Customer Stories

4 min read

Hybrid Learning. The case of the University of the West of Scotland.

Dr. Martina McCarthy: “Testportal have been highly receptive to feedback and open to collaborating on developing the platform further in response to our needs. Following our trial of Testportal, it is evident that it is an efficient tool for assessment proctoring.”

UWS and Testportal, successful online assessments

UWS Context

UWS embraces hybrid learning which offers flexibility for students and more efficient use of synchronous (virtual or face-to-face) lessons, thereby maximising engagement. The UWS Strategy for 2025 aims to offer “flexible programmes of study, with all having digital hybrid delivery options”. To address the challenges associated with the rapid digital transformation of learning, teaching, and assessment practices as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, UWS explored various learning technology providers to help deliver hybrid learning. UWS identified Aula Education as its social learning partner (main LMS) and trialled Testportal as an assessment proctoring platform.

Assessment in the physical space had to be converted to the virtual due to restrictions enforced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since a number of UWS modules are subject to PSRB requirements for invigilated exams, Martina extensively researched proctoring options vis-à-vis UWS needs and identified Testportal as a suitable, intuitive, and encrypted (i.e. secure) solution. Martina recalls:

“I met with Krystian and Jakub for a demo. They were very helpful and provided lots of information and support around the functionality of the platform. Particularly encouraging was their reassuring explanation of the robustness of their server. They also signposted me to the comprehensive Testportal User Manual and Privacy Policy, which have been invaluable resources.”

Dr. Martina McCarthy

Learning Technologist at the University of the West of Scotland

Furthermore, Testportal aligns with the UWS core commitment to reducing barriers to accessing education. UWS prides itself on being a widening access university with a focus on addressing issues such as digital poverty. UWS engages in several initiatives to achieve this such as the Digital Hardship Scheme through which students can access basic IT equipment. UWS is committed to embedding EDI into all of its practices, and assessment is no exception.

“Testportal is a brilliant online assessment tool - particularly useful from the student perspective is that they don't need to download or install any software in order to do the test.”

Dr. Martina McCarthy

Learning Technologist at the University of the West of Scotland

Preparation & Quality Control

UWS ensures quality control with Testportal exams by co-ordinating a multi-disciplinary team of Learning Technologists, Learning Designers and subject-expert teaching staff to design, trial, and review the exam configuration – which includes important decisions around design elements such as time limits, access type, and free or restricted navigation. Applying her expertise in pedagogy and technology, Martina supports UWS staff and students with the design and implementation of both proctored and non-proctored Testportal exams. Martina develops walkthrough videos, shares resources to support with switching off notifications to avoid inadvertently triggering Testportal’s Honest Respondent technology (if enabled), and leads training sessions and meetings to troubleshoot, if required.

While Testportal is quite intuitive for straightforward non-proctored MCQ tests, Martina maintains that the single most important means of preparing students for an online exam (not just a Testportal exam!) is to organise a trial run to check the compatibility of their device with the platform and to familiarise themselves with instructions and procedures in advance of the exam proper. From Martina’s experience with Testportal, she is keen to highlight that:

“A trial run reduces uncertainty and anxiety and allows time to troubleshoot any issues with students’ devices to avoid issues on exam day. It also goes a long way to ensuring that students feel that they are being assessed on their content knowledge, not on their ICT skills!”

Dr. Martina McCarthy

Learning Technologist at the University of the West of Scotland

Reliability & Validity

In the trial, UWS used Testportal to administrate a range of assessment formats including multiple-choice exams, and case studies / essays with open (descriptive) questions. For MCQs, UWS uses test sets in conjunction with randomisation – an evidence-based approach which ensures reliability. UWS also utilises other Testportal features to ensure reliable results as appropriate to each exam. As Martina explains:

“It is the robustness of the assessment design that ensures reliability and validity while the powerful technology provided by Testportal enables us to configure and monitor exams and we use the sophisticated analytics to inform assessment design and continually improve associated teaching and learning practices.”

Dr. Martina McCarthy

Learning Technologist at the University of the West of Scotland

Overall

Feedback from UWS staff and students has been overwhelmingly positive, with students commenting on how easy it was to access their exams and navigate Testportal. Similarly, staff were impressed with how intuitive Testportal is, as well as the sophisticated results reports.