Victorian Government announces plans for online school exams

A group of students looking at an iPad during classVictorian school exams could soon be completed online under an assessment overhaul proposed by the state government. The move would see schools abandon pen and paper for a digital assessment platform, addressing talk in the media and among educational groups about the need to modernise the school assessment experience.

The state Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has released a tender for the development of an appropriate testing platform, with responses due in early 2014. The system will be developed in phases, with diagnostic English and mathematics tests for primary school students expected to be among the first to shift to the new platform.

It is anticipated that assessment for senior programs will also occur online once the system is in place, which would include the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) as well as the new Victorian Baccalaureate (once it is introduced into schools). Also under consideration for online testing are the General Achievement Test (GAT), the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) and VET programs taken as part of senior studies.

Education Minister Martin Dixon said a shift to online assessment is a natural step for schools.

œWe are already in a world where digital technology is an integral part of Victorian classrooms, so the development of this platform is a logical step,  Mr Dixon said.

Indeed, schools across Australia have been embracing digital technologies for many years. Initiatives have also flowed from the federal and state/territory governments to ensure adequate computer access and improve availability of online resources. This includes the previous Labor Government's Digital Education Revolution, which successfully put in place the One Laptop Per Child Program, and the National Secondary School Computer Fund, with the latter achieving a one-to-one computer “student ratio in Years 9 to 12. Schools have also been involved in various trials using tablets in the classroom, most notably through a number of state-based iPad programs.

Given the already significant focus on ensuring Australian students are prepared for the digital world, it makes sense that schools should continue to improve the learning experience by taking advantage of new online platforms for learning and assessment.

The current federal government supports the use of technology in Australian schools through initiatives such as the Broadband Enabled Education and Skills Service Programme, which funds trials to show how students, teachers and parents can reap the benefits of improved online access to education, training and skills services. Likewise, the National Schools Interoperability Program (NSIP) faciliates digital learning programs across the country, improving access to information and digital learning through linking information systems across Australia's education sector.

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