Preparedness of Institutions of Higher Education for Assessment in Virtual Learning Environments During the COVID-19 Lockdown: Evidence of Bona Fide Challenges and Pragmatic Solutions

Talha Abdullah Sharadgah, Rami Abdulatif Sa'di
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 19  •  2020  •  pp. 755-774

This study investigates the perceptions of faculty members at Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia, towards preparedness of institutions of higher education (IHE) for assessment in virtual learning environments (VLEs) during the COVID-19 lockdown. In addition, the study explores evidence of bona fide challenges that impede the implementation of assessment in VLE for both formative and summative purposes, and it attempts to propose some pragmatic solutions.

Assessment of student performance is an essential aspect of teaching and learning. However, substantial challenges exist in assessing student learning in VLEs.

Data on faculty’s perceptions were collected using an e-survey. Ninety-six faculty members took part in this study.

This paper contributes to COVID-19 research by investigating preparedness of IHE for assessment in VLEs from faculty members’ perceptions. This practical research explores deleterious challenges that impede the implementation of assessment in VLE for both formative and summative purposes, and it proposes effective solutions to prevent future challenges. These solutions can be used by IHE to improve the quality of assessment in VLEs.

The findings revealed that IHE were not fully prepared to provide a proper assessment in a VLE during the lockdown, nor did they have clear mechanisms for online assessment. The findings also showed that faculty members were not convinced that e-assessment could adequately assess all intended learning outcomes. They were convinced that most students cheated in a way or another. Additionally, faculty had other concerns about (1) the absence of advanced systems to prevent academic dishonesty; (2) insufficient qualifications of some faculty in e-assessment because most of them have never done it before, and e-assessment has never been mandated by the university before the pandemic; and (3) insufficient attention paid to formative assessment.

It is recommended that decision makers help faculty members improve by continuous training on developing e-assessment tests for both formative and summative assessments. Decision makers should also ensure the inclusion of technology-based invigilation software to preclude cheating, make pedagogical and technical expertise available, and reconsider e-assessment mechanisms. Faculty members are recommended to attend training sessions if they do not master the basic skills of e-assessment and should devise a variety of innovative e-assessments for formative and summative purposes.

More similar work is needed to provide more solutions to the challenges identified in this paper regarding the e-assessment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study suggests introducing technology-based solutions to ensure e-assessment security, or holding tests in locations where they can be invigilated whilst rules of social distancing can still be applied.

Future research could suggest processes and mechanisms to help faculty develop assessment in VLEs more effectively.

assessment in VLEs, COVID-19, e-assessment, lockdown, online assessment
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