Digital Trials and Pilots, the programme that gives schools the option of running NCEA exams online, will receive an additional $8 million for the 2018 and 2019 school years, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

“Online exams are increasingly popular in schools, are more efficient to administer and make assessment data more readily available for analysis,” says Hipkins.

“This additional funding will allow NZQA to continue building the IT system schools need to offer NCEA exams online by 2020. NZQA will deliver over 30 digital examinations in 2019 as part of its pilots.”

The Digital Trials and Pilots programme is a stepping stone towards NZQA’s goal of having NCEA exams available online by 2020 and allows allow schools to test their readiness and provide the opportunity for students to experience assessment in a digital format.

Schools and students have the choice of whether to opt in for Digital Trials and Pilots. NZQA intends to release the evaluation of the 2017 digital trials and pilots project early next week.

“Since 2014, around three quarters of secondary schools have taken part in NCEA Online trials and pilots and between 2016 and 2017, this rose significantly,” says Hipkins.

NZQA chief executive Dr Karen Poutasi is “delighted” in the investment.

“NCEA Online aims to modernise and digitise the NCEA assessment functions that NZQA administers, while ensuring our processes and systems that support this are fit-for-purpose.”

Poutasi says NZQA is currently working on the design phase of the NCEA Online project.

“This co-design has involved working closely with schools and the wider education sector. The investment now enables us to build the system that schools will experience and begin redefining how we develop examinations.”

“Additionally, it enables us to continue offering Digital Trial and Pilot examinations to schools at a larger scale.”

NZQA’s aim is that learners “qualify for the future world”. Poutasi says changing the way students sit external exams enables NCEA to remain a relevant and trusted credential that signals students’ readiness to succeed in post-school education and the workplace.

The Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) hopes the investment will give time to even the playing field among secondary schools.

“We welcome the funding but have concerns that not all schools have the infrastructure to run digital exams,” says PPTA president Jack Boyle.

“We have been pleased with the approach NZQA has taken so far, through their extended programme of trials and pilots, and hope that this approach continues. This may allow the infrastructure in schools to catch up.”

Learn more about NZQA’s Digital Trials and Pilots programme here


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