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New BSI guidelines 'herald coming of age' of computer-assisted assessment

The increased use of computers in assessment has brought with it new concerns over issues such as fairness and security. Responding to these and other concerns, the British Standards Institute (BSI) has issued a new draft set of guidelines that provide a minimum set of requirements for organisations making assessments using computers.

The new draft standard, "Code of Practice for the use of IT for the delivery of assessments", also known as BS 7988, provides guidelines for fairness, security, authenticity, and validity of assessments.

Niall Sclater, coordinator of the CETIS assessment special interest group, welcomes the release: "The BS7988 draft standard signifies a coming of age for computer assisted assessment. As CAA [Computer Assisted Assessment] is becoming more mainstream across all educational sectors, it is essential that institutions have a set of guidelines in place to deal with issues of security, equipment, staffing and procedures, as well as the many technical issues that must be considered."

"This document will help testing organisations to ensure that they are following best practice and give learners confidence that the entire assessment process is being carried out to a nationally recognised standard."

In addition to the requirements placed on the process of assessment to ensure that groups are not unfairly disadvantaged, and that the assessment is carried out in a proper manner the guidelines also recommend the use of interoperable standards for assessment, specifically the IMS Question and Test Interoperability (QTI) specification.

Although publicity surrounding the guidelines has so far focussed on thwarting exam cheats, the draft has a strong emphasis on ensuring the validity and fairness of assessment. For example, there are guidelines for making sure everyone who takes an assessment has the equivalent technology, and that anyone requiring alternative input devices are compensated with additional time.

BS 7988's 40-odd pages cover a broad range of issues, and will be invaluable for anyone conducting assessments using computers, whether in higher or further education, independent assessment centres or in commercial training.

For more information, visit the BSI website.

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