Changing the status quo can be extremely complex in any context, and within an organisation, the prospect can be even more daunting, particularly when reputation and reliability are of paramount importance to its ongoing success.
In these cases, the organisation must ask itself: is the change is worth the risk? Are the benefits of change substantial enough to outweigh the disruption and the cost? And, with the fast pace of technological advancement in the 21st century leaving no sector immune to the imperative to modernise, what would be the consequences of actively choosing not to pursue change?
While change may not always be the easiest path, with it comes vast and exciting opportunity. We see this clearly with the emergence of e-marking, which – for scores of awarding organisations around the world – is improving exam security, quality assurance and marking efficiency, and reducing human error – leading to increased confidence in exam marking, shorter exam cycles and better analytics to inform future improvements.
So how can you go about creating the business case for e-marking for your awarding organisation?
Perhaps the first point to remember is that you are in good company: 66% of exam scripts in the UK were marked online in 2012, and there are many high-calibre examples of awarding organisations and universities in India, Hong Kong, Slovenia and many Caribbean islands using e-marking for their high-stakes examinations. These early adopters mean there is a body of qualitative and quantitative evidence to support the benefits of e-marking, including a 2014 review by Ofqual, which postulated that while both online and pen and paper marking were ‘equally valid methods of marking’ that it was also ‘apparent they do not currently deliver the same level of examiner monitoring’. It also went on to discuss the ways in which the online arena facilitates improvements in marking more easily than its traditional predecessor. This report drew in part from Anne Pinot de Moira’s report for the Centre for Educational Research and Policy: Why Item Mark, The Advantages and Disadvantages of E-Marking which concludes that despite some ‘short-term drawbacks related to the learning of new processes and practices […] a move to e-marking ultimately provides more reliable marking.’
As with any critical business decision, a look at what your counterparts in other areas of the world are doing is an essential part of the process – either simply from an evidence gathering and learning point of view, or in a multi-supplier environment, from a competitor analysis one. There are plenty of case studies available from organisations who have successfully transformed their marking provision and been delighted with the results. RM Results’ case study of the Caribbean Examinations Council is a good place to start.
It is also important to remember that the impact of changing over to an e-marking system will be widespread, affecting many different parts of your business – so it is crucial to involve all relevant stakeholders from an early stage. The drivers for change may be largely related to business development and growth (e.g. the need for innovation to improve organisational performance, the need to recruit and retain experienced examiners, the need to meet the expectations of centres and students); much of the technical detail of transitioning to a new system will fall to your IT, operations and procurement departments. The upfront cost of accessing or establishing the necessary infrastructure may seem high, but must be viewed against the cost-savings from improved efficiencies in the future.
Indeed, processes and infrastructure are the key to getting e-marking right. As Ofqual states in its 2014 report: ‘All exam boards must have the right infrastructure and processes in place to support transitions to online systems. Transitions must take place at an appropriate pace. All systems must be fully tested and all examiners appropriately trained to make a transition. Where on-screen marking is set up properly, the benefits are considerable, but any transition process must be managed and monitored closely.’ Transition is not without risk, but with careful planning, and the experience of dedicated e-marking solutions providers to draw on, it is possible to minimise – if not eliminate – risks around marking mistakes during a period of transition.
Remember that different stakeholders will have different concerns and priorities, while some may have misconceptions or false beliefs about e-marking that need to be addressed. Selling the benefits and highlighting the risks of delaying should be tailored to your audience. Your CEO may be most interested in the enhanced ability of your organisation to capture and analyse data through e-marking, as well as the efficiencies in making the marking cycle quicker and thus more attractive to centres. For your Head of Assessment, it might be better quality assurance of marking and the ability to correct marking issues in real time. You can find more detail on this, along with a myth-busting section, in our definitive guide to e-marking.