|Title||Using Optical Mark Readers in Student Assessment|
|Originator||Dr Ruth Weaver|
|Department||Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Plymouth, PL4 8AA|
|Tel.||+44 (0)1752 233057|
|Fax.||+44 (0)1752 233054|
As a result of a very substantial increase in student numbers, staff in the Plymouth department (as elsewhere!) have faced a much increased burden of student assessment. This problem becomes particularly acute during exam periods when staff are often faced with marking literally hundreds of essays in the space of just a few days. Under these circumstances colleagues are placed under enormous pressure and the quality and reliability of marking is likely to suffer.
In response to this problem, during the past three or four years, the Plymouth department has made increasing use of Optical Mark Readers for which students indicate correct answers on a special card. Several of our exam papers are, therefore, now partly based on multiple-choice questions processed by the OMR. Using this form of automated assessment, particularly at first-year level, has saved an enormous amount of staff time. It has also enabled us to test students' knowledge across the entire curriculum and thereby eliminated the problem of essay 'question-spotting'.
The OMR is not however a universal panacea. Multiple-choice tests have obvious limitations, and can themselves take time to devise. Staff training is needed if colleagues are to prepare appropriately demanding papers and some technical support may be needed to operate the OMR. Nonetheless, the Plymouth experience has, on balance, been a considerable success and more and more staff are making use of this form of automated assessment.