EMA. Onscreen marking. Digital assessments. E-submission, e-exams and e-marking.
The list could easily go on.
There is an abundance of words and abbreviations to describe a digital exam and assessment platform like WISEflow. Some words cover singular functionalities within the platform, while others – like EMA (Electronic Management of Assessments) – describe the broader scope of what WISEflow can do for your educational institution.
There are also words that are inadequate or incorrect in describing what a digital exam and assessment platform actually is. Examples of these are LMS (Learning Management System) and VLE (Virtual Learning Environment). Despite of this, we often hear them used to describe WISEflow.
What Is an LMS/VLE?
LMSs and VLEs are terms that are used interchangeably to describe software solutions that allow you to manage and deliver learning resources and online training to the end users (students, in an educational setting).
The main purpose is to track learning objectives with the point of demonstrating a compliance or mastery of a given skillset or within a specific area of knowledge. This sort of platform has found favour in several industries other than education, especially in larger companies, as a way to onboard and continually train employees within a defined frame of knowledge or knowhow.
Some LMSs/VLEs apply more pedagogical approaches, such as collaboration, dialogue and/or participation, user-generated wikis, blogs and RSS, all with the overall purpose of facilitating learning, but at many educational institutions, LMSs and VLEs are often used as ‘post offices’, simply to distribute reading material and curricula to students.
LMSs and VLEs can be used in many ways, depending on the institution that uses them, the point of the use and the capabilities of those implementing them. But however you use these tools, they are not geared towards assessment. While some LMSs and VLEs are built with the technical framework to offer exam-like quizzes in an online setting, they often possess serious security vulnerabilities and stability issues for exams – not to mention the lack in functionalities that support the exam and assessment processes as a whole.
How Are They Different from WISEflow?
WISEflow is an easy-to-use assessment platform with advanced capabilities. The focus of WISEflow is not just to manage and distribute content, but to successfully manage and support the entire process of online assessment for every stakeholder involved.
Still wondering about the difference? Here are six to start you out with:
1: Assessments for Higher Education Standards
Some VLEs or LMSs allow educators to create quizzes based on the uploaded learning resources. And while this can be a great tool to monitor progress or approach to learning in a different manner than usual, it does not meet the standards of an exam in a higher education setting. For example, while a VLE-quiz can test the recall of students, testing their understanding and capabilities necessitates more complex formats.
With WISEflow, student learning can be facilitated in many different formats and for many different academic requirements, such as academic disciplines with a practical dimension, i.e. arts-based courses, where students’ craftmanship, performance or creation is the focal point of assessment.
For musical performances, for example, the exam can be streamed as a live performance, simulating the circumstances of a traditional musical performance exam, with all the digital benefits added in the assessment process.
For science-based exams, WISEflow’s question templates can contain graphs, charts, chemical symbols and formulae and math questions that can be answered with LaTeX and MathML
Meanwhile, WISEflow is still able to perform recall exams with multiple choice for both open book and locked down exams, or other knowledge retention tests, such as ‘fill in the blank’ with either missing text, images, graphs, formulae or sound clips.
2: Important Security Measures for Exams and Assessments
Other than the limited scope of possibilities to test students in different academic disciplines, a simple quiz also lacks the framework to uphold the security measures that a higher education exam warrants.
Look at it this way: the currency of institutions of higher education is their exams, as they are the way to a bachelor’s or master’s degree; it is the way to earn the credentials of this particular educational institution. It is important that these degrees have been earned in a controlled environment, lest the validity of this currency is harmed, or it suffers inflation or devaluation.
WISEflow offers thorough security measures to uphold the integrity of exams in higher education. As a proactive measure we use a lockdown browser for closed book exams, rendering any other webpages and locally stored desktop files or programs inaccessible for the duration of the exam. Online resources deemed necessary by the exam creator can be whitelisted, meaning they are the only web resource accessible during the exam.
For reactive measures we employ a plagiarism checker, scanning all exam submissions for plagiarised sections or sentiments before they are forwarded to the assigned assessor, who gets the exam paper along with a plagiarism report, indicating whether further investigation is advised. Exam submissions are scanned against internet resources, academic articles and previously submitted material.
3: The Necessary Stability for High Stakes Activities
Other than security, the exam and assessment procedures are dependent upon stability. The loss of student work is a worst-case scenario, which means fail-safes are a must.
If you try to conduct any sort of exam in an LMS or a VLE, you run the risk of losing vital exam material produced by the student, as these portals are not necessarily geared towards managing this function with the appropriate reliability, should any mishaps occur.
Contrary to a traditional local server setup, the safety and stability of WISEflow is ensured with cloud-hosting. By storing all data in the cloud, your exams are handled by a three-point redundancy setup, making sure all information is kept safe at all times, no matter what disaster might occur.
During the exam itself, some exam and assessment platforms rely on a completely offline setup to make sure no material is lost. In WISEflow, the exam takes place online, but our platform still maintains that same level of stability as offline exams. Should the wi-fi suddenly cut out during the exam, the document is automatically backed up locally on the student’s own computer. Once wi-fi connection is re-established, all data produced after the loss of connection will back up to the cloud once again.
This setup allows us to provide functionalities that can enhance the exam for all roles, such as access to online resources and a seamless transition to the administrative aftermath, while still saving you any worry about “what if”.
4: Specific User Roles
WISEflow also approaches the exam and assessment process from an academic point of view, rather than a purely administrative one. Among other things, this is reflected in the different user roles on the platform, where each and every link in the assessment process is being assigned a role with the tools that best suit it. This too sets WISEflow apart from LMSs and VLEs.
Whether you are a student, sitting your exams, or an educator responsible for either creating or assessing exams (or both), WISEflow has modules with the right roles and the tailored tools to support your specific task.
With more than 50 templates, WISEflow provides a great starting point for exam creators to author any form of exam. Use the customisable templates to quickly set up exams in a broad range of subjects exactly the way you want them. And every time you set up an exam, you are helping yourself towards a faster and easier process next time, as our content bank allows you to reuse elements from previous exams and customise them to fit a new curriculum, creating your own customised templates.
For assessors, WISEflow provides an assortment of tools and functionalities to ease the task and improve the feedback. When exams arrive, they have already been scanned for plagiarism and arrive with a report pointing out potential instances for further scrutiny.
Besides automated marking for exams with multiple-choice and short answer questions, WISEflow also offers features that enhance manual assessment. In the Annotate module for educators given the assessor role, you can highlight, underline, draw and comment as usual, and even search for specific words or terms in the exam. For commenting, you can add comments towards the student, towards co-assessors or add your own private comments.
WISEflow supports a customisable anonymity, which enables both blind and double-blind marking. The exam administration can keep close tabs on exam submissions and assessment progress, while students and assessors remain anonymous towards each other.
Assessment and feedback on their academic performance and progress is often one of the things students crave the most, but not receiving as satisfactorily as other areas of their education, according to the 2017 NSS. While assessors strive to provide proper feedback to the students, the traditional assessment process is very time-consuming. By digitising your exams, you are equipping your assessors with exactly the resource they lack most to provide students with more feedback: time.
Besides automatic scoring and plagiarism checkers other time-related advantages apply. With WISEflow, no time is spent shuffling papers and deciphering the illegible scribbles of students, whose handwriting has greatly deteriorated (Cambridge University has considered ending 800 years of handwritten exams due to the poor state of student penmanship, favouring typed exams in the future). Instead, as an assessor you get more time to actually comment on the students’ performances and provide thorough feedback for students to monitor and improve their own learning.
5: External Assessment, Anonymity and Student Grouping for Assessments
One thing LMSs/VLEs have struggled with is external assessment.
Keeping student information safe and guarding it from unnecessary exchanges is a very important task for educational institutions. At the same time, assessments often require assessors from outside of the educational institution to mark and grade exams, and this requires access to the students’ relevant exam material. There is a fine balance between these necessities, and this is one thing LMSs/VLEs have struggled with through time – especially if used in exam-conditions.
Providing access to external assessors is necessary but should happen on the educational institution’s own terms. This requires specific roles with specific functions and limitations, so a clear line is drawn between assessment and assisting distribution of information (which is the basic function of LMSs/VLEs).
And the core function of LMSs/VLEs adds other issues to an assessment process – such as the need for anonymity. This has also been troublesome for these systems to provide adequately, as they often segment students in classes. This sort of grouping relates well to the relevant functionalities within the system, such as distributing relevant reading material, assignments or quizzes to specific classes/courses, but does not support anonymity as ably.
The issue at hand becomes much the same is the external assessor-business. LMSs/VLEs have often been lacking the roles and functionalities to nuance between distributing information as freely as possible and restricting information relating to specific exam-segments of students. Anonymous assessment is often required as a means to either secure an unbiased assessment, free from influence from student history and/or previous submissions. It can also be necessary the other way around, so that assessors are anonymous to students – or even both ways.
Both issues are still relevant in higher education today. The safekeeping of student data is more important than ever, and anonymity will always be a necessary part of assessment. And while some LMSs/VLEs have found a solution by offering external modules with a larger focus on assessment, thereby both separating the role of external assessor and providing a better starting point for anonymity, this solution adds to the existing costs of running an LMS/VLE.
There are other reasons the sorting and segmentation of students in classes does not translate well for assessment purposes. For example, there is not necessarily a correlation between a class of students and the group of students taking a specific exam. A single exam can have students from multiple years, as some might be retaking the course, some might be taking it at different times in their education, while others yet are taking it at the point planned in their course catalogue. This means that students – while being in the same course or class – can be taking very different exams or meeting different criteria for the exam in question.
For an assessment platform like WISEflow, the grouping of students works the other way around, as the assessment is the focal point, meaning students are segmented by their exams and the exam flows they are connected to. This allows for a streamlined exam and assessment administration, no matter how intricate the composition of students sitting their exams is.
Assessments being the core task of WISEflow also means that roles and functionalities that support anonymous marking and grading are given a much more granulated approach. In WISEflow, you have the opportunity to tailor anonymity to suit the specific requirements of your exam.
6: Rubrics: Measuring Learning Outcomes
While an electronic portal that allows educators to deliver learning resources to students is a great tool to support learning and learning outcomes, it is beyond most VLEs or LMSs to actually measure the success of these outcomes.
With WISEflow, it becomes much easier for learning outcomes to be aligned with the course’s final exam. Rubrics in WISEflow allows you to create an assessment matrix; a grid with detailed explanations of which criteria the student must comply with in the exam, the weight of these criteria and to what value the criteria has been met by the student’s performance. Once filled out by the assessor, the score is calculated automatically and converted to a final grade.
With this tool in your digital assessment setup, it becomes straightforward to ensure greater transparency, more consistency and a better alignment in your exams.
And alignment is paramount, when it comes to digitisation in education. When students use internet resources and applications, obtain knowledge through a multitude of formats and even have their courses managed digitally by said LMSs/VLEs, student learning is heavily impacted by these digital advances and the methods they use in their studies change according to this advance.
If student learning is undergoing change, change is also necessary for the learning outcomes and the means to measure their success. Digital learning and analogue testing are not compatible.
It Is Still Administrative – Just More than That
There are a lot of differences between the functionalities and overall purpose of LMSs/VLEs and an assessment platform such as WISEflow, the above being only some of them. But one overlapping area exists, and it might be this one that contributes to the confusion between the systems. Because WISEflow does have an administrative function and exam administrators have a large role within the use of WISEflow.
Overall, the role of the exam administration does not change by implementing a digital assessment platform. Of course, there will be new skills that need to be learned and some adapting is required, as is with any change, but the area of responsibility remains largely the same: the primary work of exam administrators is before and after the exam itself, as they are responsible for setting up the exam flows (the framework for individual exams) and managing the grading process post-submission, to make sure everything goes smoothly.
LMSs and VLEs have very specific purposes in the multitude of digital systems that exist in modern higher education and WISEflow is not a replacement of or competitor to your existing LMS/VLE. It is a completely different platform that eases the administration and enhances and supports the academic content within one specific area: exams and assessments. WISEflow integrates seamlessly with your LMS/VLE through our API, which means you do not need to incorporate further administrative steps to transfer documentation.
So yes, we do make administration easier and provide more functionality within that area of education, just as an LMS or a VLE. But we are also much more than that.
Focus on Academia and the Facilitation of Learning
As an assessment platform, WISEflow is heavily influenced by the academic environment and the different groups it consists of. For us as providers of a digital exam and assessment platform, this requires a development focus of something other than administration alone.
This is why we include pedagogy, approaches to learn, communication and feedback to ensure the best possible experience for the different academic user groups. And we know a thing or two about academic best-practices, as it is a part of our DNA; we originated from higher education ourselves. We have held the positions in each and every academic grouping involved in the exam and assessment process, and we apply that insight to the continuous development of WISEflow.
We view the exam and assessment process as a circular motion with one central academic end goal: to have a positive impact on student learning. And while this assessment cycle is simple in its own right, going through assessment, feedback, reflection and improvement, it becomes much more abstract when applied to real life, as the assessment process is influenced by a multitude of factors.
To ensure this positive impact and provide the best possible support for an effective assessment cycle, WISEflow offers a number of functionalities. Aside from tools to effectuate a faster assessment and the assessment matrix Rubrics to ensure transparency
and consistency for both the student and the assessors, it focuses on providing a platform for proper feedback. The communication between student and assessor, with the student’s exam submission at the centre, can to a much higher degree be made dialogical using modern means of communication, rather than the traditional unidirectional feedback. This ensures that the assessment cycle runs smoother and with a greater output in improving student learning.
By employing a platform designated to exams and assessments, a greater informational output on these activities also becomes available to the educational institution. An immense amount of data is produced during exams and assessments and these analytics can provide valuable insight into teaching methods and their effectiveness and serve as a tool to reflect on and improve the existing exam and assessment practices, while also providing a realtime view of how students are performing during exams.
“Do We Really Need Another IT-System?”
Educational institutions already have many different systems beside LMSs and VLEs, such as Student Administrations Systems or CRMs. So, you might wonder why you need to incorporate yet another system in the IT jungle.
First and foremost, because Electronic Management of Assessment offers something very different than your existing systems.
In summation: assessment platforms such as WISEflow can:
- Support and enhance student learning within the assessment process.
- Provide the quality, complexity, security and stability that is needed to perform exams to the academic standards of higher education.
- Support every stake-holder in the exam and assessment process – including the exam administrators
- Measure and evidence learning outcomes
And incorporating electronic assessment does not need to add more layers of tedious processes between systems. Through our API, WISEflow can integrate seamlessly with most administration systems, VLEs and LMSs used within higher education, reducing manual work processes between administration and assessment, as they can pull data directly from WISEflow.