E-assessment, or electronic assessment, is the use of information technology devices, primarily computers, in the assessment of student ability and learning. It's also known as computer-based assessment or computer-assisted assessment, and can include both administering the assessment test and grading it. E-assessment is a useful tool for a variety of reasons such as ease of use, flexibility, and quicker results than traditional paper and pencil methods. E-assessment can be used in a range of settings such as elementary school, distance education, and professional certification exams, and its use is increasing with many types of standardized testing.
An e-assessment system generally consists of two parts: the assessment engine and the item bank. The assessment engine is the computer hardware and software that is used in developing and administering the assessment. Although hardware is fairly standard, different software packages can allow for customization of the assessment experience for the instructor and student. The item bank is the pool of questions based on the material being assessed. Depending on the scope of the assessment, the item bank can be developed by a single instructor or a group.
Once the item bank has been developed, many e-assessment systems are quite easy and flexible to use. The instructor can usually select the questions they wish to include, or indicate how many of each type and allow the system to randomly select the questions. This can also allow for an instructor to easily create several slightly different tests on the same material to reduce the risk of cheating, since students will not all be taking the same exam. The system usually can also grade the tests after they are taken by the students and even perform statistical analysis on the results. This reduces the time and effort the instructor has to spend on these tasks compared to paper and pencil testing.
Many students also find e-assessment easier to use than paper and pencil testing since it is a format that is being increasingly utilized in the learning process. With the growing use of computer-assisted or online learning, it makes sense for assessment to be done using the same tools that were used for the learning process. Assessments can also be designed to monitor students progress as they respond and vary the difficulty level of the questions accordingly, allowing for more detailed information about students progress than other methods provide.
Many instructors and students also appreciate the rapid results provided compared to the time consuming process of grading with paper and pencil methods. The quick results associated with e-assessment can also be extremely helpful in informing the learning process. Having access to student results quickly helps both the instructor and the student pin-point the areas that still need to be worked on as well as knowing what material has been mastered. This allows the instructor to effectively design instruction to address the identified learning needs.