In this section we describe the importance and benefits of collaboration in driving e-assessment forwards. Here we are looking at collaboration in the widest possible sense – especially inside colleges as well as externally.
The BOLT project from Borders College has produced excellent guidance about how to develop collaborative relationships and develop partnership working. At first this may seem like a daunting challenge, but this is where developing a ‘systems mindset’ comes in really useful. In many ways this is like a developing political campaign, you need to work with others to identify the targets for change, how to go about it and argue for the required resources. As in many organisations, the power to influence the adoption of e-assessment may not always be at the top. The BOLT project offers this sound advice:
“…think carefully about key members of staff that you wish to gain support from. Consider how you will engage with those who may have greatest influence in your organisation. This may not always be those in the most senior positions, so a top down approach is not always best. Think carefully about your engagement strategy and make sure everyone knows what you are doing. Avoid becoming ‘the e-learning team/person locked in the office playing with technology’. Define an internal communication strategy.”
From the experience in our project a key ally to recruit and involve in developing an e-assessment strategy is the person(s) responsible for overseeing quality at the college. They are the link between the existing college assessment procedures and the external quality assurance systems operated by the awarding bodies such as the SQA and City and Guilds. The largest of these in relation to Scottish colleges is the SQA and in this guide we are focussing on that. In addition to the quality department (it will have different names in different colleges) there will also be individuals and groups responsible for ‘Internal Verification’ – part of the internal process for overseeing and maintaining quality that relates to assessment and quality assurance in qualifications delivery.
There are sound reason for this approach as it gives us access to not only the internal working of the college in relation to design and management of assessment, but also to the external national networks involved in the design and management of SQA assessments as described above in the ‘Getting Started’ section. As already mentioned, one of the problems we face in changing assessments from traditional paper-based methods to incorporate technology is the misconception by some that the existing SQA quality procedures and External Verifiers are resistant to change and conservative. That, and the consequences of a negative external verification outcome can be an incentive to ‘play it safe’ and stick to existing methods. A good way to counter this is to use the free SQA prior verification service to work through any issues that might be involved. The SQA has produced a very useful draft working discussion document in the course of the project that reflects on the lessons learnt This also may provide part of a useful foundation for wider discussions leading to national coordinated development in this area, the document is available from this weblink.
These are some topics to consider for widening collaboration
- Students as co-designers of assessment and co-producers of e-learning materials as well as testers
- Internal IT departments and other service units
- Senior Managers for ensuring e-assessment is on the strategic agenda and resourced appropriately
- Employers for informing project learning development and related assessment design (individual, industry associations, guilds, chambers of commerce)
- Employers – are increasingly using commercial e-learning packages – collaborate on access and assessment?
- College Development Network Scotland
- Jisc Scotland
- Sector Skills Councils – Scotland
- Other Colleges – especially those related to each other in the new Regional Management Boards