Assessment standard stimulates 250m investment

Assessment takes up a significant part of an academics time, particularly at this time of year. Over the past seven years Jisc has invested heavily in technologies to reduce the assessment burden on tutors and institutions. One area of investment has been to support the Innovation Support Centre, CETIS, to help lead on the development of an assessment standard, the IMS Question and Test Interoperability QTI v2.1 specification. The QTI specification enables assessment questions to be transferred in a standard way between assessment systems.

Writing multiple choice questions for online tests is a time consuming process for academic tutors, and only since QTI v2.1 have these questions been transferable, presenting significant time savings in terms of the rekeying of questions when transferring to new systems, and ensuring academics aren’t ‘locked-in’ to using one system for their assessments. Using a standard format for online questions and tests can be particularly significant for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects in first and second year exams, meaning that subject areas can establish and share questions across institutions and create large scale item bank, that can be reused in subjects like maths, physics, chemistry and engineering – saving time across the sector as academic colleagues can share questions with others.

So what has been the impact of this investment, and how is QTI v2.1 being used to support efficiencies of scale with assessment practice?

This is a good time to reflect – we are now seeing significant global investment in tools that implement the QTI v2.1 specification. Developments in the Netherlands, Germany, France, South Korea, the USA and UK suggest that this is a key time for the specification, a time where significant investment is now being placed in systems that have at their heart QTI v2.1. From the move of all online school exams to the QTI v2.1 specification in the Netherlands, to two projects of $160-170 million each in the USA looking to overhaul the whole assessment infrastructure in schools, we can see a real step change in practice occurring. On a smaller, but none-the-less important scale, Jisc have sponsored a range of activity, most recently two projects as part of the Assessment and Feedback programme, aiming to reality check the specification, including placing QTI materials in the hands of the teachers and learners, via editing tools such as Uniqurate and playback tools such as QTIworks.

For more information, see my colleague Wilbert Kraan’s original blog post on the topic, and the CETIS briefing paper on QTI V2.1. For an outline of how the outputs of the QTI-DI and Uniqurate projects work, see the post by RSC Scotland.

Lisa Gray

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