Digital Education team blog
  • We support Staff and Students using technology to enhance education at UCL.

    Here you'll find updates on institutional developments, projects we're involved in, updates on educational technology, events, case studies and personal experiences (or views!).

  • Subscribe to the Digital Education blog

  • Meta

  • Tags

  • A A A

    E-assessment 2.0 – making assessment Crisper…

    By Fiona Strawbridge, on 15 September 2010

    CALT organised a stimulating presentation by Prof Geoffrey Crisp of the University of Adelaide about assessment in the Web 2.0 world. Much information at and a similar presentation is on slideshare.

    Crisp calls for much more ‘authentic’ learning and assessment – the need to set big questions; for instance in aeronautical engineering we should set students a task to build a rocket in 3 years. This allows them to see reasons for the smaller things. The tendency with conventional assessment is for everything to become very granular – little learning outcomes are assessed with discrete assessment tasks which don’t encourage students to make connections, and which encourage surface and strategic rather than deep approaches to learning.

    Of course moving away from more traditional forms of assessment entails proving that the alternative works – traditional approaches are very deeply engrained in the culture of institutions and are not easily challenged. Crisp acknowledged that even in his own institution there is some way to go.

    Three points to start with:

    1.    Assessment tasks should be worth doing – if students can get answers by copying from web, or asking google, or guessing, then the task is not worth doing. We need to stop setting tasks which are about information since information is everywhere.

    2.    We should separate out diagnostic assessment from formative assessment. Diagnostic assessment is essential before teaching and can be an excellent way of starting relationship with students at the outset. The teacher can then build their teaching on students’ current level of understanding.

    3.    Think about assessment tasks which result in divergent rather than convergent responses.  In the traditional approach we tend to seek convergent responses in which all students are expected to come up with same answer but divergent responses are more authentic.  Peer- and self-review approaches can support this approach.

    Bearing this in mind, and drawing on the work by Bobby Elliot (see, we heard that:

    • Assessment 1.0 is traditional assessment – paper-based, classroom-based, synchronous in time and space, formalised and controlled.
    • Assessment 1.5 is basic computer assisted assessment – using quizzes which tend to replicate the paper-based experience, and portfolios used mainly as storage for students’ work. Tasks tend to be done alone -competition is encouraged and collaboration is cheating.  They tend to encourage focus on passing the test rather than on gaining knowledge, skills and understanding and don’t lead to deeper levels of learning (indeed Elliot argues that factual knowledge is valueless in the era of Wikipedia and Google.)
    • Assessment 2.0 is tool-assisted assessment in which students do things using a variety of tools and resources and then simply use the VLE (typically) to submit the results. This kind of assessment is typically authentic, personalised, negotiated, engaging, recognises existing skills, researched, assesses deeper levels of learning, problem oriented, collaborative, done anywhere peer- and self-assessed, and supported by IT tools especially the open web.

    Some nice examples of interactive e-assessment 2.0 design included:

    • Examine QuickTime VR image of a geological formation then answer questions based on that – drawing on things wouldn’t be able to see from static image.
    • Examine panograph (scrolling and zoomable image) of Bayeux Tapestry and answer questions drawing together different parts – students selecting evidence from different segments of the tapestry.
    • Interactive spreadsheets – Excel with macros.  Students can change certain bits and answer questions on resulting trends in graphs. Can have nested response questions so that the answer to the second is based on first. (But there is a need for care with dependences so that a wrong move early on doesn’t lead to total failure).
    • Chemical structures using the Molinspiration tool. Students can draw molecular structures using the tool and copy and paste the resulting text string into answer which is held in the VLE quiz tool.
    • Problem solving using a tool called IMMEX (‘It Makes You Think’) which tracks how students approach problems.  The tutor adds in real, redundant and false information that the students can draw on to solve the problem.  They can use it all but the more failed attempts they make the fewer marks they get. We saw an archaeology example in which students had to date an artefact.
    • Role plays which can be done using regular VLE features such as announcements, discussion forums, wikis.  Students adopt different personas and enter into discussion and debate through those personas.
    • Scenario based learning – this is more prescriptive than role play. The recommended tool is
    • Simulations – the site offers a virtual bank and factory. Students can work within bized then answer questions in the VLE.
    • Second Life (virtual world) assessment in which the avatar answers questions which go back into Moodle.

    Examples of these and more are available through the site – it’s Moodle-based and anyone with a email address can self-register and try out the various tasks. (They also run a series of webinars.)

    Crisp argues convincingly for much more authentic and immersive assessment, and for assessments in which  process as well as outcome is evaluated – for example approaches to problem solving;  efficiency; ethical considerations; involvement of others.

    A good closing question was whether teachers will be able to construct future assessments or will this be a specialist activity. Is it all going to get too hard for people? There may be a need for more team based approaches in future.

    Useful resources

    Boud, D., 2009, Assessment 2020 – Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education, Available at:

    Crisp, G., 2007, The e-Assessment Handbook. Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd

    Crisp, G., 2009, Designing and using e-Assessments. HERDSA Guide, Higher Education Research Society of Australasia

    Elliott, B., 2008. Assessment 2.0 – Modernising assessment in the age of Web 2.0. Available at: