Moving to a web-based assessment platform can be daunting. The hype is real. Here are twelve reasons it is totally worth it (and a couple of reasons to be cautious).
- Collaboration- It is possible to collaborate with teachers from all over the world with a web-based assessment platform. A common platform among teammates makes collaborating to create assessments easy, fast, and painless. These systems are typically designed with collaboration features and allow teachers to determine the privacy level of the assessments they create. Often, a teacher can copy and use existing assessments at the click of a button.
- Creating questions- Writing questions is an enormous undertaking. Finding questions can be equally difficult. A web-based assessment platform provides a bank of ready-to-use items from which to choose. Many platforms also provide tools for miscue analysis so the teacher can determine why students are struggling by examining the distractor answer choices. Technology-enhanced and performance-based question options are often available. If a teacher finds that existing questions do not meet their exact needs, platforms typically include options for adding questions.
- Formatting- Test formatting can be a huge hassle. It is frustrating when an assessment looks sloppy. It is important to get the order and placement of questions correct. Web-based platforms guarantee a consistent format free of errors. In addition, a couple of quick clicks allows the teacher to customize the order and type of questions.
- Aligning to standards- Whether we like it or not, state standards exist and have to be met. Ensuring assessments are aligned can be difficult and time-consuming. Web-based assessment platforms are often searchable by the standard. Existing questions are often already tagged with the corresponding standard and additional tags can sometimes be added. Finally, these platforms provide an easy mechanism to track how each standard is assessed and how students perform.
- Ensuring adequate rigor- Reaching higher levels of rigor with a higher DOK in selected response questions can be especially difficult. Some web-based assessment platforms provide a DOK for each question. In addition, the length and type of questions within each assessment can be tracked over time.
- Managing paper- A web-based assessment platform can remove the need to constantly make and keep track of mountains of paper. Though not every school or classroom has constant access to computers, most have at least some planned access that can be used intermittently. In addition, the master of the test is electronic and easy to store.
- Differentiating- Students come to us at different levels. It is our job to ensure we provide them with appropriate support for them to be successful. Web-based assessment platforms make differentiation simple. Often, there are features available to the teacher can select readability features such as print size, language translation, dictionary definitions, oral reading of questions and passages etc. Some systems allow a teacher to create unique settings for individuals or small groups. We have so many options that require significant work to develop independently.
- Grading- Most web-based assessment platforms auto-grade assessments. The tests are graded immediately upon completion. The teacher has options to set for what to accept as correct answers. Some systems provide opportunities to provide hints or explanations for students. In addition, web-based assessment platforms have easy-to-use technology-enhanced and performance-based question options. These questions often have to be graded by the teacher, but this can be done easily and scores are automatically added to the student’s total score.
- Data Analysis- Typically, web-based assessment platforms provide both real-time and post-assessment analytics. Analytics include an overview of how groups of students performed on an assessment as well as how individual students performed. Many platforms can also track performance by standard and performance over time. Some programs offer additional features such as how long students spend on a question or miscue analysis for distractors.
- Student Feedback- Web-based assessment platforms generally have a student view where students can look at their performance. But students aren’t known for their proactive desire to investigate their grades. Teachers can connect web-based assessment platforms to LMS systems and sites such as Google Classroom. In addition, teachers can write specific feedback to individual students that is immediately emailed to the student. Some platforms allow a rubric to be added to the assessment that students can see as they work. Some allow teachers to create a bank of comments they can reuse regularly. Almost all allow for comments and point adjustments on specific questions for individual students.
- Communication- Communication with other stakeholders is also important for classroom teachers. Web-based assessment platforms often include a mechanism for sharing results with parents/guardians. In addition, other teachers, administrators, instructional coaches etc. can be given immediate access to results and thus feel fully informed about how students are progressing.
- Assessment Validity- There are several ways that web-based assessment platforms improve the ability to validate assessments as reliable indicators of student mastery. First, teachers across a broad range of classrooms and schools can use the same assessment and compare results. Second, the analytics of such platforms provide information about performance in a number of ways that make it easy to identify problematic questions. Third, the same assessment can be used over multiple terms, using features to randomly sort test questions or answers to prevent cheating, and therefore provide longitudinal evidence that assessments are valid measures of achievement. Finally, many web-based platforms certify high-quality questions and question sets as valid and reliable measures.
Despite these many advantages, there are some caveats to moving to a web-based assessment platform worth considering and planning for if a platform is adopted.
- Technology is complicated. Web-based assessment platforms, even those designed to be user-friendly, require training and comfort with computers. It is also important to note that internet and computer access is unreliable in some school districts. A district without a strong technology support system and infrastructure.
- Cheating is a real potential problem that will need to be addressed. Some platforms have measures built into them to handle potential cheating, but many do not.
- Teachers are often intensely resistant to making their work and their students’ performance public as they fear the consequences of both success and failure. Too often, teachers are made to feel inadequate because of differences in relative student performance. Creating a culture that addresses teacher concerns and establishes a positive culture of continuous improvement.
- Cost can also be a worthwhile consideration. Many web-based assessment platforms are expensive. Others are low cost, freemium, or quite costly. It is important to conduct in-depth research to ensure a platform meets the needs of the school or district and will play well with other district products.
Moving a school or district to a web-based assessment platform is a big decision. I believe the pros outweigh the cons.