By: Nicholas Jones
Moving school exams online hit problems after students were locked out of a pilot assessment labelled a “disaster” by one school.
Documents obtained by the Weekend Herald reveal problems with last year’s media studies exam, including an exasperated teacher threatening to go to media and an urgent briefing of Education Minister Chris Hipkins.
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) say the “minor” technical issues resulted from human error, and it is on track to meet the ambitious goal of providing digital assessment for all subjects – minus a few that are incompatible, like art – by 2020.
The handful of pilot exams at the end of last year was a milestone in that effort. If their school opted in, students could choose to sit the digital pilot exams instead of the paper-based version. Results counted.
Things went wrong from the start of the NCEA Level 2 Media Studies pilot. A number of students were presented with multiple log-ins to different subjects, and were unable to open the media studies assessment.
Documents released under the Official Information Act by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) include feedback from one school that, “we were run off our feet solving problems over the whole exam. It had us thinking about pulling out altogether”.
“When good people with proven track records and a well managed computer system have difficulties, you know the system is calibrated too tightly for national success,” the school stated.
“Our supervisors froze when something went wrong and they then picked up the manual to figure out what to do”.
NZQA says the issue arose for students who were assigned to multiple digital assessments. It was resolved within 10 minutes of the exam starting. Students couldn’t access the other exams as they did not have the exam codes.
In November, NZQA told new Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ office there was a possibility the issue could reach media, despite it being “a very minor issue”. A quarter of students didn’t log-on, but it wasn’t yet clear why: “it could simply be that they got cold feet”.
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