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An Introduction to Digital Assessment

Digital technologies provide new ways of designing, facilitating and managing assessment processes. There are various terms used for this—including “Digital Assessment”, “Technology-Enhanced Assessment”, “E-Assessment” or “Online Assessment”—and the lexicon around digital assessment is constantly evolving as new practices and understandings emerge.

At Trinity, we use the term “Digital Assessment” which we define as assessment approaches enabled by digital technologies.

This section aims to help you to reflect on how we define “digital assessment” at Trinity. It also aims to help you identify the role that digital technologies can play in enabling different types of assessment approaches and processes, and how you might use these technologies within your own assessment contexts.

Before designing any digital assessment, it is important to consider the purpose of assessment and the characteristics of effective assessment design. Because digital assessment often involves a change in practice for both staff and students, there are potential challenges or issues that you will need to consider beforehand. 


Understanding assessment in a digital age

At Trinity, we recognise that digital technologies have permeated all aspects of learning, teaching and assessment and we use the term ‘digital assessment’ broadly. Digital assessments are not just assessments completed online, but any assessment approach enabled by digital technologies.

For example, you might think of essays as a traditional assessment type. However, it is rare to research, write and submit an essay without the use of digital technologies at some point in the process! Many essays are now disseminated and collected within virtual learning environments. They are typically using word-processing software and they are informed by research often undertaken online!

With this in mind, you will find a wide variety of digital assessment types in this Gateway hub. These assessment types include:

  • assessments which are fully enabled by digital technologies and often defined by their use of technology—such as blogs, wikis, online discussion fora, virtual simulations, multimedia artefacts.
  • more traditional assessment types, elements of which are now often enabled using digital technologies—such as essays, annotated bibliographies, presentations.
  • assessments which have moved into a digital context due to Covid-19, but may also be undertaken in traditional face-to-face formats—such as performances or debates.

Digital assessment is not therefore, solely about assessment that is submitted online: at Trinity we think of digital assessment as much broader than this. As argued by Fawns (2019), technology and education are interdependent: by breaking down distinctions between digital and non-digital forms of assessment, we aim to develop assessment literacy among staff and students and support more effective assessment practices across the Trinity.

When designing any digital assessment, the same principles and characteristics of effective assessment design apply. As always, consider the interrelationship between learning outcomes, module/programme content, and assessment strategy. The principle of constructive alignment should always be applied whereby your assessment approach align with the desired learning outcome.

Key Takeaways

  • At Trinity, we use the term “Digital Assessment” which we define as assessment approaches enabled by digital technologies.
  • Digital assessments include:
    • assessments which are fully enabled by digital technologies and often defined by their use of technology.
    • more traditional assessment types, elements of which are now often enabled using digital technologies.
    • assessments which have moved into a digital context due to Covid-19, but may also be undertaken in traditional face-to-face formats
  • When designing any digital assessment, the same principles and characteristics of effective assessment design apply: always consider the interrelationship between learning outcomes, module/programme content, and assessment strategy.

Resources

Fawns, T (2019) Postdigital Education in Design and Practice. Postdigital Science and Education. Vol1. pp 132-145


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