More of a choice as exam papers to go online

2nd October 2009 at 01:00
Pupils can sit past papers online free, have them automatically marked and get feedback

Initially, only multiple choice papers covering the past four years, including this year's diet, will be available under the Scottish Qualifications Authority's plans.

Eventually, the exams body hopes to allow pupils to access extended exam questions. These will not be marked but will include guidance about how pupils might go about constructing their answers.

It is predicted that topic-based assessment will become available via the website to fit with the new curriculum. This might mean 10 quick questions to help schools deliver first aid or mental health awareness, said Graeme Clark, project manager of Solar, set up four years ago by the SQA to focus on the use of technology to assess qualifications.

"We have specialists writing the learner feedback for every question and option (in the multiple choice papers)," he said. "There will be no login; learners will be free to engage with the content when it suits them. If we have better access and more flexible materials, we expect learners to achieve more and to do better. This content is publicly funded, so why not make it available for learners to access?"

Mr Clark expects the site to be a success, based on the popularity of similar sites in England which have seen large numbers of students signing up in spite of charging.

He revealed the SQA's plans in Dundee at the e-Learning Alliance's first annual conference, eAssessment Scotland 2009, which also hosted the inaugural Scottish e-Assessment Awards.

The conference heard that colleges had been early e-assessment enthusiasts; in 2003, three-quarters were using it and 90 per cent were interested in using it - but only 30 per cent of schools used it and only half were interested. Over time, the figures for colleges have remained the same, while the proportion of schools using e-assessment or interested in using it has doubled.

Dai Hounsell, vice-principal for academic enhancement at Edinburgh University, warned universities against insisting on word-processed essays during the year, but ending courses with three-hour written examinations which were physiologically and intellectually demanding. Edinburgh was examining the possibility of allowing students to type their essay examinations on laptops: "When you start writing on a word processor, after a while you learn to write in a different way."

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