Staff and student perceptions of computer-assisted assessment for physiology practical classes

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    Effective assessment of laboratory practicals is a challenge for large-size classes. To reduce the administrative burden of staff members without compromising the student learning experience, we utilized dedicated computer software for short-answer question assessment for nearly 300 students and compared it with the more traditional, paper-based method of assessment of the same student cohort. Students were generally favorably disposed toward computer-assisted assessment (CAA): 75% of the students responded that for future assignments, they either had no preference for the method of assessment or would prefer CAA. Advantages were perceived to be remote access to the questions and ease of submission. The most common disadvantage cited was lack of internet access. Various advantages of CAA were mentioned by staff members: notably, the reduction in marking time and reduction of paperwork as well as the potential for the software to detect plagiarism and to administer anonymous marking. Disadvantages to CAA were the need to tailor questions to the technology, having to adapt to reading answers and marking onscreen, and the quality of feedback to students. All of the disadvantages could be overcome by training and improved versions of CAA software, currently under development. The use of CAA has proved to be a welcome addition to the tools available to staff members for the assessment of practical classes, and future improved versions of the software will increase the utility of this assessment method. Copyright © 2006 The American Physiological Society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)174-180
    Number of pages6
    JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology: Advances in Physiology Education
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


    • Computer-based assessment
    • E-assessment
    • Laboratory practical class assessment
    • On-line assessment
    • Short-answer questions


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