Project Background

The educational landscape is changing as government initiatives and student requirements call for more openness and accountability. Institutions are concerned with “consistency and fairness of their assessment” (QAA press release, 23 June 2008). Students are the new digital natives, now paying for and therefore expecting and demanding a better quality of service. Staffs are commonly digital immigrants, feeling the tensions of teaching and assessing more students and larger classes in higher education and dealing with ever increasing complexity in the assessment process. Yet the time given for such activities is much the same as when class sizes were smaller and processes simpler.


For many years, the University of Southampton (UoS) has provided virtual learning environments (VLEs) and proprietary tools for e-assessment. However, these have had modest take-up from staff, who still favour conventional written examinations. In part, this is because of a misapprehension that e-assessment cannot be used in the assessment of the higher order learning outcomes or competencies which characterise Higher Education. Another reason for low take-up is the resistance within any large institution to change; after all, written examination along with viva voce have been the main methods of assessment for several hundred years within HE, and the process is very well understood within a university.


UoS has recognised that there are both technical and cultural issues to be solved if e-assessment is to make a significant impact upon learning and teaching at the University. An excellent technical specification alone is unlikely to facilitate the cultural change necessary throughout the institution. It is imperative that a codesign and co-deployment process be used when specifying and implementing an assessment system to ensure community involvement and uptake.

University of Southampton, School of Electronics and Computer Science
Start date: 01/10/2008
End date: 31/03/2011
Funded by: JISC