Interview with Anja Sisarica, from Inspera Assessment: “There has been a new appetite, not just for figuring out doing digital exams safely, but something far more human is at play”

The new paradigm has dramatically accelerated different organisations digitisation in their processes, and candidate assessments, either in Higher Education, awarding organisations, schools and governments, are not an exception.

In this context, we have interviewed Innovation and Strategy Consultant, Ph.D. Anja Sisarica from Inspera Assessment, one of the leading e-Assessment companies. Inspera Assessment is “happy to bring that positive change to the educators globally, as a part of “new normal” and “to connect and learn from each other’s experiences, because none of us has been in this strange situation before.”

In this interview, Anja explains how in the past months the company has noticed a significant increase in the interest among educational institutions to do remote and digital exams, what have been their main challenges and how they see the future of online assessment.

For those who are not familiar with the concept, could you briefly explain to us what digital assessment and online examinations are?

In a nutshell, it’s pretty much what it says on the tin. In any educational context - be it schools, universities, professional development, or certifications - tests and exams can be taken safely and effectively on-screen, at home or in a classroom. However, digital assessment is not just about getting rid of pen, paper, and handwriting. Digital assessment is the bridge between school, work, and active citizenship. It secures alignment between the tools used in everyday teaching and evaluations, and those test-takers will be using in their professional life.

Some educational institutions, such as schools and universities are already using LMS or VLE platforms. These software solutions usually offer the possibility of testing students’ knowledge and skills. What are the main advantages of choosing a specific online assessment solution instead?

VLE/LMS platforms are great for online training, communication between students and teachers, distribution of content and collaboration during the course. An assessment software, like Inspera Assessment, provides that functionality as well, but it is furthermore specifically designed to securely support all processes and tasks related to assessment. While learning and assessment are tightly connected, the requirements to the platforms that support them are not the same. One of the main advantages of the assessment software, in this case, includes customised workflows and roles covering the entire high-stakes exam lifecycle (authoring, delivery, monitoring, marking, analytics, sharing). Then, there are numerous question types and integrations to support various curriculum needs and large-scale examinations in a scalable way. On the exam day, we can’t forget about the security measures assessment software offers for both open- and closed-book exams, and the remote proctoring solution that is part of the platform. Finally, to make the most of assessment, there are advanced learning analytics and marking tools to support the pedagogical impact and continuous learning.

Did you experience any increment in the interest for the adoption of digital assessment software after Covid-19 started to hit education?

Yes, indeed we did, and we’ve done our best to support both our existing and prospective partners during this global crisis. There has been a new appetite, not just for figuring out how to do digital remote exams in a secure way, shifting the mindset from nice-to-have to a necessity, but something far more human is at play. There is an emerging need to connect and learn from each other’s experiences, because none of us has been in this strange situation before - with the universities closed, changing student demographics, lockdowns, etc. Take, for example, our clients in Australia with many foreign students from China - they were hit by this quite early in the year. Even our most mature partners in Scandinavia, who have done online assessment with us for many years, were significantly affected by this and wanted to participate in forums to find out the best way to adapt. Therefore, we hope to continue strengthening our community, and sharing the experiences of best practices for everyone’s benefit in these turbulent times of accelerated innovation. Personally, it’s been a great pleasure working with our partners to understand and communicate these experiences.

In your opinion what was driving this positive change? Are there more newcomer universities, schools and corporations now than before the digitization in education was pushed by the sanitary crisis?

This question makes me think of our mission, as a company, and that is to make assessment more inclusive, fair, and relevant to the 21st century. We hope to bring that positive change to the educators globally, and I’m happy to see the increased interest in this topic and our product - it is a part of “new normal”.

What do you think is the key to success in the rapid adoption of EdTech tools in general?

This does depend on the organisation, but like with any technology adoption, it comes down to people. The software is there to support human needs, not to have humans supporting the software. I’d suggest investing early in project management, communications, training, team building, and requirements engineering, to ensure proper change management. At Inspera we have over a decade of experience in these kinds of projects, big and small, so we are happy to support our clients in transition. Piloting a solution is also a good low-cost way to better understand your organisation’s needs before embarking on a wider adoption journey.

In the particular case of digital assessment platforms, which you are most familiar with in Inspera Assessment, how can an educational institution successfully implement these solutions?

As I mentioned, piloting is a great strategy to see what works best for your institution. It is about striking the right balance between starting small, and moving quickly enough not to lose the momentum needed for the change to happen. A lot can be learned by connecting with your peers from other institutions who have already been through the same process, so working in my role, I often try to facilitate this.

Could you mention successful cases from other educational institutions to provide some guidance to those who would like to use e-Assessment in the future?

We are a Scandinavian company, our headquarter is in Oslo, with offices also in Stockholm and Aarhus. But we are lucky to have over 80 partners globally, including some world-leading educational institutions, like Cambridge Assessment, Oxford University, and Caribbean Examinations Council. You can check out some of their stories on our website, or if video is more of your thing, watch the Digital Examinations Forum webinar series that we did with our partners in June 2020. The webinars cover various topics of interest to those who are considering e-assessment solutions.

Usually, what are the stakeholders involved in an assessment digitization process?

Students and teachers first come to mind when we think about exams, but one shouldn’t forget other important stakeholders, such as administrators, invigilators, learning technologists, management, psychometricians, marking moderators, external examiners and IT support.

From Inspera Assessment how do you see the future of education in the medium and long term?

We can move beyond the simple migration of conventional assessment into a digital format. Educational institutions have the opportunity to improve the learning experience for students through rethinking how assessment can and should be implemented going forward. We are very grateful to be on this learning journey together with our partners, both in online, hybrid, or face-to-face classrooms.

Finally, what steps do you think should be taken by educational institutions searching for a reliable online assessment and digital examination solution supplier that meets their needs?

The same question was on our mind recently, so we wrote an eBook “The Complete Roadmap to Online Assessment”, where you can find step-by-step guidelines for getting started with e-assessment. You can download it for free here, and let us know what you think!

About the author

Anja Sisarica

Ph.D. Anja Sisarica is the Innovation and Strategy Consultant from Inspera Assessment, one of the leading e-Assessment companies.

About EdTick

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