Accessible e-Assessment

JISC TechDis has a section on Inclusive E-assessment.  but much of the work on e-assessment has come under the banner of web accessibility.  There are commerical programs that provide frameworks for developing online assessments but as discussed in a CETIS Sig with JISC TechDIs accessibility is not guaranteed.   This page (despite having been written in 2006) has some very useful considerations. 

This is the HTML version of the Accessible e-Assessment: What We Need to Think About (PowerPoint format - 72Kb) given by Sharon Perry, CETIS.

  1. Overview.

    This presentation is just a very brief overview of some of the issues that need to be taken into account when considering e-assessment. There is a lot to think about and the issues range from strategic all the way down to the nitty-gritty of the technical implementations. This is not something one person can achieve but needs a consolidated approach across the academic, administrative, and technical sectors.

  2. Technical Considerations.
    • Font size, background colour etc - i.e. the basic technical considerations. These conditions apply to all software. If a student can access and use the software, this will go a long way to ensuring accessibility but there is still a lot more that needs to be considered.
    • Will assistive technologies work with the VLE or assessment software? Although this is something that may need to be addressed by vendors, it is important to check that assistive technologies actually work in the expected way when using such software before the student attempts the assessment.
    • Conformance to W3C, IMS, and other accessibility and assessment guidelines will also help in ensuring that the software is technically accessible but there is still a lot more to be considered.
    • Use of mouse, multimedia, or other potentially inaccessible format or hardware - Not all students can use a mouse or access multimedia formats, such as Flash, movies, sound, or images. Not all students may have speakers or headphones. Therefore, alternative formats, exercises or ways of accessing the assessment will need to be provided - e.g. captions on sound, keyboard as well as mouse access, alt tags on images etc. But if providing such alternative formats will invalidate the assessment then an alternative but equivalent way assessing the learning objective will need to be found, which may not necessarily be online.
  3. Pedagogical Considerations.
    • What are the learning outcomes? Is the learning objective being tested rather than a student's manual or technological skills? (Unless, of course, that is the whole point of the assessment. In which case, alternative but equivalent ways of assessment may need to be found).
    • Is the learning objective actually being tested? Or is using e-assessment just a way to show off and play around with the technology?
    • Is e-assessment the best way? Non-electronic assessments may provide a better assessment experience and may also be more beneficial to certain students. For example, a dyslexic student may find writing a long essay difficult but may be able to produce a video instead.
    • Do all students have the same opportunity to succeed uk kamagra? All students should be given the same opportunity to engage in the assessment regardless of disability, learning style, preference, or technology. If an e-assessment is intrinsically inaccessible and reasonable adjustments cannot be made, then an alternative equivalent means of assessment should be provided. For example, an exercise where major airports have to be dragged and dropped onto a map would be inaccessible to a student who is blind. However, a multiple choice alternative could be offered.
    • Is the assessment valid and engaging (and accessible)? Yes it can be. But taking the easy way out and just catering for the lowest common denominator is not an option. For example, creating a text only based e-assessment is likely to be uninteresting and, although it may be accessible to some people, may be inaccessible to people with cognitive disabilities, or those who prefer to have images or interactive content.
  4. Strategic Considerations.
    • Policies - departmental, institutional, etc. Ensure that any e-assessment (or alternative equivalent) assessment is in line with department and institutional policies. Is there any Quality Assurance?
    • "Gradebook" facilities - Some VLEs and other e-learning software allow a student and teacher to access a "gradebook" which hold the student's marks and any feedback by the teacher. This is important for the student to see which areas need improvement. However, it also needs to be accessible (but this will probably be down to the vendors to address).
    • Interoperability - with assessment software can improve accessibility if the vendor has tried to make the software accessible. The use of question banks could cause accessibility problems but may also provide alternative equivalent assessments.
  5. Practical Considerations.
    • Student consultation - If you are aware that a student has special requirements, talk to the student about what assessment requires and what the student requires. If the student needs to use any assistive technology, ensure that the use of it will not invalidate the learning outcome and test it before the student takes the assessment. Otherwise consider an alternative means of assessment.
    • Extra time - Some students will need a longer time to complete an assessment than others. Therefore, time-outs should be extendable or not used if possible. Special provision may need to be made (in the software or physically) for students who need to have longer than the allotted time for taking a test.
    • Physical considerations - Not really under the remit of e-assessment but it could have a bearing if the assessment is taken under exam conditions. Students who use screen readers or other assistive technology may need to take the assessment in a separate room. Likewise, students who need to take frequent breaks or who cannot sit for long periods of time. Special chairs, computer equipment, or desks may also need to be provided.
    • Timing of assessments - Again not quite under the remit of e-assessment, but some students with disabilities or taking medication such as M E who have to undertake several assessments in a day, may find it too tiring. Students may only be able to take exams at certain times of the day when they feel at their strongest.
    • Security - If students use their own computers because of the way in which their assistive technology is set up, this could cause problems with security if the student has crib sheets hidden away on the computer. There has been a long discussion about this on one of the forums.
    • Information - Assessment details should be made available to students in plenty of time so that any adjustments or alternative arrangements can be made.