On-screen assessment in final exams for students in England is sometimes portrayed as something for the future.

However, in one part of the school system, it is already a reality.

The International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Programme is not well-known among the public and is only taken by a relatively very small number of students. However, it includes an eAssessment component that offers an interesting case study in digital assessment.

Unlike the better known Level 3 Diploma Programme, the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO)’s Middle Years Programme (MYP) for 11- to 16-year-olds is largely offered only in international schools.

Most formal external assessment at the end of the MYP is optional. While all MYP students must undertake an independent personal project, only those who want an MYP Certificate need additionally take the eAssessment – in the form of:

  • internally marked and externally moderated ePortfolios for language acquisition, physical and health education, design, and the arts;
  • externally marked on-screen tests for mathematics, language and literature, sciences, ‘individuals and societies’ (humanities and social sciences) and an interdisciplinary unit. These are taken in English, French or Spanish (or, in the case of languages, the corresponding language).

Rather than just transposing pen-and-paper exams onto a computer, eAssessment on-screen testing also allows for innovative and engaging approaches to assessment, such as the use of video as an historical source.

More and more of what today’s teenagers study in their history lessons will include film as potential source material, so it makes sense that increased use of computers should allow for this to form part of their history assessments.

Use of video as historical resources

But it is not only in the humanities where potential benefits can be realised. In the video below, rather than using text or a still image to describe a problem involving a trolley with a sail of a given size and being asked to calculate its stopping distance, a 3D model demonstrates what is being asked. The physics knowledge is more clearly what is being tested, rather than the reading and interpretation skills of the learner.

3D models to demonstrate concepts

For tests where calculators are allowed, the ability to summon one on-screen means everyone has access to the right model of calculator with its memory wiped, can transcribe their calculations directly onto the exam ‘paper,’ and there are no issues with students forgetting their calculator!

On-screen calculators

The IBO also shows off its ‘universal canvas’, in which pupils can drag clipart-style images to make mind maps and posters, or drag and draw data points to form a graph – whilst this can be done using a pen and paper, it can potentially benefit the more artistically gifted when that is not at the core of what is being assessed.

From the use of video (as reference sources or to better introduce new concepts), to manipulatable 3D models (to demonstrate chemical structures or physics experiments), on-screen testing opens up a number of new possibilities when it comes to assessment methods.

The IB MYP eAssessment provides a snapshot one of the ways digital assessment can be used. Despite being only one small part of the assessment landscape, it provides food for thought when considering what tools are at our disposal for digital assessment.

Read more on this subject:
Online exams: The robots are coming
What do senior leaders think of on-screen assessment?
Adaptive assessment: Tailoring the future of assessments
Estonia: A small country with big results
Digitising a country's examinations