Calls to scrap pen and paper exams by 2025

The education sector needs to stop 'clinging to pen and paper' and allow technology to provide radical solutions, says technology body Jisc

Kate Parker

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The education sector should stop “clinging to pen and paper” when it comes to assessment and allow technology to provide radical innovation, the not-for-profit education technology company Jisc has urged.  

In a new report, The future of assessment: five principles, five targets for 2025, Jisc today calls for an overhaul of exams in further and higher education, saying that assessment needs to be smarter, faster and more accessible. 

Andy McGregor, director of edtech at Jisc, said emerging technologies could transform the way students are assessed, while also removing some administrative burden from teachers. 

He said: “There is a real appetite for change in the UK education sector and many individuals are already exploring innovative new approaches. But widespread transformation doesn’t happen overnight and requires a change to the way data about assessment is collected and managed. Just as importantly, staff will need to be given time and space to experiment and develop confidence with new technology so it can be used to enhance assessment.”

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The report highlights the good practice already taking place in many colleges across the UK. Bolton College, for example, is extending its automatic marking to include natural language processing, while Preston's College is using immersive technology and has introduced a 360-degree camera in the dance studio. Meanwhile, Newcastle University is moving towards digital exams.

Jisc suggest five targets which it says could transform assessment in the next five years:

  1. Authentic
    There needs to be a shift in focus from acquiring knowledge rooted in a particular curriculum or occupational area to acquiring transferable skills, and these need to be assessed in a more realistic way.
  2. Accessible
    The design of assessments must move to an accessibility-first principle that allows the same assessment to be delivered in multiple ways depending on the needs of the learner.
  3. Appropriately automated
    Establish a balance between automated and human marking and feedback that delivers the maximum learning benefit to students.
  4. Continuous
    Data and analytics must be in widespread use to assess the effectiveness and impact of continuous assessment and to plan strategies across the whole organisation.
  5. Secure
    There needs to be a general adoption of authoring detection and biometric authentication for identity and remote proctoring.

Jisc says that underpinning all of the above targets must be a focus on digital skills development for staff – teachers must be allowed more time to experiment with technology and therefore build confidence to implement new approaches to assessment.

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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