For those looking for an easy answer on how to do controlled assessments… I’m afriad I haven’t got it yet. In the UK the exam boards have come up with the concept of Controlled Assessment – this is a replacement for coursework, much of which was done at home which was seen to be too open for interference by parents or other cheating and discriminatory to some especially those who do not have facilities or people to help them at home. There are of course  other reasons for this change.

This seems to have caused a  problem that has suddenly jumped out of nowhere at many schools and certainly at our school with History, Geography, Drama, Citizenship, ICT and probably others all faced with the dilemma of how to get students to produce coursework in lessons without them having access to it outside lessons.

Each subject and each exam board seems to have a different set of rules which seem to include

  • No access to work outside of lessons
  • No access to sites on the internet to help them with work
  • No access to internet
  • No access to school network
  • No access to certain programs
  • No ability to save work in pupil area or e-mail home

I’m not a school network expert – for some schools who are well resourced and have the expertise this probably isn’t a problem. But for many who are stretched it is no doubt causing many headaches. It potentially means every student doing these assessments needs a separate login and account just to do this work – for my average sized school you are talking potentially 300-400 accounts – possibly setup differently for different subjects. For A-level Computing we’ve already had to deal with a similar dilemma - the new online AS exam is all done with access to a small subset of programs and no network or internet access – for the last 2 exams out technicians have reinstalled a whole suite of computers just for the exam students have logged in to do the exam (sometimes in 2 sittings) and then the machines were reinstalled back to normal! For our network manager and technicians this was the simplest way.

Here are a few solutions that we have used or thought up or heard from with for controlled assessments (not all tried and tested)

1. Memory Sticks – students use a generic login which restricts their access – students then save their work on the memory stick at the end of the lesson and the teacher takes the stick in. – advantages: simple! very simple. disadvantages: memory sticks can go wrong or get lost, work is not backed up with the school systems, lots of memory sticks need to be bought – again possibly for every subject.

2. VLE handin – similar to the above students login to an account only allowing access to certain features. They upload their work to the VLE and the teacher locks the work: Advantages: No USB sticks! Disadvantages: Requires internet (if VLE hosted offsite), fiddly for students and teachers, requires ways to open and close work every lesson.

3. Networking knowhow – The experts at Edugeek have a few solutions including this one – http://www.edugeek.net/forums/how-do-you-do/58143-controlled-assessment-how-we-did.html – for some of these solutions it requires an assessment role to be created (like students and teacher roles) and this is turned on and off at the start and end of every lesson.  I imagine this would be done manually. Advantages: It should work and hopefully less fiddly for the less techy teacher – Disadvantages: Network administrator workload heavy

4. Yacapaca – this is similar to the VLE approach. We love Yacapaca in our ICT department for lots of types of quizzes, homeworks and assessment – it’s very easy to use, easy to setup and completely free (though you can pay a reasonable price for support should you wish) In their last e-mail they sent instructions on how to use their system for controlled assessment as explained in this blog post http://selbictnews.blogspot.com/2010/06/using-yacapaca-for-controlled.html Advantages: Simple, fast Disadvantages: Still need to restrict certain features on school network (though not as complicated) Need to setup Yacapaca accounts (though this is easy to do) Restricted file formats, needs internet access.

2 post publishing additions:

  • do it on paper by hand – this is seriously being considered by some people – Advantages: It doesn’t get any simpler technology wise, no worrying that an exam board will tell you that you are a cheat. Disadvantages: No spellcheck, redrafting means rewriting, hard to read, moderator may not like hand drawn submissions as much.
  • Just do things as normal with your regular system but keep a close eye on students (suggested by Mr Thomson in the comments below) – I like this one! Advantages: Easy, you treat your students as responsible people rather than potential cheats. Disadvantages: Some qualifications may not allow this, need to monitor students to ensure they do not save copies of work elsewhere, possible sleepless nights if you are paranoid about exam boards deciding this isn’t correct.

So what do I recommend – I recommend whatever is easiest for you!

Please do add your suggestions to the comments and if I have made any mistakes do correct me.

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