Following the pilot of online NCEA exams, NZQA has decided to expand its digital exam programme in 2019 with 14 subjects being offered digitally across NCEA levels 1, 2 and 3 and more subjects to follow in 2020.

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 Pilots have involved 22,405 students from 203 schools (about 40% of all secondary-level schools) participating in at least one digital trial or pilot since 2016.

Andrea Gray, Deputy Chief Executive of Digital Assessment Transformation for NZQA says they’ve learned a lot from the trials.

“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,” says Gray.

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 2018 digital-only level 1 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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