NZQA ramping up for NCEA Online exams this year

02 Apr 2019

Findings from the 2018 NCEA Digital Trials and Pilots are providing valuable input to develop NZQA’s digital exam programme as it ramps up this year.

In 2019 NZQA will be offering 14 subjects digitally, across NCEA levels 1, 2 and 3, with the range of subjects set to expand in 2020 and beyond.

The NCEA Online team sought feedback from students, teachers, principal’s nominees, exam centre managers, supervisors and markers involved in the 2018 Trials and Pilots.  The reports evaluating their experience are available.

"This feedback has provided rich insights into their experience and it is informing our ongoing development of digital assessment, working with schools and the wider education sector," according to Andrea Gray, Deputy Chief Executive of Digital Assessment Transformation.

Since 2016, 22,405 students from 203 schools (about 40% of all secondary-level schools) have participated in at least one digital Trial or Pilot. Over the five years to 2018 around three quarters of New Zealand secondary schools and well over 30,000 students experienced some form of digital assessment. 

In 2018 these comprised a digital only level 1 Science Trial; other Trials at levels 1-3 in the subjects English, Media Studies and Classical Studies; and end of year NCEA digital Pilot exams at levels 1-3 for English, Media Studies and Classical Studies.

More than 5000 students from 82 schools participated in the 2018 digital-only level 1 Science Trial with a further 6700 from 53 schools participating in at least one digital Pilot exam.

"Student feedback shows we are on the right track. The opt-in digital model is working well, with schools choosing to participate when they are ready and when it fits their teaching and learning. Students then chose when they opt in to digital.

"Online exams fit with the way students are doing much of their learning and how they interact with the world, and it helps to prepare them for their next steps after school.

"The Trials have been an important part of the ongoing testing of new features and we got a range of responses that are really helpful in designing our services."

Among the feedback on the Pilot exams, students who responded to the survey overwhelmingly preferred digital to paper, particularly because of the typing and editing opportunity and they provided ideas for further improving the interface.

Fewer respondents reported technical or device issues than in 2018, but of those who did, the majority were candidates for the English Level 1 exam.   A total of 97% of respondents were positive about the experience of sitting Pilot exams. Markers suggested ways to improve their experience such as through improved navigation and screen features.

There was mixed satisfaction with the Science Trial, which did not count towards NCEA. While students preferred typing to writing and liked some of the video and animation features, NZQA recognises that there is more work to be done to delivering a good exam experience where graphing, equations and formulae are required.

Just over half of students used their own device (mostly a laptop).  Almost all said they have access to laptops and smart phones at home and use digital technology often in class and for homework – and that proportion of digital use continues to increase.

As planning for 2019 exams proceeds, NZQA is advising schools what will be new this year.  This includes improvements to practice activities, system functionality, information updates, guidance, training, exam preparation and support for students, principal’s nominees, exam centre managers, supervisors and markers.

As part of a staged approach, NZQA will introduce further enhancements to the user experience next year.

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