National e-Assessment Service Proposals


The proposals here are informed by the 2011 Scottish government report ‘Review of ICT Infrastructure in the Public Sector in Scotland’ (known as the ‘McClelland Review’). We also add to them some of the ideas and themes we have developed in relation to our discussion of ‘Collaborative Frameworks’. A shorthand description of the proposals in this section could be described as ‘making the most of what have in a time of continuing financial pressure’ – which is why creative and systematic approaches are required

We will start with a short visit to the McClelland review itself. It makes some well-reasoned proposals for reducing waste and duplication in the provision of such services. The critique and proposals are quite radical many ways and identify the resistance to change, especially by central IT departments. As McClelland explains:

“Therefore, there are significant and serious shortcomings in the way ICT is deployed. The prevalent model is one of “standalone self-sufficiency” and nearly all organisations have fully and professionally staffed information functions and most also their own data centres or data processing rooms.

The public sector should recognise that in the current economic environment a largely standalone and “self-sufficient” operating mode is no longer affordable and should commit to an era of sharing in ICT that will not only offer better value but also still meet the needs of individual organisations and their customers.”


Instead, McClelland proposes that the money saved would be spent on better use of the technology that we already have but is not being fully utilised:


“Savings can be made and could be partially reinvested in more quickly progressing ICT adoption and pursuit of the vision for the public sector.”


We are still some way of from these proposals becoming reality, particularly McClelland’s ideas for using Cloud services to reduce the money spent on local IT departments and spend some of the saving on better support for the actual adoption of technology. But it provides a good starting point for discussion.

Service Tips

This short section builds on the previous ideas for developing collaborative frameworks and sketch out some proposals that might form the basis of a future sustainable framework for a national shared e-assessment service

  1. Sharing the costs of Objective / MCQ style test development between colleges
  2. Training and support (both centralised and mobile); regionalisation makes this easierSharing and managing of e-assessment materials created by colleges (other than SQA SOLAR content) in a central location or federally – a natural role for librarians
  1. Planning, Monitoring, Funding – inter college cooperation rather than competition makes sense
  2. Update the TQFE provision to include e-assessment
  3. Bring together the various academic, professional and industrial e-learning groups / bodies operating in Scotland in a shared meeting space with an annual conference and online portal
  4. CPD and Qualifications – PDA in TEL from the SQA + PDA in e-assessment – to be taken into account for TQFE?
  5. E-assessment is potentially a powerful driver for change as it impacts all aspects of an institution and should be used strategically at college and national level to do so
  6. The SQA could develop ideas to use its leverage to influence change in practice and do this in consultation with colleges:
    1. In this connection the idea of having an ‘e-assessment unit’ deliberately built into each major cognate qualification should be investigated and trialed using pilot project(s).


  1. Administrative staff should be involved in managing and maintaining e-assessments, this could make a significant difference and would be good subject for a pilot study
  2. Inter-college shared development of Objective / MCQ tests are more likely to develop quality e-assessments, more quickly and produce a better return on investment than single colleges or lecturers doing this alone.
  3. Training in e-learning / e-assessment should be central in TQFE and PDA provision for lecturers – at the moment it is marginal (a problem shared generally in Europe for all teacher training programmes). This needs urgent attention in order to deliver long-term change
  4. Release of staff time is needed to redevelop assessment practice
  5. Training for students is important in using college e-learning systems and should be made a part of formal induction procedures
  6. There should be a national federal digital library dedicated to sharing, managing and maintaining a collection of e-assessments and related support materials for use in colleges. This should be managed by college librarians with the assistance of SLIC and supported by a legal consortium agreement to protect and manage the IPR involved.

SQA core units development idea

This proposal comes from lecturers involved in the project and leverages the position of the SQA to drive change.

A creative idea for an intervention (from some college lecturers via a discussion) is for having an early ‘core’ e-learning course unit in each SQA cognate programme that uses some form of e-assessment. The general subject topic for this unit would be a survey / study of the use of IT in that particular cognate area. Thus the study of IT in the subject area would also provide the means to introduce the use of the college / SQA IT systems to the students. If done early in a programme this would have a beneficial effect on driving adoption and integration of e-assessment by colleges and lecturers. This means each SQA cognate area would develop such a common core unit; this would take time and should have an initial prototype and pilot phase. The overall effect of this in driving change could be considerable.

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