J.M. Fuentes-Pardo, A.I. García, Á. Ramírez-Gómez, F. Ayuga

BETI Teaching Innovation Group. Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (SPAIN)
In higher education, assessment can be defined as a process designed to gather information and to evaluate the knowledge, skills and attitudes achieved by the students. The concept has undergone significant evolution over the past few decades, moving from an isolated activity taking place at the end of the learning process with the only purpose of giving a mark to the student to become a continuous and systematic process directed toward making decisions for the improvement of the educational practices. From that point of view, assessment should be a carefully planned activity and cannot be understood as an improvised work disconnected from lecturing. Self-assessment allows students to check their own progresses, identify weaknesses and propose changes and improvement actions in their learning process.

The introduction of e-learning platforms as supporting tools for teaching has allowed the emergence of new computer-based tools particularly designed to enhance each stage of the educational process. Information technologies applied to education and particularly the use of Internet allows the creation of interactive self-assessment tests that can be useful tools to motivate students in learning tasks and to check their knowledge previously to be definitely examined. Computer-based tests can be conducted online (in real time against a web server) or offline (the test is downloaded and passed in the student’s computer with the appropriate software).

Computer-based assessment offers the following advantages against traditional exams: marks and feedback can be immediately provided to the student; students have greater flexibility in the location and the time to carry out the exam; interactive activities and multimedia tools can be incorporated to the assessment process; teacher’s interpretations and legibility problems are avoided; and time and cost effectiveness, among others. Disadvantages include: authoring and security possible failures, additional work for teacher to generate tests and technical difficulties to carry out and automatically mark certain types of exams (e.g. essay questions or engineering problems, etc.).

The paper discusses the technical features required by computer-based assessment software to be used in higher education courses. A comparative analysis of different applications to conduct on-line and off-line exams has been carried out, with particular attention to the available types of questions, the possibility of incorporating multimedia content to the exams, the possibility of creating and managing a bank of questions, test generation options (i.e. maximum number of questions, time control, number of attempts,…), scoring options or the ability to provide feedback to the students on their answers, among some other questions.