You should also look for a solution that has a Learner App that is easy to use for your students.
With a robust Online Assessment solution, there’s real opportunities for managers to gain a comprehensive understanding of what’s going on in their RTO. With streamlined record keeping you gain better oversight. The ability to be able to create a report and see student progress, attendance, and patterns around particular classes, courses, trainers, etc.
It means you’re not bound by the class times to undertake assessment tasks. Assessments that aren’t particularly time sensitive can be done outside of class allowing trainers to utilise that time for engaging with the learners.
Essentially, it means options and flexibility for both the learners and the trainers and assessors.
What will the future look like?
If the last 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that life can change on a dime. What works for your business one day, may not cut the mustard the next.
However, one thing is for certain, technology is here to stay and is constantly evolving to support our needs. There is a growing demand for remote, flexible, online training and assessment solutions.
As technology continues to evolve, enhancing assessment with the use of Augmented Reality will likely become more mainstream, but not for a while. This technology is still too new and too expensive for most providers. Instead, look at options like 360 degree video and interactive images and tours to create the stand-out content your learners are looking for.
The key is being as prepared as you can be. Online Training and Assessing is not a new phenomenon; however, it’s becoming a key ingredient to surviving in these times of change. With the benefit of hindsight, we are now able to look back and it's clear that the training organisations that pivoted quickly in the face of adversity have done pretty well.
Huge thanks to David Garner from [consult dg] for his input into these findings.