A Learning Management System (LMS) and a software-based testing system are two totally different things. Indeed, it’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges. This blog therefore does not focus on the differences, but on the special characteristics of a software-based testing system. Does a testing system have added value compared to an LMS?
We would like to highlight a few important features. These have to do with the added value of a testing system, namely testing. Testing programs are excellent at summative assessment. We will successively discuss the following aspects:
Formative assessment is assessment without formal consequences, the interim measurement of learning outcomes at the service of the learning process and the development of the student. Summative assessment is assessment with formal consequences, at the end of a learning pathway or a phase. You use this form of assessment when awarding diplomas or certificates or in the event of a decision on the individual labour market position. Has a student learned enough to be able to practise the profession? Have staff members learned enough to be able to move on to an advanced programme?
The importance of summative assessment is often much greater than that of formative assessment. It goes without saying that this requires an optimal administration of tests and a high quality, summative assessment of learning objectives under supervision. However, an LMS has as its main goal learning with formative assessment. While testing software system is mainly used for summative assessment.
Assessment of quality requires testing under supervision. Where an LMS is not set up for this circumstance, a testing system is pre-eminently suitable for this goal. Because (digital) supervision takes place, the confidentiality of the questions is guaranteed. In this way, you design a test question not for once but for repeated examinations.
The test questions in an LMS usually come directly from the subject matter. The subject matter, instead of the learning goals, can then become leading. The use of a testing software system stimulates assessment based on learning objectives instead of learning material. After all, learning takes place outside the system and the subject matter is not (digitally) recorded.
For the end user, both an LMS and a test software system offer personal adjustment options such as the font size or the colour of the image (for visually impaired or colour-blind people). One difference, however, is that administering a test via a testing system has a controllable duration that is the same for everyone. This time pressure is important for measuring the level of insight and skill. Think of accounting as an example. If you take an hour longer than others, you are apparently not very good at it.
When it comes to the quality of assessment, we identify two important aspects: correction after analysis and didactic quality.
A software-based testing system is pre-eminently designed to automatically generate data about the level of difficulty and the quality of test questions. You can then use this data to check whether the test questions ‘work’. Does a test question fit in well with the test as a whole? What is the reliability? And how long do students take on average over the test? Without much effort, all these data become transparent. As an LMS is mainly focused on learning, it is generally not suitable for collecting this kind of data.
In short: If the test goal is the main role, then choose a software-based testing system. The advantages are many: testing takes place in a controlled environment, under supervision and for a predetermined period of time. In addition, it boosts assessment based on learning objectives and the quality of the test, without sacrificing customisation in administration, tailored to individual circumstances such as dyslexia, visual impairment, etc.