Paper-based versus computer-based assessment: Is workload another test mode effect?

  • Noyes J
  • Garland K
  • Robbins L
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The article focuses on the key factors which influence paper-based and computerbased assessment of the academic performance of university undergraduates. They classified these influences as test mode effects. Another factor that needs to be taken into account when considering the mode of presentation is the amount of cognitive workload associated with paper- and computer-based tasks. Cognitive (mental) workload has been defined as the interaction between the demands of a task that an individual experiences and his or her ability to cope with these demands. Hence, it arises due to a combination of the task demands and the resources that a particular individual has available. Cognitive workload can be relatively easily measured using subjective, self-report measures. These are "easy to implement, usually non-intrusive, inexpensive and have good face validity." It assesses workload on a number of dimensions and has been shown to be more reliable than other subjective workload techniques. Two findings of interest arise from this study: (1) more effort appears to be needed to complete a computer-based test, and (2) those with lower comprehension scores experienced greater workload. Taken together, these, findings hint that lowerperforming individuals will be disadvantaged when carrying out computer-based assessment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved) (from the journal abstract)

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  • Jan Noyes

  • Kate Garland

  • Liz Robbins

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