JISC CASE Study. Moving from Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) to Computer Based Assessment (CBA) for summative exams in medicine

[A week into the MA in Open and Distance Education in February 2010 we looked at ‘computer-based assessment’. We studied how an element of the medical course concluded with an exam taken at computers in an examination hall – a ‘computer lab’ was we may still have called them. Together a cohort signed in and completed a summative multiple-choice test. The results were out quickly. Posting originally on 17 February 2010 I can recall how I felt about this a the time, that is was a ‘machine test’ and we were headed for ‘machine learning’. A decade on and such ‘computer labs’ have gone, like the ‘language labs’ of the past and even ‘science labs’ where experiments take place on an interactive whiteboard. Has the world moved on? The hand eye connection between writing out notes – do the best teachers expect the students who want to be the best to do this? Touch typing or texting with thumbs has taken over – even voice commands and dictation.]

The University of Nottingham

“Students can, with difficulty, escape from the effects of poor teaching, they cannot (by definition if they want to graduate) escape the effects of poor assessment.”
Boud, D. (1995)

The University of Nottingham Medical School were aware that the examination process for undergraduates could be improved to:

  • accommodate a larger cohort,
  • pose more realistic image and video enhanced questions
  • include interactivity
  • be suitably robust in a ‘closely scrutinised educational context’. 

    Over a three year period a substantial and diverse team addressed every possible issue and problem relating to the desired shift away from Optical Mark Recognition technologies to Computer Based Assessment. This was achieved in a carefully managed way and has produced a successful outcome that has had an impact on some 3,000 people: medical students, tutors, assessors, admin and IT personnel.
  • With research and development integral to the process of improvement, further ameliorations to e.learning ‘packages’ currently used will be made.

    Moving from Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) to Computer Based Assessment (CBA) for summative exams in medicine

    Author: Simon Wilkinson, simon.wilkinson@nottingham.ac.uk
    Author: Heather Rai, heather.rai@nottingham.ac.uk

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