Mastering the Online Summative-Assessment Life Cycle

Mastering the Online Summative-Assessment Life Cycle

Simon Wilkinson (Medical Education Unit, University of Nottingham, UK) and Heather Rai (Medical Education Unit, University of Nottingham, UK)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-814-7.ch017
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This chapter focuses on the use of computers for online summative assessment, in particular for objectively marked items. The aim of this chapter is to try and address the concerns of individuals wishing to pilot the introduction of online summative assessments in their own institutions. A five-stage development life cycle of online summative assessment—item development, quality assurance, item selection, examination delivery, and results analysis—is presented and discussed.
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Many institutions are already using computers for online formative assessment, but in a review looking at medical education, Cantillon, Irish, and Sales (2004) found the application of computers to the summative-assessment arena much more limited. Limiting factors preventing wider adoption of online summative assessment included lack of space and perceived security risks. The publication of failures (Harwood, 2005; Heintz & Jemison, 2005; Smailes, 2002) also does little to reassure the unconverted.

Although the rationale for online assessment has been well rehearsed, it is nevertheless useful to recap some pertinent arguments that support the use of online assessment in the summative area. Students entering higher education today come from a broad background of technology in both their school and home lives. They expect interaction, a visual experience, and rapid feedback from their activities (Oblinger, 2006). Additionally, as more and more online assessment is used in secondary education before these students enter university and in the workplace after students leave, if universities do not keep up with this trend, their courses are in danger of appearing outdated to students (Sim, Holifield, & Brown, 2004). Additionally, online examination broadens the assessment arsenal and creates a more holistically challenging assessment environment: no longer is it possible to be just good at written examinations.

From the point of view of teaching and administration staff, the move to assessing students online also offers a number of advantages. As student numbers increase in the United Kingdom along with time pressures on staff to produce research alongside their teaching, a system that can reduce marking loads has huge advantages. Results can be available as soon as an examination is finished and can be immediately reviewed by an examination board and released to students. A number of quality checks can also be performed as the results come in, resulting in the early detection of problematic questions. These issues are covered in detail below.

The chapter concentrates on the specific topic of computer-based assessment using a client-server architecture such as the Internet. The field of computer-assisted assessment is very wide and conceptually encompasses any form of assessment activity assisted wholly or in part by a computer. This includes endeavours such as student submission of coursework into virtual learning environments (VLEs), the use of online plagiarism detection systems such as Turnitin (, and investigating methods for marking free-text prose automatically. What the current chapter will concentrate on is the use of computer-based assessment for objectively marked items. This should be of interest to curriculum managers, educationalists, and module coordinators who have possibly built up experience in using paper-based examinations that can be automatically marked through optical mark recognition (OMR) systems. OMR is a form of computer-assessed assessment. As the computer does the marking, there is growing interest in using computers to present the assessments to students as well. Table 1 contains a comparison of the two approaches to using computers in assessment.

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Charles Juwah
Roisin Donnelly, Fiona McSweeney
Chapter 1
Sabine Little
This chapter has been composed as a piece of reflective practice, and as such traces and researches the development of a new technology-rich... Sample PDF
"Oily Rag" or "Winged Messenger": The Role of the Developer in Multiprofessional Teams
Chapter 2
Rhona Sharpe, Jillian Pawlyn
This chapter reports on an implementation of blended e-learning within three modules in the School of Health and Social Care at Oxford Brookes... Sample PDF
The Role of the Tutor in Blended E-Learning: Experiences from Interprofessional Education
Chapter 3
Diana Kelly
This chapter makes a case for the importance of preparing e-teachers by requiring them to have an experience as an e-learner. The chapter begins... Sample PDF
Modeling Best Practices in Web-Based Academic Development
Chapter 4
Tony Cunningham, Claire McDonnell, Barry McIntyre, Theresa McKenna
This chapter explores the insights gained by a group of teachers from their lived experience as e-learners participating in a blended module on... Sample PDF
A Reflection on Teachers' Experience as E-Learners
Chapter 5
Catherine Manathunga, Roisin Donnelly
Professional development for academic staff in higher education is receiving increasing attention. The focus has been on providing an opportunity... Sample PDF
Opening Online Academic Development Programmes to International Perspectives and Dialogue
Chapter 6
Louise Adele Jakobsen
This chapter, written from experience in implementing e-learning in further education through various roles, identifies key issues relating to... Sample PDF
Embedding E-Learning in Further Education
Chapter 7
Catherine Matheson, David Matheson
This chapter considers some of the major questions around access and accessibility, beginning with the most basic: just what is meant by access and... Sample PDF
Access and Accessibility in E-Learning
Chapter 8
Morag Munro, Barry McMullin
This chapter examines some of the tensions that may exist between e-learning and accessibility in higher education, and aims to redress the balance... Sample PDF
E-Learning for All? Maximizing the Impact of Multimedia Resources for Learners with Disabilities
Chapter 9
Ursula Wingate
This chapter proposes online preinduction courses as an innovative method for preparing students for learning in higher education. It is argued that... Sample PDF
Enhancing Students' Transition to University through Online Preinduction Courses
Chapter 10
Pankaj Kamthan
The discipline of software engineering has been gaining increasing significance in computer science and engineering education. In this chapter, the... Sample PDF
A Methodology for Integrating Information Technology in Software Engineering Education
Chapter 11
Gordon Joyes, Sheena Banks
The focus of this chapter is on the use of technology in the teaching and learning of research methods in masters’ and doctoral programmes in higher... Sample PDF
Using Technology in Research-Methods Teaching
Chapter 12
Richard Walker, Walter Baets
Blended learning occupies a prominent place within higher education teaching strategies, yet there is no clear definition for what we mean by this... Sample PDF
Instructional Design for Class-Based and Computer-Mediated Learning: Creating the Right Blend for Student-Centred Learning
Chapter 13
Ann Donohoe, Tim McMahon, Geraldine O’Neill
The primary purpose of this chapter is to explore how online communities of inquiry can be developed to facilitate students to engage in reflective... Sample PDF
Online Communities of Inquiry in Higher Education
Chapter 14
Nick Pratt
The aim of this chapter is to explore e-learning and e-teaching from a social perspective in order to show how the use of new technologies, like... Sample PDF
Using Multipoint Audio-Conferencing with Teaching Students: Balancing Technological Potential with Practical Challenges
Chapter 15
Timo Portimojärv, Pirjo Vuoskoski
This chapter will illustrate a combination of problem-based learning (PBL), information and communication technologies (ICT), and leadership in the... Sample PDF
The Alliance of Problem-Based Learning, Technology, and Leadership
Chapter 16
Steve Millard
This chapter sets out a number of ways in which effective use of the online discussion board in a virtual learning environment can contribute to the... Sample PDF
The Use of Online Role Play in Preparing for Assessment
Chapter 17
Simon Wilkinson, Heather Rai
This chapter focuses on the use of computers for online summative assessment, in particular for objectively marked items. The aim of this chapter is... Sample PDF
Mastering the Online Summative-Assessment Life Cycle
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