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QCTO Revised Policy on e-assessment 9 November 2016

1.        QCTO Mission and Vision

Vision: To qualify a skilled and capable workforce.

Mission: The QCTO’s mission is to effectively and efficiently manage the occupational qualifications sub-framework in order to set standards, develop and quality assure national occupational qualifications for all who want a trade or occupation and, where appropriate, professions.

2.        Preamble

In line with its key mandate of upholding the quality of qualifications within the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework (OQSF), the QCTO is committed to quality assuring all forms of assessment of programmes and qualifications within the sub- framework. To this end, there is recognition of the prevalence of use of technology not only in delivering training programmes within this sector, but also in assessing students. An increasing number of providers that roll out e-learning programmes now prefer to use e- assessment in order to overcome the limitations of time, distance and resources. In order to maintain credibility of both formative and summative e-assessment, the Council needs to put in place robust quality regulation processes and procedures that Approved Assessment Quality Partners (AQPs) should adhere to. In addition to assessment, the Council seeks to ensure that all technology supported delivery (e-learning) is deployed in the most professional manner and to the best advantage of the student. The affordances of technology should be used to enhance the quality of delivery, to open access, to be flexible, and to achieve cost-effectiveness in service delivery. This policy document provides a framework that ensures that consistent and robust approaches are taken to the delivery of formative and summative e-assessment. The framework document is in line with the basic tenets of seminal national policies like the White Paper on Post-School Education and Training as well as with the general assessment principles guiding assessment in the sub- sector.

3.        White Paper on Post-School Education and Training

One of the key objectives of the White Paper on Post-School Education and Training is to expand access, improve quality and increase diversity of provision in post-school education and training. The QCTO makes an undertaking to support policy implementation by accommodating diverse ways of both delivery and assessment whilst at the same time it strengthens the quality of these processes. Whilst the White Paper envisages expansion of equitable access by embracing ICTs and expanding open and distance modes of delivery in the post-school education and training sub-sector, it underscores the importance of quality assuring the delivery processes by the Quality Councils in order to ensure that high quality education is provided. Due to the envisaged expansion, the Paper encourages Quality Councils to exercise greater flexibility to quality assure qualifications on the NQF. Further, there is encouragement of the Quality Councils to tighten their quality assurance processes by using external assessment in order to identify poor performance. In instances where learners consistently perform poorly, appropriate remedial action and/or capacity building measures should be taken. To this end, the assessment of qualifications delivered through e-learning or blended learning under the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework needs to be rigorous enough to identify areas deserving support. This includes quality assurance of assessment systems, processes and procedures.

Traditionally, the QCTO has been quality assuring forms of assessment that have mainly been paper-based. As more and more providers embrace educational technologies to deliver training programmes and assess students, it has become clear that some occupational qualifications require an electronic system of assessment. To facilitate standardisation of such assessment practices across a diverse range of its Approved Assessment Bodies, it has become necessary to develop policy guidelines on e-assessment.

4.                  Audience and applicability

This policy applies to all QCTO approved Assessment Bodies, assessment centres and skills development providers conducting external summative assessments via the digital mode. The guidelines are applicable to the assessment of occupational qualifications and part qualifications registered on the NQF.

This policy should be read in conjunction with the QCTO Policy on Delegation of Qualification Assessment to Assessment Quality Partners (AQPs), Assessment Policy for Qualifications and Part qualifications on the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework (OQSF) and Policy on accreditation of assessment centres.

5.        Assessment of technology-supported programmes

As institutions move to fifth-generation distance education provision, with increased e- learning and online learning, it is necessary for any Quality Council to consider how the role of assessment and feedback is being re-imagined in a digital era. The integration of ICT opens up increased functional possibilities for interaction with dispersed learners, a development that introduces the flexibility needed to  make education and  training more accessible. Learners can submit assignments, including multiple media, online; provided there are some kind of guidelines or a rubric, they can receive constructive feedback from peers and from a tutor or educator; and the submission and feedback process can be monitored to ensure quick turnaround times.

However, before considering the implications that a changing approach to e-learning has for assessment, it is important to recognize that there are certain characteristics of an effective assessment strategy, regardless of the mode of provision. The CHE (2015)1 alludes to the following basic principles of an effective assessment strategy:

  • Sufficient measures are in place to ensure the validity and reliability of
  • Assessment is rigorous enough to give reliable evidence of student achievement, so there can be no doubt that students have met the exit level outcomes and earned a qualification they can be proud of.
  • An efficient management system is in place to ensure fair administration of both formative and summative assessment, security of assessment items and results, and timely release of assessment
  • There is sufficient formative feedback to help students to check their progress against the intended learning outcomes and assessment
  • There is sufficient evidence to allow students and lecturers to diagnose potential problems and areas of
  • There is sufficient guidance and feedback to maximise student chances of
  • Support to students in time management by staggering assignments and workloads so that they can be sure that they cover the complete programme adequately in the time they have
  • Motivation to students to succeed by encouraging them to relate their studies to their own working/potential working and/or learning environments and problems and through the provision of encouraging and realistic feedback2.


6.      What is e-assessment?

E-assessment is the use of electronic systems for the development, operation and delivery of accredited qualification assessment or the collection of performance evidence, which contributes to the awarding of a unit or an accredited qualification.

E-assessment is any type of assessment that has an electronic component and incorporates one or more of e-testing, e-portfolios and e-marking. Examples of e-assessment include:

  • Assessments that are distributed, completed, marked automatically and administered electronically using local intranets/networks and individual
  • Assessments that are distributed, completed, marked automatically and administered electronically using the
  • Assessments comprising a combination of automatic marking and
  • Electronic test delivery, with all marking completed manually on screen or on
  • A range of multimedia formats for submitting assessment
  • Electronic scanning of completed assessments for
  • Tests downloaded from the internet by the
  • Delivery of assessments and submission of completed assessments by secure
  • E-portfolios to store and manage candidates’ evidence
  • Assessments that are automatically marked and react adaptively to student performance

7.      Why e-assessment?

Due to the increasing use of technology for the development, delivery and administration of education, many organisations prefer to harness the affordances of technology to assess students and reporting of assessment. In the South African context, e-assessment is a huge advantage to students as they do not need to wait for too long before they get the results of he assessment, and the system is cost-effective as students do not need to shoulder any postage costs. Use of e-assessment is motivated by a number of factors that include:

  • The dispersed nature of students served by a provider;
  • Flexibility of taking tests/exams – learners can register and sit the exam whichever day and time suits them;
  • Cost effectiveness of transporting assessment documentation electronically rather than physically, and the relative security associated with electronic delivery of assessment; Mechanism for getting regular feedback from

8.      General Principles of e-assessment

In order for an e-assessment system to have credibility, there are generic principles of assessment that should be upheld, over and above the specific principles that are germane to electronically supported assessment systems. Assessment Quality Partners must adhere to these general principles of assessment in order to ensure that they implement credible systems.

8.1         Validity of e- assessment

Assessment Quality Partners should ensure that:

  • Students who pass the programme demonstrate the graduate competences indicated in the purpose and exit level outcomes of the
  • Where relevant, practical competences are adequately assessed
  • Systems have been put in place to ensure reliability, rigour and security of the e- assessment system for remote students
  • Assessment activities are sufficiently varied for the programme purpose and level and the diversity of its student Appropriate constructs as covered in the relevant courses are adequately covered in the assessment.
  • Where students submit assessment individually by electronic means from homes or workplaces, and not from a recognized assessment centre, the programme has the necessary security systems for electronic Programmes delivered exclusively or mainly through electronic learning methods do not narrow the range of assessment to the assessment of factual knowledge (which is most easily assessed), rather than the full range of outcomes and depth of knowledge required for the particular programme of In technology supported distance education delivery, there is the danger of limiting assessment tasks to low level cognitive skills (e.g. simple multiple choice questions [MCQs] that can be computer-marked) at the expense of high level skills (usually requiring more open-ended written and practical assignments) that enhance deep and critical engagement with concepts. Higher order thinking skills like application, analyses, evaluation and creation should be covered in the assessment.
  • There is evidence of staff development to familiarise academic staff with online assessment strategies that take high level cognitive skills into account thereby ensuring credible online
    • Management of e-assessment
  • There is evidence that the assessment body understands the importance of feedback on formative assessment in e-learning.
  • There is evidence of an assessment management system to ensure that feedback on assessment is confidential and reaches the right students Systems are in place to communicate feedback and results quickly, efficiently and securely to a distributed student body.
  • Adequate systems to guarantee the integrity and security of the assessment system and the authenticity of student submissions (including means to discourage plagiarism from online sources) are in E-assessment systems are tested to ensure proper functionality and any shortcomings identified are fully addressed prior to full There is regular monitoring and checking of the smooth functioning of e-assessment systems to make sure that the assessment system is not compromised in any
  • The e-assessment body has enough competent staff to address any technical problems students face with the assessment system to ensure the assessment process runs smoothly and does not in any way disadvantage the
  • The assessment body does not pass on unnecessary costs to
  • There is a policy on external moderation of the e-assessment and the policy is effectively
  • External moderation reports are used to improve the various aspects of the e- assessment process, like the validity of the assessment instruments, the quality of student performance, and the reliability of the marking
  • Assessment partners must have effective quality assurance measures in place to ensure the integrity of the assessment
  • E –assessment systems must have capacity to generate key information like system error reports and data that demonstrates regulatory
  • Where Assessment Partners enter into partnership arrangements with any other provider, formal service level agreements with clearly stated roles and responsibilities must be


8.3         Teaching/Learning value of e-assessment

  • The central role of formative assessment and feedback in online learning is formally recognised and there is evidence of an appropriate number and variety of formative assessment tasks, and mechanisms for the monitoring and quality assurance of feedback and minimum turn-around time are in
  • Accurate and reliable records of student e-assessment are kept and can easily be retrieved as when there is
  • The potential of the electronic environment for the use of ongoing formative assessment of different kinds (self-, peer- and tutor assessment) is exploited


8.4         User-friendliness of e-assessment System

  • The rules and regulations governing assessment are published and clearly communicated to students and relevant
  • Evidence is provided to demonstrate that these rules are widely adhered
  • Breaches of assessment regulations are dealt with effectively and
  • Students are provided with information and guidance on their rights and responsibilities regarding e-assessment processes (for example, definitions and regulations on plagiarism, penalties, terms of appeal, supplementary examinations, ).
  • Student appeals procedures are explicit, fair and
  • There are clear and consistent published guidelines/regulations for:
    • Marking and grading of
    • Aggregation of marks and
    • Progression and final
    • Credit allocation and
  • As much as possible, e-assessment systems should operate on inclusive principles and therefore accommodate learners with various forms of physical
  • E-assessment systems are designed in such a way that they are easy for learners to Assessment partners should ensure that learners do not spend much time grappling with system issues instead of with the content of the assessment.
  • Mechanisms are in place to support learners who are less competent in working with technologies so they can gain the necessary skills and gain sufficient confidence in working with the technology; and
  • Ensure that there is fair and equal treatment of all undertaking e-assessment, irrespective of geographical location, time of assessment and


8.5 Use of e-portfolios for assessment

In addition to regulatory principles 8.1 – 8.12, e-portfolio systems should store and maintain performance evidence for access by all required parties securely, meet the evidence needs for a range of qualification types and enable learners to move their portfolios from one centre to another.

  • E-portfolio systems must have the capabilities to store and maintain a variety of forms of performance evidence or coursework for secure access by the learner, assessors, verifiers and moderators based on a robust authentication
  • As far as is practicable, awarding bodies must give due consideration to the need to support a degree of inter-operability in the e-portfolio systems that they develop or endorse to enable learners to move their portfolios from one centre to



  • The qualification assessment specifications must spell out clearly the internal and external assessment modes identifying whether the assessment will be practical, paper based, electronic or
  • The e-assessment instruments must be designed and developed in accordance with the QCTO Guide for developing assessment


9        Administration of e-assessments and technical support

  • All staff undertaking e-assessment processes at assessment centres must be familiar with the on-line environment and have undergone appropriate training prior to gaining access to the
  • Accredited Assessment centres should have plans in place to manage every aspect of the e-assessment procedure, ensuring that the process is robust, reliable, fair and efficient and that robust contingency plans are in place to mitigate against technical failure.
  • In the case of technical failure occurring within the first 80% of the scheduled time of the assessment, it is recommended that the EISA be If a technical failure occurs within the last 20% of the scheduled time, the assessment may be concluded (provided the previous 80% has been saved), and the marks gained may, at the discretion of the AQP and the QCTO be standardised accordingly.
  • In cases of serious technical failure which affects the whole group assessments may be rescheduled or where appropriate students offered the assessment in paper In either case, the QCTO should be immediately informed of the new arrangements by telephone and a written communication should be sent to the QCTO soon after the assessment.
  • Learners must be given access to and be familiar with the assessment format, question types and the technology prior to the summative

10    Roles and responsibilities

Approved Assessment Quality Partners (AQPs) wishing to use e-assessment should ensure that the assessment centres comply with the appropriate procedures and policies which include the roles and responsibilities of staff, both within and outside of the AQP who are involved in the e-assessment process.

All AQPs should have:

  • Senior management whose role it is to conceptualise and develop an e-assessment policy strategy for the To ensure effective implementation of the e-assessment policy strategy, sufficient operational management should be in place;
  • Well trained and knowledgeable invigilation staff that ensures the credibility and smooth running of the assessment system;
  • A system where queries from learners and other stakeholders are addressed within the shortest possible time;
  • A system that adequately prepares learners for e-testing so that their performance is not negatively affected by the e-assessment system;
  • Reliable records of all e-assessment that allow recourse to transactional evidence as and when there is

11    Qualification Assessment Specifications


  • The QCTO has introduced a compulsory qualification development model which culminates in three documents; the qualification documents to be registered by SAQA; the curriculum to guide learning and the qualification assessment specifications to guide internal and external assessments. By ensuring the validity and reliability of the assessment specifications based on a national standard, the QCTO aims to enhance the credibility of the certificates issued to qualifying learners for occupational
  • The Qualification Assessment Specifications which spell out the assessment strategy for that particular occupational qualification are developed during the qualification development process and it is expected that a minimum of 50% of the working group members should be experts in that particular occupational


  • Internal assessment is conducted by providers in line with the guidelines given in the curriculum for each curriculum Workplaces offering the work experience are provided with a work experience record which must be completed and signed off, as well as specifications regarding supporting evidence to be collected. The learner achievements resulting from internal assessment are recorded in statement of results.


  • Candidates become eligible for external assessment when they have statements of results which show they have met the stated requirements for Knowledge, Practical and


  • Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) – In case of an RPL process, e-learning and assessment are recommended as a mechanism to fast-track the closure of identified gaps so that candidates are not unnecessarily


12      Assessment Design and Delivery requirements


In order to protect the integrity of the assessments, learners will take e-assessment only from QCTO accredited assessment centres.

The processes surrounding the compilation of e-assessments should be the same as those for other forms of External Integrated Summative Assessment of OQSF qualifications. In addition to this,

  • The e-assessment tool will be based on a Qualification Assessment Specifications (QAS) Addendum (Blueprint) approved by the
  • External moderators should have experience of the process of e-assessment and be provided with appropriate training to allow for effective interaction with the University’s software;


  • In order to fulfil their responsibilities, external moderators should be granted access to the e-assessment software to review assessment papers and learner scripts in the format in which they are to be delivered; and
  • External moderators should approve the base design of the e-assessment.
  • A peer review system for the assessment items should be undertaken to the satisfaction of the
  • AQPs must ensure that e-assessment is fit for purpose and does not compromise the integrity of what is being

13      Quality assurance and monitoring of the implementation of the E-Assessment Criteria and Guidelines

  • The effectiveness of the general principles and minimum requirements for E- Assessment shall be monitored and reviewed on a regular basis against the set quality assurance standards and appropriate amendments aimed at improving their effectiveness, efficiency and economy will be


  • Best practice models of e-assessments will be identified and used to benchmark the practice on e-learning and e-assessments amongst


  • The Assessment Body will submit its E-Assessment strategy to the This provides the basis for the QCTO to locate and monitor the e-assessment activities.


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