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2019 Digital Papers Focus Group and past Papers

by Paul Nisbet

on Mon Jan 20, 2020

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On this Blue Monday what could be more uplifting than thinking about the upcoming exams in May? You'll be excited that the 2019 digital question papers are now available from the SQA web site, and to help us plan for using technology in examinations, I've picked out a few key points from the 2019 Digital Papers Focus Group meeting that we hosted last term.

DQP past papers

The 2019 Digital Question Papers are now available on SQA's web site.

Digital Papers Focus Group meeting 30 October 2019

On 30th October we welcomed about 90 colleagues from schools and SQA and enjoyed a stimulating discussion about the use of technology as assessment arrangements in examinations.

You can download notes from the meeting.

Requesting Assessment Arrangements

There was some discussion about when to request a 'Reader' using the AAR system and it was clear that understanding and interpretations around the meaning of the AAR categories varies. For example,

  • one colleague requests a Reader as contingency in case of technical problems with a DQP and a computer reader;
  • another requests a Reader when the candidate will use either a Human Reader or a Computer Reader;
  • while another only requests Reader when wishing to use a Human Reader.

Colleagues from SQA clarified that centres should only request 'Reader Required' on the AAR system when a human reader is being used – it is not required for contingency arrangements for computer readers. Where computer reader software is being used, centres should specify the type of software they intend to use in the exam in the 'Other Arrangements' section on the Additional tab on the AAR system.

Digital Answer Booklets in Microsoft Word format

The 2020 DABs will be made available in the newer .docx format for better compatibility with current versions of Word and also other word processors such as Pages on iPad.

Course assessments and prelims

Colleagues reported that the cost of purchasing authoring software such as Adobe Acrobat Pro and lack of staff expertise and time mean that creating course assessments and prelim papers with answer boxes is challenging. There was discussion of alternatives including:

  • Providing assessment papers in Microsoft Word format: the group felt that this was not suitable because the candidate experience is very different to using PDF and the formatting and content can be easily altered.
  • Providing PDF papers with 'text boxes' for answers, created with the free Adobe Reader, rather than form fields that require Acrobat Pro or another PDF editor. The group thought that this method could be helpful for some subjects and candidates and so I've added some notes on making prelim papers to the Digital Assessments web site.

2020 DQP delivery

For the 2020 diet, Digital Question Papers will be delivered on CD as usual and there will also be a trial in 2020 to test delivery via the SQA Secure web site. 

Chromebooks in Assessment Arrangements

SQA commissioned CALL to research the  use of Chromebooks in Assessment Arrangements and a report has been completed. The report should be available on our Digital Assessments web site later this month and SQA's technical guidance notes will also be updated with information on using Chromebooks in examinations.  

iPads in Assessment Arrangements

Glasgow City are provisioning over 50,000 iPads to staff and all learners from P6 to S6 and Scottish Borders are planning the same. As iPads becomes the 'normal way of working', we anticipate that learners will wish to use them in examinations and so centres will be considering and addressing issues of security, accessibility and technical administration. We therefore intend to research and update the iPad section on the Digital Assessments web site.

Computer Dictation

Free computer dictation tools are now available in Windows OS, Chrome and iOS and colleaguesreported that learners are using these dictation systems with some success. There is a lot of interest in using them as Assessment Arrangements but since most of them (e.g. Siri, Google Voice Typing, Microsoft Dictation) require an internet connection to function we need to investigate how this can be achieved without giving candidates access to the wider internet. 

Assessment arrangements for candidates with handwriting difficulties

There was discussion around whether Assessment Arrangements and DQPs were appropriate for candidates with poor handwriting and whether candidates required a diagnosis of, for example, dysgraphia. SQA guidance regarding use of ICT does not specifically address or exemplify handwriting difficulties but the document does give two examples where technology is used by candidates with writing difficulties (see p. 16) and candidates do not require to have a diagnosis of dysgraphia or other physical difficulty or disability in order to request the use of Assessment Arrangements.

Experiences of technology and DQPs in Harris Academy

Lynne Robertson, SfL teacher at Harris Academy in Dundee, gave a very helpful presentation on the experiences and procedures for technology and DQPs as Assessment Arrangements. Lynne described the use of 'exam profiles' for security and administration, and the processes followed by staff to ensure smooth running of the diet.

Lynne has given us permission to make her presentation slides available.

Tags: digital papers

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