You are in:

Technology-based Assessment Arrangements - Internet Security

by Paul Nisbet

on Mon Dec 14, 2020

Share this blog

Share on:

  • Twitter share
  • Facebook share
  • linkedin share
  • Google+ share

At present there are:

training courseNewsletter

Get news, articles, advice and tips.

Sign me up!

How can we manage and administer digital assessments for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher in 2021? Can we use cloud-based tools such as OneDrive or Google Classroom?

Cloud-based administration of assessments

A few years ago, most schools and local authorities in Scotland deployed technology running the Windows OS, and digital storage was provided on servers located within the school. For examinations, school technicians would typically create 'exam profiles' that allowed candidates to access folders on the school network containing the digital question papers and answer booklets, and to print. SQA policy required access to the internet or to other potential sources of information to be disabled (see SQA Digital Question Papers: Technical Guidance revised January 2019 pp. 5, 7, 8).

Over the past few years, school technology has moved away from servers located in school to   cloud-based storage on the internet in the form of Microsoft OneDrive, Google Classroom, Showbie, Seesaw, to name only a few. The Covid-19 pandemic, school lockdown, and rapid deployment of digital technology to support learning at home has accelerated this process. For iPads and Chromebooks, there may be no option at all to connect to the older school-based servers, even if they still exist.

A few years ago, most students sat examinations using pen and paper and hard copy question papers and answer booklets. Now we have schools where every student has an iPad or a Chromebook; SQA examinations are not happening; and so teachers are interested in using technology for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher assessments. Technology *should* make assessment faster and easier and also more accessible for candidates with additional support needs.

So how can we design and distribute digital assessments to students? One possibility is to turn the clock back about 10 years and for staff to merrily skip round each device with USB memory sticks (and iPad USB adapters), load digital assessments one at a time on to each device, then repeat the exercise at the end of the assessment to collect the completed files. Then print them out? That doesn't sound very clever or efficient and there are risks for the security of assessments and for students' completed work. Also the aforementioned SQA guidance asks that access to USB storage is turned off.

The only sensible solution at this time is to use cloud-based storage and to configure devices and systems for secure access.

SQA have not (as far as I know) issued clarification on internet access for school or centre-based internal assessments at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher, but a new document entitled Using technology to support assessment remotely: questions and answers recognises the new reality. On page 1 we read:

Can I use GLOW or another environment such as Google Classrooms to make an assessment available to candidates?

We recognise that academic year 2020–21 is taking place in very challenging circumstances. Most digital learning and assessment environments are technically very secure and can be used to make assessment instruments available to candidates, and to store evidence. However, you will need to consider how you will limit visibility to other candidates and minimise the risk of exposure of any SQA-supplied secure assessment material through that environment.

The task then is how we secure devices so that they can access assessment resources only while restricting access to other locations or to the wider internet. This varies depending on the:

  • devices in use in school (iOS, Windows, Chromebook);
  • the management software employed in the school, centre or local authority;
  • the digital format of the assessment (PDF, Word, Microsoft Forms, Google Forms, HTML). 

For example, in Glasgow I believe that Jamf is used to manage the iPads and teachers have Apple Classroom on their iPads. With Apple Classroom, a teacher can navigate students to a specific URL and lock students into using one app so it may be possible to first give students access to an assessment and then lock the iPads into one app for the duration of the class. This method would not work where students require to use two apps - for example one to view a PDF question paper and a second app to generate a response. When I was discussing this with some teachers in a Glasgow school last week, they said that Apple Classroom was not working reliably for them. Also, security must be thoroughly tested: Jamf advise that "whitelisting Google resources for assessments may give unintended access to searching the internet."

I don't personally have answers [yet] on how we can set up devices securely for internal assessments, but it's clearly an urgent requirement in a context where all learners have their own devices and there is a clear incentive to use digital rather than paper-based assessments.

 

Tags: assessment, national 5, higher, security

Share this blog

Share on:

  • Twitter share
  • Facebook share
  • linkedin share
  • Google+ share

At present there are:

Conversations