Digital exam blueprinting – Can it really work?

The most exciting software empowers us humans to make more of our current roles. Either by freeing you from mundane tasks to concentrate on really adding value with the human touch. Or, by processing huge amounts of data and helping you and your team make super-informed decisions.

Sophisticated exam blueprinting software has the potential to do just that, but it is not guaranteed to work for every institution.

What is the foundation required for automated exam blueprinting?

As with most productivity software, the key is to have good data underpinning it. So in the case of exam blueprinting, that will be the question bank.

A good question bank is mature and well curated. The questions will have multiple tags - for instance by year, average time to complete, subject, subject within subject... you get the picture.

If you don’t have that kind of high-quality question bank, the simple answer to the original question, ‘Can exam blueprinting really work is?’ is ‘No’. There will be little point in investing in high-end exam blueprinting software. You simply will not have the foundation in place to allow it to add value.

However, if you do have robust data that can be extracted from your question bank, these are very interesting times for course administrators and senior academics alike. There is great potential to free up time you have had, until now, to devote to developing exams.

Where it can work, what does exam blueprinting do for you?

The best examples of exam blueprinting software virtually automate exam creation. That’s not to say that you won’t have any input. High-end exam blueprinting software will crunch data far more powerfully, speedily and effectively than a human ever could. But it will never replace you. It frees you up to contribute at a more valuable level: being creative and proactive, and problem solving.

As a course administrator, you will always set the parameters. Good blue-printing systems will offer you an intuitive interface. For instance, maybe using slider settings very much like those graphic equaliser controls you used to get on hi-fi systems. These can be based on a range of factors that your question bank will allow, such as:

  • Difficulty
  • Discrimination rating
  • Average time to complete
  • Year or subject
  • Usage

Behind-the-scenes, the software is effectively translating complex queries into simple language. Once it has created the exam, it is down to humans to ensure the exam paper is fit for purpose.

Better outcomes for you and your institution

We’ve already touched on the fact that this frees up the time of both course administrators and subject specialists, allowing them to concentrate on higher value work. It can also speed up the process of developing an exam significantly as stakeholders will be feeding back on an exam already created rather than starting from scratch with all the work that involves

The other gains that adopting such powerful software gives you are impressive.

First, it helps you get maximum use out of the valuable asset that is your question bank. Because it is so intelligent and efficient, you can use every question to its full potential. Better still, the more you use it, the more powerful it gets as it collects and analyses key information, like question performance, as it goes along.

But as well as getting the most out of questions, digital exam blueprinting will also ensure that you do not overexpose them. It is completely objective so can remove any danger of unconscious bias from the process. So it is great for quality assurance.

Second, it provides a crystal-clear audit trail. This can be used internally, where it can help you drive performance – for instance spotting gaps in teaching. And externally, where it can assist you in robustly defending potential litigation from former students who are claiming shortcomings in your teaching. It can show very clearly if the curriculum has been adequately covered by clearly showing what questions have been asked and what students performance as a whole on these questions were. Without such easy-to-access data, even unfounded claims can result in a huge drain on resources.

Digital exam blueprinting can work!

These are exciting times and it is clear that sophisticated digital exam blueprinting can work for some institutions. The key is that you need to be set up for it and this means having the good underlying data that is required, within a mature question bank.

If you would like to discuss digital exam blueprinting in further detail with experts, then please get in touch with Maxinity.

This blog is part of a series exploring how digital systems can empower you to enhance your exams. Keep a look out for future posts.