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Digital Learning
Mixed reactions to e-assessment amongst distance education students at OUNL
The TeSLA project is an EU-funded Horizon 2020 project with partners in 18 organisations from 10 different countries. It develops technology to assure authentication and authorship verification in e-assessment. In order to do that TeSLA uses face- and voice recognition, forensic analysis (writing style), keystroke dynamics (typing rhythm) and plagiarism control. But how do students feel about these techniques to check authentication and authorship? Are they prepared to share this kind of personal  data when doing an e-assessment? A study among students of the Open University of the Netherlands shows that, although they appreciate the reduction of travel time (89%) e-assessment entails, they are not very keen on sharing personal data like video, voice or keystroke dynamics.

Instruments developed and tested

The instruments for authentication and authorship developed by TeSLA are being tested in pilots carried out by 7 universities involved in the project. A first pilot focused on obtaining informed consent from students for the use of personal data. During a second pilot  the instruments were tested in relation to a variety of assessment activities. Learners were invited to test the instruments and to participate in an online survey investigating their perceptions of e-assessment as well as their attitude towards sharing personal data in this context and/or more generally.

Reactions of OUNL students

At the Open University of the Netherlands (OUNL), one of the pilot universities in the TeSLA project, 228 students took part in pilot 2. The survey results gave us some interesting insights into student preferences. For instance, although 89% of students see the reduction of travel time as an advantage of e-assessment, 52% of students say they do not want to share video recordings of their face. Other personal data is more readily shared however substantial numbers still do not want to share the following types of data: voice recording (38%), simple image of the face (30%), or keystroke dynamics (38%). Overall, 10% of the OUNL students taking part in the pilot are not prepared to share any of this data. Interestingly, students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are more inclined to share video recordings of their face (61%). At the same time we received emails from students in this group who did not take part in the pilot saying they prefer to take exams at a study centre as this offers an opportunity to socialize

OUNL students perceive the need to share personal data (45%) and the need to learn how this technology functions (31%) as the main disadvantages of e-assessment. About one in four students (26%) see no disadvantages in the use of this technology. These results demonstrate once more the heterogeneity of distance university students.

A third pilot starts in October 2017 and aims at testing enhanced versions of the instruments with larger numbers of participants.

For more information on the TeSLA project please visit the website.
More news from the Welten Institute.