Home' Teacher : April 2011 Contents 26 TEACHER APRIL 2011
CLOUD COMPUTING OFFERS SCHOOLS HIGH-TECH EDUCATION
SOLUTIONS ON A BUDGET. WAYNE HOULDEN SHOWCASES THE
EXAMPLE OF THE ESSENTIAL SECONDARY SCIENCE ASSESSMENT.
When more than 30,000 Year 8 students sat down to do the Essential Secondary Sci-
ence Assessment (ESSA) last year in New South Wales, they had no idea of the planning
that had gone into making it available to them online. Nor did they realise that they
were breaking new ground by being the first group of such a size to be able to access
an online assessment event simultaneously. This successful milestone in testing has
opened up the possibility for many more types of standardised tests to be conducted
online. This year, the full NSW Year 8 cohort -- around 80,000 students -- will sit the
ESSA test online on the same day.
ESSA is a statewide science assessment program run by the NSW Department of
Education and Training. The online delivery system was created by Janison, a company
specialising in the development of online learning solutions.
The aim of delivering the practical component of the assessment online is to provide
students with a richer experience, more closely mimicking real-life problems than a
pen and paper test could do. Each task begins with a video that sets the scene for a
real-life problem or situation from which a testable question is derived. A voiceover
guides the student through an investigation. The student is asked to answer questions
at key points along the way.
The tasks use interactive animations that allow students to control aspects of the
problem, test variables and collect the information they need to draw conclusions
and complete short-answer questions. Students present and discuss their findings by
typing into spaces provided. They are given opportunities to consider their responses
and edit as appropriate.
Building the test
Janison has been creating online learning systems, learning portals and assessment
portals since 1998. Our founders have teaching qualifications and have always had
a strong interest in creating systems that could support and benefit learning in the
school and classroom.
Our involvement with ESSA began a number of years ago when the NSW Depart-
ment of Education's Educational Measurement and School Accountability Directorate
(EMSAD) team first contacted us to discuss how a practical component of the Year 8
science exam might be delivered online. Over a period of three years, we built many
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