Computer Based Assessments – the new way forward?

Anglia Accountancy Training took part in their first online Computer Based Assessments (CBAs) in February of this year.  At Anglia Accountancy Training, we recognised the change as positive. “To turn your back on ICT will only hinder your students. Today students of all ages are driven by image and sound. You must take technology to higher levels to provide the skills that students need in business, higher education and life in general.” (Walker et al 1992)

However,  very often when change occurs there can be resistance and we carried out action research to assess the impact on Anglia Accountancy Training and its students. Before the students had experienced the CBA, just 16% believed that computers were easier to use but after they had performed a practice CBA this increased to 83%. But 100% of the students who took part believed that paper based assessment demonstrates competency better. This was partly down to being able to show workings on paper. The AAT states that by using realistic ledgers and tables, it reflects the workplace due to more companies using computerised accounting packages as opposed to manual accounting systems. Anglia Accountancy Training students did not agree with this. The research highlighted that there were negatives but these were considerably outweighed by positives.

Nine positives:
1. You get your exam results straight away!
2. The layout is easier to understand
3. Minimal sheets to flick between
4. The Cashbook is all on one page
5. It is more to the point and a lot more fun
6. It assesses what you need to do more, not the balance brought forward and carried forward which takes extra time
7. Questions are flagged so you can go back to what you are not sure about and you know if you have missed a question
8. It involves less writing
9. CBAs have made learning more accessible to all. Screen resolutions and colours can be changed. Software can be installed for deaf and blind students. Dyslexic students find using a keyboard and screen easier.

Just three negatives:
1. Unable to mark the the bank reconciliation on screen so it is unclear to read
2. Harder to follow as the simulation does not follow on task by task
3. Students believe there is more chance of error on the CBA than on paper based exams

To overcome these problems students have been encouraged to use scrap paper to work out answers, as they would on a manual exam before inputting the data into the computer.

Change may be difficult but it’s something we should encourage ourselves to do for the good of progress. Also AAT will continuously be working on improving their CBA’s and student feedback will help them to achieve this.