Assessments form an integral part of the IB Diploma Programme as it allows students to evaluate their knowledge and skills that will serve them well in further study and in life beyond the classroom.
After successfully completing online learning in the light of school closure, Tema International School DP students are writing their end of semester assessments remotely using the AssessPrep application (a web-based assessment tool). The examination started on Tuesday, 28 May and is expected to end by 5 June. This being the first-ever eAssessment conducted in the Diploma Programme at TIS, students and teachers have shared their reflections and experiences for their first exam session. We hope you will enjoy reading.
This was certainly a very new and interesting experience for me as it was for every other student. My first paper was Language and Literature SL which occurred in the afternoon at 2 pm. I was certainty uneasy as I started because I had never had an official test on AssessPrep, only trials. My internet connection had been fluctuating the entire day and I feared it would happen during my exam but, by the grace of God, I was fine. I was able to access the exam and start on time. Typing was a hindrance as I make many errors when I type fast, but I tried my best to pay more attention to my typing to reduce the errors. I was definitely anxious as I would be for a regular exam except this time I had to make sure my laptop was charged and I found a quiet place to write my exam. Luckily, it was an afternoon paper and so I had a lot of time to prepare and make sure I had everything I needed. With regards to Language and Literature, with AssessPrep, you are unable to underline and make comment on the original text on the laptop so I had to improvise and write in my book indicating the lines I should go back and read and analyse, or the comments that came to my head when I first read it. This experience was definitely more tedious than a regular written exam, but it was manageable. I am sure as I gain more familiarity with the app and online examination process, I will not encounter the few setbacks I had once I am more at ease with the entire process.
~ Lydia Boahen
The entire online examination process was one I looked forward to with a lot of trepidation. This was magnified for the Language and Literature exam since it was my first one. Luckily, the entire process was not as bad as I expected. Of course, there were a few challenges – noise from other students who needed to communicate with the invigilator on zoom and an inability to annotate the texts as I usually do – however, I was able to pull through successfully. Because of the unfamiliar nature of Zoom, I took some time to get accustomed to it, so I had less time to do my work. However, in a time like this, that’s the best we can get. And, with this experience writing my other exams will be certainly less nerve-wracking.
~ Charity Apreku
Due to the current pandemic situation, we’ve all become distant learners which is new to most of us. Through my online classes I learned that in order to be a successful distant learner, you have to be self-disciplined and have the ability to work well on your own. Since you won’t be physically going to class each week, you can take part in class from the comfort of your own home. You must be self-disciplined because the instructor won’t constantly be there to remind you of assignments or of project deadlines, it will be up to you to make sure that you are keeping up with all the work for the course. We’ve also been introduced to online testing, at first it was difficult because we were introduced to a new platform called AssessPrep and I didn’t quite know how to manipulate it effectively, but through practice tests that some teachers set up for us, I was able to quickly learn how to utilise it. In all, I think the introduction of AssessPrep was quite successful because everyone was able to quickly learn how to use it, and also it has all the functionalities required to successfully take your exams.
~ Alassane Agalassou
My feelings towards my first experience of taking an exam on AsessPrep can best be described as mixed: bad, mostly due to the novelty this whole system and process, and good because eventually I was able to complete the exam. The typing instead of writing was especially a prominent obstacle, in a timed exam, as I am not very fast at typing. In addition, the prospect of technical issues that could be encountered also served as a constant fear and pressure. However, the use of AssessPrep was not all bad. I believe the use of this medium freed me from the usual anxiety and fear that comes right before an exam; being in the comfort of my own home just offered a calmer environment that allowed me to think more clearly and freely.
~ Torence Mwindaare
The first emotion I felt towards these online examinations was definitely anxiety. However, today, I found out all the uneasiness was for nothing. My first e-assessment was actually a lot more relaxed and comfortable than I thought it would be. I sat behind the study desk in my room – my usual place of learning and writing – with a bottle of chilled water and a bowl of plantain chips (I don’t work well on an empty stomach, please don’t judge me). My familiarity with the locale took away the pressure I usually feel within the intimidating walls of an examination room, allowing my thoughts to flow freely and smoothly. As someone who types quickly, I was able to finish my essay with spare time to go over any typographical errors. Nonetheless, I’m used to typing essays and other works on my laptop so this English paper felt rather natural. I’m more curious about what to expect from subjects like maths and physics which are relatively newer experiences.
~ Edward Quansah
Tuesday, 26 May, 2020 saw eighteen Language and Literature HL students sit for their first virtual end of semester examination on AssessPrep. They had prepared well as I could sense their excitement when they joined the Zoom classroom for final directions for the exam. Since they had all downloaded the test prior to the time, there was no struggle with beginning the exam on time.
My greatest worry was that some of them might have internet connection issues and might log out of Zoom making live invigilation impossible. To my greatest surprise, some students had standby modems and rejoined the Zoom class when they had challenges with internet connectivity. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has echoed how open-minded TIS students are and their resilience in the face of adversity.
~ Linda Adika (Language and Literature Teacher)
The whole idea of a virtual End of Semester examination was unexpected, but as an IB World School, I guess it was a risk worth taking. It was challenging, yet exciting, to conduct a live invigilation for the first time on Zoom and AssessPrep, considering the technical difficulties we had to surmount. Initially, my students were a bit apprehensive and that was understandable because the Literature Paper 1 happened to be their first real experience/encounter with AssessPrep – a plethora of questions were fired at me, but the two things students needed most were encouragement and assurance.
As envisaged, we encountered a number of technical challenges from the onset, but once those were resolved, the process evolved smoothly even though on occasion, one or two students encountered a few challenges which had to be attended to with speed. I had to collaborate a lot with my colleague, Mr Joy Adipah, who was in charge of the HL class, to resolve some of the difficulties – we relied mostly on our own ingenuity and the patience of our students.
Once students had settled, it was simply a delight to watch as they all concentrated on the task almost as if they were in a real/physical examination hall – the enthusiasm was awesome!
At the end of the exam, I could only sigh in relief for overcoming all the anxieties that the whole process came with, but I also walked away with the satisfaction that we took a risk and succeeded. For me, the real heroes of the whole process are the students who had to challenge and motivated themselves to write the exams – Kudos!
~ Boniface A. Sutinga (Language A: Literature and History Teacher)
“Each assessment was an opportunity for feedback and help, not a dreadful exercise in humiliation” – Alex Clarkson.
Most students had preconceived ideas about online assessment as they felt it wouldn’t give a true reflection of their efforts. They also had fears about the unfamiliarity of the new app and were unsure of what may happen during the exams. We (teachers), on the other hand, were enthused about preparing them for the online exam. We were able to convince them to take a trial test during which some students came up with several excuses and questions which we felt were normal as it was their first experience.
On the day of the exams, some students were visibly anxious at the beginning while others had challenges with their internet connectivity, student’s code, among others. Most of them were able to settle into the session a few minutes into it which was highly impressive. Those who faced technical hitches had to be given an extension of time at the teacher’s discretion. On the whole, it was a fruitful session as the majority of the students in the SL set were able to complete their task within the allotted time.
Going forward, it will be good to allow students to use this platform a couple of times before the final exams to help them familiarise with it. This way, they will be able to master the use of the app and improve their typing speed alongside processing their thoughts. On the whole, it was a good exercise and helpful in keeping students engaged in their online learning.
~ Rita Adjoa Tay (Language and Literature Teacher)
E-assessment is not new to us in TIS, except for our Diploma Students. So, being the first time they were having a taste of virtual assessment with its added live remote invigilation, most of them were excited and joined the Zoom class earlier than anticipated for the start of the test. Fortunately for us, we did not have issues with internet connectivity. I think the experience is good for them since in the not too distant future, IB will commence DP examinations online.
I observed that it was challenging unmuting some students to speak with them when the test started. I later found out that letting students unmute themselves before getting started with their tests on AssessPrep and having the invigilator rather do that may solve this problem.
Again, since there seems not to be an annotation tool for Literature and Language and Literature students on AssessPrep, it slowed their process of deconstructing texts before responding to them. Notwithstanding these, it was a great experience for all of us.
~ Joy Adipah (Language and Literature Teacher)
Conducting an on-screen examination or assessment is not a new experience for me but what makes this one different is the point of my students being far away in their homes while I sit at the other end – in my home – to invigilate and monitor their progress through the process. I had always been conscious of the fast development in the ICT world but did not think going through an online invigilation session would be this soon.
The decision by management to let all students take an End of Semester Examination whipped up some excitement in me. I was unsure of how it would pan out, but somehow I really wanted to try it, and thankfully it went well. We gave our students a feel of the experience with a simulation of the process during which we could feel their anxiety, but were also happy they were cooperative. We were able to identify a few hitches which kept us prepared for the exams itself. We were not spared the technical hitches on the day of the exam though: the app froze a couple of times for some students and required them to restart it. In such instances, some needed an extension to make up for the lost time, and thankfully the AssessPrep live invigilator dashboard made that possible.
One of my concerns was the fact that students had to communicate via Zoom by speaking as they are unable to get into the chat room once they are on AssessPrep. This I know could be a source of disturbance to the others but there seemed to be no other way. To my pleasant surprise, some students logged into Zoom with their phone and could thus manage a chat without disrupting their test on AssessPrep. Others resorted to a phone call in order to access a more productive and quicker help to resolve their issues. They were simply determined to make the best of the exam, online or otherwise. I felt blessed as an educator to have such students and secretly prayed that this attitude will develop to make them simply indomitable in the face of any challenge. As I watched my screen, I was delighted see all my students focused on their computers keenly engaged in the assessment, hopefully, putting in their best effort. I couldn’t be more proud of them for stepping up to the challenge that the changing scenes of life had thrown at them.
A couple of days after the experience, I look back and realise how worthy it was to have taken the risk, and I’m sure many of the students will share in this sentiment. We have found another way of doing assessments, which we will definitely use more frequently to help our students improve their self-management skills, their typing and cognitive skills coordination while proving their worth as students of integrity. It has been a really amazing learning experience for my students, my colleagues and me.
~ Irene A. Koree (Language and Literature Teacher)