Scenario – Digital Assessment

Digital Assessment


Digital technologies have long been sold to educators as a time saving, self marking, quick and easy alternative to long evenings with a red biro and a pile of papers. However the reality often proves that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Research done by Taccle (and others!) reveals that many educators are either not confident in using technology for assessment or not using it to the greatest effect. In this resource we explore the use of digital tools for effective assessment; how, why and when to go digital.

Who we are

Taccle projects have been providing resources and training in ICT and digital technologies for educators for over 10 years and a previous Taccle project won awards from both the European Commission and from member states for excellence and impact. With diverse teams made up of experienced educators, academics and edtech experts, Taccle continues to bridge the gap between policy, practice and changing technologies with projects exploring computational thinking, digital pedagogies and the use of Artificial Intelligence.

Follow us @TaccleProjects for more information.


In order to use digital tools for assessment you need to first know what it is you are assessing. Then, as with all assessments you can consider the why and the how. Finally you need to decide if digital assessment is the right tool to use. We trust your judgement as experts in your field, this scenario guide is here to  help you to make that decision. The technology you use for assessment should enhance the teaching and learning experience, this could be by making the process more efficient, improving accessibility and inclusion, providing the student with a richer, more varied reference bank, or indeed any other improvement on traditional methods. If after reading this you decide there is no advantage to be had by making your assessment digital then there is no need to do it, pass this on to someone else who might find it useful and go make yourself a cup of tea. If you choose to go digital you will find more resources on our website and we hope you will share your thoughts with us on Twitter @taccleprojects or via our Taccle community.

Scenario – Assessment using digital tools

Many early applications for digital assessment were based on multiple choice questions. These are still popular. But Donald Clark a leading e-learning developer says that “these have been shown to be effective, as almost any type of test item is effective to a degree, but they have been shown to be less effective than open-response, as they test recognition from a list, not whether it is actually known.” it can be difficult to write meaningful multiple choice questions without including a ‘dud’ answer and so other options should be used if you want a more meaningful assessment.

There are a growing choice in using digital tools for assessment

In class there are a number of quiz style apps which give you immediate feedback from the whole group via a teacher’s dashboard. They are great for pop-quizzes, recaps, or checking that everyone is understanding the main themes of the lesson.

Fieldwork – If your students are not based in your classroom there are lots of creative ways you can use tech to help with assessment such as providing questions embedded in videos or asking questions about photographs. Digital photographs can be a useful form of assessment in vocational education and training, especially when students are undertaking practical tasks – for instance in construction or care programmes or for learning about  health and safety.  Construction workers are often required to take photographs as part of quality assurance processes: authentic assessment exercises can be part of the learning process. Students can also be set assignments requiring audio responses or longer texts within blogs. Rather than just individual assessment students can collaborate as a team in shared documents.

Assessment can be linked to self-directed study:  you have probably heard of flipped classrooms where instead of receiving information from the teacher, students are tasked to go and find it out for themselves and present it back to the class.

It is increasingly easy to integrate assessment within online learning materials: the open source H5P content creation tool, which is being embedded in the latest version of Moodle, allow different ways to embed assessment into online learning.

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within assessment tools supports assessment and evaluation through  automated grading and feedback, including a range of student-facing tools, such as intelligent agents that provide students with prompts or guidance when they are confused or stalled in their work.Such tools are increasingly being embedded in popular online learning applications like DuoLingo.

The development of Natural Language Processing (NLP) allows the digital assessment of open questions and texts, as well as other forms of questions like sentence completion or filling in missing words which research suggests are more effective forms of assessing learning (Jacoby, 1978).

Digital Assessment is not only important for providing formative feedback to students, but allows teachers an  evaluation of student understanding and engagement, helping them to focus teaching on supporting learners with things they may not easily understand..

Scenario Objectives

The following are the objectives of this scenario for assessment in vocational education and training

  1. Use digital tools for assessment
  2. Move towards more Authentic assessment
  3. Develop more formative assessment allowing feedback to learners
  4. Use a variety of techniques and approaches for both formative and summative assessment
  5. Understand the potential of AI for assessment of prior and ongoing learning

Assessment / Evaluation of/for learning

Much of assessment has traditionally been summative – to test what students know and can do in the middle or at the end of a course. Summative assessment is usually required for awarding grades or certificates. Yet research suggests that more formative assessment designed to provide feedback to students is important to support their learning. The use of technology can both reduce the workload for teachers and trainers and increasingly provide automated feedback to learners.

Paul McKean, Jiscs head of further education and skills says “Our vision for Education 4.0 includes personalised and adaptive systems which allow students to learn at their own pace. Some aspects of assessment could be automated, and AI could help teachers understand how learners are progressing. Machines release learning content at a time that’s appropriate to each individual student – whether that’s video or a simulation or written documents – tailoring the pace and type of learning so that everyone is challenged.”

In an interview Paul McKean pointed to the need to reimagine summative assessment, raising policy issues for government and employers. He said we could  introduce ongoing and cumulative summative assessment. Through a learning journey the system can recognise competencies and skills deficiencies on the way and can recognise the skills people already have. This would lead to a big increase in the productivity of education and training with only the need to teach what people need to learn, rather than having to follow the entire curriculum.

Equipment and Support

AI requires sophisticated technologies at present being developed and implemented

Machine learning / NLP

Open source tools – e.g. Watson, MS Azure

Increasingly built into platforms

But are commercial applications

Quizzes games etc Clieckers

Audio / video – mobile devices


Resources and more info

Top Tech Tools for Formative Assessment – 29 tried and tested tools from Common Sense Education

Kathy Dyer’s 75 Digital Tools and Apps Teachers Can Use to Support Formative Assessment in the Classroom

The Assessment Basics