Distributed marking and e-examinations 2011


To seek a decision about the scope and nature of any distributed marking and e-examinations in 2011.


The Authority
  • noted the collection of electronic 'folios' in two subjects in 2011 and the subsequent use of distributed marking

  • approved the use of 'e-exam' for one subject (Information Technology and Systems) in 2011; and note the consequent use of distributed marking of the examination in this subject in 2011.


The Authority has approved a range of strategies to reduce the risk to its external assessment and certification processes.

These processes include access to additional staff, redeployment of staff, reworking of business processes, refining the arrangements for engagement of sessional staff and enhancements in the marking processes.

One enhancement in the marking process is the use of distributed marking, using the internet to deliver marking material to markers in an 'any-where, any-time' manner. This provides for greater efficiency in logistics and for the possibility of improved quality assurance, through marker monitoring.

To distribute material over the internet it must either be
  • provided in a suitable format;
  • captured directly in a suitable format; or
  • scanned from the original (paper) format.

Current Situation

Work has progressed in developing the secure database and communications arrangements for the distribution of markable material and the collection of marking details.

We intend to mark the 'folio' material for two mid-sized subjects in 2011. Students will have to submit their work in a single file in 'portable document format (pdf)'. We plan that each provider will submit a single DVD containing all their 'folios' for the subject at that school. Ancient Civilisations and Sociology are the most likely courses to be involved as their student numbers are significant but not overwhelming.

We have been discussing with Mr Andrew Fluck, from the Education Faculty of the University of Tasmania, the potential use of a product he has developed known as 'e-exam' (see attachment 1). This product allows an examination paper to be answered on a student computer, removing, it is claimed, all possibilities for accessing other materials from either the computer or the internet. The product has been tested satisfactorily within the University environment.

The candidate responses from such product such as 'e-exam' would be readily useable in a distributed marking environment.

Teachers of the course Information Technology and Systems have expressed a desire for us to use 'e-exam' in the 2011 examinations. The system was used in 2010 for mid-year examinations (attachment 2) at five providers.

Note that a distributed marking system is a pre-requisite for the use of e-examinations - there would be no point in collecting student responses electronically and then printing them out for marking.

If we implement e-exam for this subject in November 2011, we would test out our logistics and ensure that all students and schools had an opportunity to practice through the use of a common e-exam for mid-year testing in June/July.

There are about 100 students in this subject. Given the nature of the subject, students must be familiar with the use of computers and must use them regularly as an integral part of their work in this subject. These factors make this subject an ideal starting point for the use of e-examinations.

There is a small resource cost for USBs and USB duplication.


  1. The decision regarding the end of the year examination format and method has to be taken, at the latest, at the beginning of the year of study. It is not appropriate to change from or to the e-exam format during the year - students would have a reasonable claim of disadvantage.

  2. It is not appropriate to offer students (or schools) a choice of format (e-examination or paper) for the high-stakes external assessment at the end of the year:

    • it is important that external examinations are conducted under the same conditions for all
    • giving students a choice of using a computer or pen and paper is or will be seen to be a significant variation in conditions.

  3. If the Authority approves this development for 2011, we will inform schools currently involved with Information Technology Systems, seeking feedback about any logistics issues they anticipate.

  4. Other examination systems are moving towards the general use of computer-delivery of examinations. It is increasingly difficult to justify asking students to use a technology (pen and paper) that is becoming less familiar and is not their first choice of medium.

  5. The e-exam process is suitable for text-based examinations that do not require special tools, such as those needed for drawing graphs or mathematical symbols. The format of the examination questions is essentially the same as the ones currently presented on paper.

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