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Are Online Assessments Better Than Paper Based Assessments?

Author : Jamie Simpson

As computers are becoming cheaper while at the same time more advanced, teachers are increasingly working to integrate technology into their classrooms. Personal computers and newer technologies like iPads are being used to develop research skills and expose students to engaging interactive media. Even one of the oldest tools in the teacher's kit is moving to digital format: the assessment.

Teachers use assessments to monitor the progress of their students as well as the effectiveness of their teaching. For example, there are often "pre-tests" which are administered before a chapter is taught in order to determine how much time needs to be spent on that particular section. These results are then compared to the quizzes and tests that are given after the material has been covered, and the teacher can see how well the students absorbed the material. Teachers also use assessments to evaluate their performance through asking for student feedback on the teaching style and the way the material has been presented.

As these assessments are moving to an online platform, there is a lot of room to improve their utility. Many teachers are beginning to use online assessments exclusively, no longer bothering with paper. One reason for this is that online exams can be graded immediately for multiple choice questions, and longer responses can be easily be accessed from anywhere that has an internet connection - making the act of lugging around a sack full of tests a thing of the past. While Scantron sheets also grade multiple choice questions very rapidly, they are notoriously inaccurate when an answer has been erased or if the student marks outside of the bubbles.

Another efficiency benefit is the removal of the previously tedious data entry process. In the past, teachers would have to manually write in each grade for each student in a grade-book that would fill up quickly and often become quite difficult to read and keep track of. It was also easy to make an error when reading across a line, mixing up two different students' grades in the entry process as well as in calculating the final grade. With online assessments, teachers are able to be confident that their numbers are associated with the correct student.

Perhaps the strongest benefit of online assessments is their capacity to automatize statistical analysis. This means that a teacher can quickly and accurately compute the class averages on any test, or research almost any other parameter instantly (such as which questions were answered incorrectly by the most students). This greater statistical proficiency enables teachers to make highly useful calculations. For example, an instructor can compare the rate of improvement from pre-test to final test between chapters. They can then look at what methods of instruction were used in the chapters which show the greatest level of improvement, and tailor their teaching style to the learning style of that class. This would have taken much longer in the past, and also run the risk of human error.

An often overlooked upside to online assessments has to do with the teacher evaluations which students submit. These evaluations are almost always anonymous, but given that a teach typically spends hours reading the handwriting of each student, it is fairly easy to tell who wrote what. Online assessments allow for greater anonymity and thus greater honesty on the part of students.

As online assessments continue to proliferate, there will be new and creative applications which enhance their effectiveness and that make paper assessments a thing of the past.

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Submitted : 2011-02-22    Word Count : 1    Times Viewed: 723