Online testing in Victorian schools

Moves are afoot to develop an online ‘one stop shop’ for school assessments. Rather than developing something from the ground up the Victorian government has called for tenders to bring together in one portal a range of existing assessment tools.

This makes good sense and the government will be wary of the Ultranet experience. Apart from whatever other faults it may have had, the main issue for schools with the Ultranet was its functionality. What started as a wonderful concept became too difficult to use for teachers. It was overdesigned and not intuitive for users. If the government proceeds with the current plan it will need to involve end users heavily in the design and testing phase.

I see two other challenges. Firstly, some additional testing tools will need to be developed to pick up year levels and curriculum areas untouched by current online assessment tools. The big one is the VCE where there are potential issues with the integrity of testing and perhaps equity issues for students without access to computers. A move to online VCE assessment will take years and a lot of money – change at other year levels can be achieved much more quickly and cheaply.

The second issue is the portability of assessment data. Assessment should be viewed as important not just for identifying achievement levels but also as a means of shaping future teaching and learning experiences. At present, testing results from NAPLAN and other tests do not transfer with students when they move from one school to another. Think about that. Testing undertaken in upper primary school is not transferred with the student into their secondary school. Wouldn’t most parents would want new teachers of their children to have access to anything that might help with their learning? Some inbuilt functionality and regulations addressing potential privacy concerns should be high on the list of whoever is looking at Victoria’s new system.

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