Do we need a new e-assessment unit of competency?

As part of the TAE Training Package review, a new e-assessment unit has been drafted. The title of of the proposed unit is TAEASS404 Conduct e-assessment of competence.

PwC’s Skills for Australia is currently seeking our feedback about this draft. The following is my feedback about the unit, and I would be happy to hear your comments before I submit it.

(You may also like to read an article that I have previously posted about another proposed unit with the title of TAEDEL405 Plan, organise and facilitate e-learning.)

A definition of e-assessment

E-assessment may mean different things to different people. I have categorised two different types of e-assessment:

  • Assessment conducted by technology
  • Assessment supported by technology

Assessment conducted by technology

Assessment conducted by technology may also be known as computer-based assessment (CBA) or e-marking. This type of e-assessment is assessment which is both delivered and marked by computer. And the computer may provide feedback automatically to students without the involvement of an assessor (or any other person).

Benefits of conducting assessment using technology

Benefits of using technology to conduct assessments include:

  • consistency of assessments decisions
  • supports the record keeping of evidence and results
  • speed of getting the assessment done and providing feedback
  • reduces the workload of assessors.

Limitations of conducting assessment using technology

Assessment conducted by technology can be used for assessing knowledge, but it is not an appropriate method for assessing performance, such as:

  • bake a cake
  • repair a lawn mower
  • care for an elderly person
  • unblock a toilet
  • shear sheep.

The Australian VET system requires evidence of a person’s ability to perform work tasks and activities. Therefore, this type of e-assessment should only be used to assess knowledge, and in some cases, the breath and depth of knowledge required cannot be covered by this application of technology.

This method of computer-based assessment requires the design and development of valid test questions with answers (and sometimes responses to be sent as automatic feedback). Not every trainer will have the ability to develop effective test questions. Usually, the writing of test questions would be the responsibility of an instructional designer or resources developer.

What skills are needed to develop computer-based assessment?

An instructional designer or resources developer need the following skills to develop computer-based assessment:

  • Write questions
  • Write answers
  • Write feedback
  • Upload to computer-based assessment instrument.

The value of computer-based assessment is that there is no involvement of an assessor during the assessment process. The computer-based assessment instrument performs the assessment and records the result.

Some trainers and assessors may be involved in the development of questions, answers and feedback for computer-based assessment. However, this would be outside the scope of normal activities for most trainers and assessors.

Assessment supported by technology

It has become common for RTOs to use technology to support the assessment process. Many RTOs have implemented a learning management system (LMS), such as Moodle or Canvas. It is more than 5 years since I worked for an RTO that wasn’t using an LMS for students to submit their assessments.

What does the ‘e’ in e-assessment stand for? Does is stand for ‘electronic’ or ‘everyday’? Assessment supported by technology has become the norm. The distinction between ‘e-assessment’ and ‘assessment’ has dissolved over the past 5 years. It would be rare for the assessment process not to supported by technology.

The Education IRC believes that ‘e-assessment’ is different to ‘assessment’ . How did the Education IRC identify a need to create a ‘new’ e-assessment unit of competency? Most RTOs use technology for students to submit their evidence and support the assessment process conducted by assessors. A very small number of exceptions to this may include:

  • VET in School programs that use print-based workbooks
  • Creative arts qualifications, such as, music or dance
  • Small RTO that have a paper-based system.

Is it difficult to learn how to use an LMS?

No, it is not difficult to learn how to use an LMS. So far, I have had to learn three different LMS platforms. The first LMS I learnt was Moodle. I attended a 3-hour session about how to use it to perform my role as an assessor. This was enough to get me using Moodle to conduct assessments. Later, I started to work for an RTO that used Canvas. About 30 minutes was taken during my induction to show me how to log-on, navigate, and use this LMS. And later again, another RTO emailed me a 5-page document to show how to log-on, navigate, and use Job Ready for conducting assessments.

Learning an LMS is not difficult. The knowledge and skills required to use an LMS are insufficient and insignificant for the creation of a unit of competency. It is possible that using an LMS or other technologies could be identified as a foundation skill for the TAEASS402 Assess competence unit of competency. However, learning one LMS does not negate the need for a newly qualified assessor to need to learn a different LMS once they get employment.

What skills are need to conduct assessments that are supported by technology?

The skills required by an assessor to conduct assessment that are support by technology include:

  • Prepare for assessment
  • Brief the candidate
  • Gather evidence
  • Support the candidate
  • Make the assessment decision
  • Record and report the assessment decision

These skills are the same as what is covered by the current TAEASS402 Assess competence unit of competency.

TAEASS404 Conduct e-assessment of competence (draft)

Feedback about elements and performance criteria

The following are the performance criteria for the first element.

Answers to questions raised

The Training Package Developer has raised some questions. The following are my answers to the three questions raised.

The following are the performance criteria for elements 2, 3 and 4.

There is very little difference between the draft TAEASS404 Conduct e-assessment of competence unit of competency and the current TAEASS402 Assess competence unit of competency.

What happens if we remove duplicate performance criteria from the TAEASS404 Conduct e-assessment of competence unit of competency? After removing all the performance criteria that duplicates what is already in the TAEASS402 Assess competence unit of competency, we are left with five performance criteria. The following table lists the five performance criteria.

Contrary to the Case for Change, there is very little difference between conducting ‘traditional assessment’ (as described by the TAEASS402 unit) and conducting ‘e-assessment’ (as described by the TAEASS404 unit). The TAEASS404 Conduct e-assessment of competence unit of competency is basically an attempt to contextualise the TAEASS402 Assess competence unit of competency. The minor differences does not warrant the development and implementation of new e-assessment unit of competency.

Feedback about foundation skills

A candidate will be required to demonstrate the ability to complete the tasks outlined in the elements, performance criteria and foundation skills (as per the Performance Evidence statement). This makes the foundation skills assessable.

The following are the foundation skills.

Analysis and comprehensive feedback about the foundation skills would require much more time and effort. However, some of the foundation skills seem to poorly describe or do not describe a skill. For example:

Feedback about performance evidence

The following are the performance evidence.

The performance evidence is poorly written. I am an experienced assessor and for many years I have been conducting e-assessment. I find the performance evidence is complicated, confusing, and difficult to comprehend. For example:

  • How is an e-assessment conduct for a group of students? When does this occur?
  • What is the size of the group of students? How is an individual’s competence assessed in a group?
  • What is the definition for an assessment task? Assessing one assessment task is far short of assessing competence.
  • Will sending an email be appropriate for communicating to candidates electronically?
  • What does ‘complete feedback for students in relation to their e-assessment completion’ mean?

Why is there a distinction being made between an ‘e-assessment tool’ and an ‘assessment tool’? Why are we using or alternating between the words ‘student’ and ‘candidate? The performance evidence is poorly written and needs to be significantly reworked.

Feedback about knowledge evidence

Analysis and comprehensive feedback about the knowledge evidence would require much more time and effort. However, I believe that a critical analysis of the knowledge evidence should be done prior to implementation.

Feedback about assessment conditions

The following are the assessment conditions.

Why is the term ‘digital assessment tool’ being used? And why is the term ‘e-portfolio being used?

I think the entire Assessment Requirements need to be thoroughly reworked. But I really think that the draft TAEASS404 Conduct e-assessment of competence unit of competency should be scrapped.

In conclusion

Is there a need for a new e-assessment unit of competency? Can the current TAEASS402 Assess competence unit of competency adequately cover the requirements of conducting e-assessment?

Most assessors are using an LMS or other technology when they conduct assessments. Using an LMS or other technology has become fundamental or foundational to conducting assessments. The distinction between conducting ‘e-assessment’ or conducting ‘non-e-assessment’ is blurred. And the knowledge and skills required by assessors to conduct ‘e-assessment’ or ‘non-e-assessment’ are the same.

The current TAEASS402 Assess competence unit of competency adequately covers the requirement of conducting assessment that are supported by technology (e-assessment). At best, the draft TAEASS404 Conduct e-assessment of competence unit of competency is an attempt to contextualise the TAEASS402 Assess competence unit of competency. The minor differences does not warrant the development and implementation of new e-assessment unit of competency.

We do not need a new e-assessment unit of competency.

Please let me know what you think.

Author: Alan Maguire

35+ years experience as a trainer, instructional designer, quality manager, project manager, program manager, RTO auditor, RTO manager and VET adviser.

3 thoughts on “Do we need a new e-assessment unit of competency?”

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