In its broadest sense, e-assessment is the use of information technology for any assessment-related activity. This definition embraces a wide range of student activity ranging from the use of a word processor to on-screen testing. Due to its obvious similarity to e-learning, the term e-assessment is becoming widely used as a generic term to describe the use of computers within the assessment process. Specific types of e-assessment include computerized adaptive testing and computerized classification testing.
E-assessment can be used to assess cognitive and practical abilities. Cognitive abilities are assessed using e-testing software, while practical abilities are assessed using e-portfolios orsimulation software.
E-assessment is becoming widely used. It has many advantages over traditional (paper-based) assessment.
The advantages include:
- lower long-term costs
- instant feedback to students
- greater flexibility with respect to location and timing
- improved reliability (machine marking is much more reliable than human marking)
- improved impartiality (machine marking does not 'know' the students so does not favour nor make allowances for minor errors)
- greater storage efficiency - tens of thousands of answer scripts can be stored on a server compared to the physical space required for paper scripts
- enhanced question styles which incorporate interactivity and multimedia.
Various terms are used to describe the use of a computer for assessment purposes. These include:
- Computer-Assisted Assessment or Computer-Aided Assessment (CAA)
- Computer-Mediated Assessment (CMA)
- Computer-Based Assessment (CBA)
- online assessment.
Although these terms are commonly used interchangeably, they have distinct meanings.
Computer Assisted/Mediated Assessment refers to any application of computers within the assessment process; the role of the computer may be extrinsic or intrinsic. It is, therefore, a synonym for e-assessment which also describes a wide range of computer-related activities. Within this definition the computer often plays no part in the actual assessment of responses but merely facilitates the capture and transfer of responses between candidate and human assessor.
Computer-Based Assessment refers to assessment which is built around the use of a computer; the use of a computer is always intrinsic to this type of assessment. This can relate to assessment of IT practical skills or more commonly the on screen presentation of knowledge tests. The defining factor is that the computer is marking or assessing the responses provided from candidates. It can be performed on an equivalent electronic device such as a cell phone or PDA. CBA systems enable educators and trainers to author, schedule, deliver, and report on surveys, quizzes, tests and exams. They may be a stand-alone system or a part of a virtual learning environment, possibly accessed via the World Wide Web.
Online assessment refers to assessment activity which requires the use of the internet. In reality, few high stakes assessment sessions are actually conducted online in real-time, but the transfer of data prior to and after the assessment session is conducted via the internet. There are many examples of practice and diagnostic tests being run real time over the internet.