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Our vision and mission for onscreen assessment
  • Annual Conference Speaker
  • COVID-19
  • Exams and Assessments

Written by Meredith Reeve, Head of Next Generation Assessment for General Qualifications, Pearson and speaker at the 40th COBIS Annual Conference.

At Pearson, our vision for onscreen assessment is to accelerate the transition to onscreen learning, teaching and assessment that is authentic to learners’ home and work lives. Our mission is to create an onscreen learning programme that culminates in low and high stakes assessment that accurately and fairly assesses students’ learning, enabling all students to achieve their potential.

We believe that onscreen assessment can unlock real benefits for learners and teachers. These may include improved authenticity of assessment and delivery of assessment, insights and results, plus potential reduction in teacher workload and administrative burden.

What do international schools think?

The Covid pandemic and school closures accelerated the use of digital technology in teaching, learning and assessment and our research suggests there is now a strong appetite for a move to onscreen assessment.

In mid 2021, we surveyed 1,000 teachers and school leaders in the UK and more than 120 teachers and school leaders in international schools, to understand the key drivers and barriers to onscreen assessment at GCSE and International GCSE level.

  • 51% of respondents said that they would be interested in adopting onscreen assessment now and 65% said they would be interested in adopting it in the next four years.
  • Key drivers included having assessments that better reflect learners’ use of technology in and outside of the classroom, more accessible assessment for learners with SEND, and the potential for improved security of assessment.
  • Key challenges included access to technology, reliability of the testing platform, and consistency/comparability between onscreen and paper-based assessments.

In late 2021, we carried out focus groups and interviews with school leaders and teachers globally to explore how digital technology might lead to more valid, more flexible assessment for secondary qualifications in the future.

These focus groups were insightful. Firstly, the appetite for onscreen assessment was strong. Secondly, we were struck by the range of digital tools that are being used in the classroom, across all subjects in teaching, learning and formative assessment. But high stakes exams are yet to catch up.

And why shouldn’t they? Technology is the core communication vehicle for young people. It opens opportunities for flexibility of teaching, learning and assessment and adds to the authenticity and accessibility of the experience. In Geography, augmented and virtual realities transport learners to places they could never dream of physically visiting and completing laboratory experiments for science could take place without the barriers of physical space.

What if assessments could be taken on demand, taken when students are ready, taken remotely, with invigilation software that ensures the security of the exam when schools are inaccessible (as with our Functional Skills and PTE Academic English tests)? Delivering assessments onscreen opens a range of innovative possibilities.

International perspectives

Several countries across the globe have made significant progress at national level towards transformation of their assessment systems, with onscreen technologies at the heart.

Egypt, New Zealand and Finland started their journey at different points in time, with different approaches and at different speeds and scale. But in each country, there were key drivers in common: to modernise the assessment system, and to ensure that the assessment of skills and knowledge was better aligned to the use of digital technologies in teaching and learning, in learners’ lives and in the future world of work.

Our experience and capability

At Pearson, we have a wealth of experience in designing, developing and delivering onscreen assessments and we are excited about the opportunities it might provide to create authentic learning and insights, powered by technology, in the coming years.

Onscreen mock exams

We currently offer onscreen GCSE and International GCSE mock exams for English and Mathematics. These were of particular interest to teachers during school lockdowns, and demand has continued since schools have returned to classroom teaching. Our mock exams for English prepare learners either for paper-based or onscreen assessment and provide efficient, seamless delivery, with fully onscreen marking by our expert examiners. Read more about our onscreen mocks and register your interest.

Onscreen exams for International GCSE English Language

In our International GCSE English qualification, we have been working with a small number of schools in the Middle East and Europe, who will be completing their final assessments in May onscreen.

Participating schools started partnering with us on this exciting journey in September 2021, with learners and teachers having access to practice assessments within the onscreen platform for familiarisation and to build their confidence using the available tools.

Students completed their first onscreen mock exam in November, and most participating schools completed their second onscreen mock in February. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with 78% of students expressing a preference for completing their assessment onscreen, rather than on paper.

About the author

Meredith Reeve is Head of Next Generation Assessment for General Qualifications at Pearson.

Meredith will be one of the panellists at the plenary panel discussion chaired by Priya Lakhani OBE, CEO of Century Tech on Sunday 8 May at 15:50 as part of the 40th COBIS Annual Conference. Book your delegate place now.