The e-assessment handbook

Author(s) Geoffrey Crisp
Publisher Continuum
Published 2007
Pages 273
ISBN 0826496288
Reviewed by Mr Brian Poole
CELC, National University Singapore
Review published 13 November 2007

The topic of e-assessment is much discussed at present. On the one hand, the widening of participation in higher education leads institutions to consider new ways of assessing learning in larger cohorts, while on the other some academics query the appropriateness of e-assessment when higher education – through its quality assurance culture – is so preoccupied with demonstrating that the academic standards of exit awards are robust and secure. Furthermore the impact of bodies such as the Assessment Reform Group (http://www.aaia.org.uk/assessment.htm) has focused greater attention on the relationships between assessment, learning, and standards. This book arrives at an opportune moment to contribute to current debates.

It is therefore very pleasing to report that, in my view, this is an extremely useful book, well organized and well written. The six main sections cover not only general issues concerning the relationship between learning and assessment, but also provide practical assistance to the reader who may not feel particularly at home with e-assessment. For instance, numerous examples of e-assessments across a range of disciplines are offered, and the concept of ‘interactivity’ in e-assessment is investigated in a manner which is informative without appearing daunting.

Of course, a major difficulty for an author writing a book on this kind of topic is that the instant the work is published it becomes out of date; such is the speed at which developments arrive. However, Crisp has dealt with this problem very capably. First of all, the text is full of web addresses, which will allow the reader to keep up with what’s new via the Internet, using this book as a jumping-off point. Secondly, the author provides (Chapter Sixteen) an intriguing chapter of futurology, tracing possible avenues along which e-assessment may continue to travel. He refers (p234) to goals laid down by the Scottish Qualifications Authority for the period up to 2010, under which, for instance, the technology will “capture more information about students’ actions during assessment” and immediate results will follow an assessment. The achievement of such goals will mean richer information for researchers, and greater satisfaction for students who, as Crisp notes, will increasingly expect and demand to be assessed in the hi-tech manner characterising much of their learning time.

Some readers may find certain sections of the book a little off-putting. For example, Chapter Nine on validity and reliability discusses concepts such as classical test theory and Rasch modelling. However, in general there is no need to feel intimidated: this is a largely practical book whose down-to-earth concern is to arm lecturers with a greater awareness of e-assessment techniques and programs, and the uses to which these might be put.

Crisp provides a host of examples of test items, covering areas as disparate as environmental sciences and literary studies. He also offers useful compilations of material in tabular form. For example a table on pages 42-43 lists a wide variety of possible item types, while another (pages 69-74) tabulates software systems for e-assessment with a useful commentary on each. A glossary and a very full subject index mean that the reader can easily dip into the book for specific purposes without necessarily needing to read it from cover to cover.

All in all I would recommend this book as a useful addition to any set of reference materials for lecturers, including those in institutional centres for learning and teaching, professional development and so on. The book could also prove a valuable resource for those delivering PGCEs for newly-appointed university academics.