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Coursework goes electronic

A pilot scheme which allows students to deliver their exam coursework on CD-Rom instead of paper, could finally bring the examination system into the electronic age. The initiative involved a small number of schools and the English and Welsh examining boards.

Damp;T students usually have to produce portfolios composed of around 40-50 A3 sheets of coloured paper. But at John Cabot City Technology College in Bristol, the printers and photocopiers were given a break when 40 A-level students submitted their coursework on CD-Rom to the AQA exam board. Head of Damp;T, Nathan Jenkins says: "I had to package the portfolios into large folders and then send them off to the examiner, so there was a lot of work involved just putting them together. Then there was the cost of postage.

Now it all goes on a single CD that I just pop in the post."

Nathan Jenkins got the idea for delivering students' work on a CD-Rom when he realised that most students initially prepared their portfolios in electronic form. He says: "They were using PowerPoint to produce them and scanning in images. This makes it easier to assess, as you can scroll through the work on-screen and I can carry all the students' portfolios on a laptop rather than carting around bulky paper-based portfolios."

Yet even though the portfolios were prepared electronically, they still had to be printed out before being sent off to the exam board. Nathan Jenkins spoke to Rob Woolridge, AQA's chief moderator, about the possibility of submitting exam portfolios on CD-Rom and he agreed to a pilot.

Now the students save their work on a server in a shared folder. The portfolios have to be delivered before the deadline, after which the shared folder is locked down and the work transferred to disk. "You still have to mark the same amount of work, but this way is more user-friendly," says Nathan Jenkins. "I can mark the work anytime and anywhere without having to cart all those folders. There are no issues from our end, although I appreciate that not every school can do this."

Moderators also mark the work on-screen rather than printing it out. Rob Woolridge says: "Instead of getting a stack of folders, you receive all the work on a tiny disc. The main issues from the moderators have been concerns about getting a virus on their PC, but you can use a virus checker. Some people also have laptops with small screens, but you can always project the image on to a wall. Another issue is that we still like to see students drawing on paper with pen and pencil and with this system they still do that and then scan their work in."

Nathan Jenkins says: "From our point of view, it has worked like a dream and we hope it will be expanded to our GCSE students." Examiners will be accessing the success of the scheme in the autumn with the possibility of the trail being extended next year.

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