Making paper a possibility in computer-based assessment

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From paper cuts to cutting edge – Learnosity is working with Paperscorer to better integrate tradition and technology.

Despite the forward momentum that technology has enjoyed over the last number of decades, when it comes to education, paper still rules the roost.

For some educators and students, a preference for paper may be the result of the abiding influence of tradition. After all, paper is a medium with a history that spans millennia. It was the medium that brought us the words and ideas of the likes of Shakespeare, Newton, and Einstein, among countless others. In short, it’s been instrumental in educating the world.

But as an online solution, dealing with paper-based assessments still seemed like a backward step for Learnosity. When you spend years developing space-age assessment technology, going back to paper can feel a bit, well, Iron Age.

Paper plays a huge role in US assessments, so any gateway tech must be extremely flexible. Click To Tweet

The problem

Yet for countless students, working on paper isn’t a matter of choice but of necessity. Research shows that students from lower-income backgrounds do less well in digital assessments since that they have less access to newer technologies. The result of this is a widening achievement gap, and one that is only going to accelerate unless measures are taken to address it.

Enter Paperscorer, a US company that allows educators to get the best from both worlds.

“Many teachers are under pressure to use technology but struggle to change their practices completely,” says Paperscorer’s founder, Chris Morgan.

“They still have many valid reasons to administer assessments offline. For instance, not all students have access to digital devices,” he says. “In some situations, a digital device may be considered a distraction or a digital assessment may put some students at a disadvantage. Yet there are huge benefits to technology too. Autograding is a huge time-saver, and the advanced analytics that come with tech are things that most teachers want. Paperscorer helps bridge the gap between the two.”

The solution

Given that paper still plays a huge part in formative and interim testing in the US – and an even greater role in standardized assessment – any gateway technology therefore needs to be extremely flexible. But no single product can be all things to all people. The simple solution is to get the best in specific areas working together.

The medium in which educators administer assessments can now be tailored to meet the need. Click To Tweet

“Once we had a chance to meet with Learnosity, we quickly realized they would be a fantastic partner,” explains Morgan. “Learnosity is focused on providing flexible and powerful online assessment options to its clients, which it does by offering simple ways to integrate its technology with existing learning management or assessment systems. Paperscorer does the same for print-based assessments. The flexibility of our APIs made integration fast and simple, and our combined experiences really help improve both products.”

Such fluid interoperability solves a headache for many educators: creating paper-based tests end-to-end requires a huge amount of effort. Many are still scored by hand. The entire process is further complicated when an educator tries to somehow import these grades into an existing digital system. It is often a painfully slow and difficult process. It is also one that Morgan feels the partnership with Learnosity helps solve.

Moving forward

“The medium in which educators administer assessments can now be tailored to meet the need.  If online is more appropriate – great.  If print is needed, no problem. Either way, assessments are conveniently auto-graded and sent back to Learnosity’s robust analytics.”

Not only does this make grading and reporting a far more streamlined process, it also means that questions need only be authored once: after an educator authors an assessment on their digital platform, he or she then uses Paperscorer to print the questions for students. Their answers can then be scanned and seamlessly fed back into the system so that scores can be easily stored and analyzed.

Educators accept technologies and changes that are truly useful to their job. Click To Tweet

For Morgan though, perhaps the greatest achievement of the integration between paper and digital is how much it can help simplify a job that is already so complex.

“Educators are often perceived as being resistant to change,  especially when it comes to adopting new technology. What we often forget is the complexity of an educator’s job.  I believe that educators accept technologies and changes that are truly useful to their job.”

Learn more Learnosity and the Learnosity Partner Network.

Micheál Heffernan

Senior Editor

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