ThirdForce in UK
online exams deal

4 Apr 2006

Irish AIM-listed e-learning provider ThirdForce has been appointed by one of the UK’s leading government-accredited examinations bodies to provide online examinations in more than 2,500 education centres across the UK.

The company has been awarded a significant contract by Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR) to develop new electronic assessment and examination services for the body’s CLAiT Plus qualification in computer skills.

OCR provides general education, vocationally related and occupational qualifications for students in schools, colleges or workplaces and for those in part-time learning programmes. The CLAiT Plus assessments contract was awarded by OCR following a competitive tendering process.

It is being delivered by Electric Paper (EP), part of the ThirdForce plc group, which has a dedicated e-assessments division.

ThirdForce chief executive Brendan O’Sullivan explained: “Our EP-Assessment division is specifically geared towards meeting the emerging electronic assessment and examination requirements of national and international awarding bodies. This includes the needs of educational authorities, candidates and administrators. It also requires an assurance of quality, security and reliability at every level of the system.

The “CLAiT Plus” assessment system to be provided by ThirdForce will be used by OCR centres to deliver a complete automated assessment solution for the revised CLAiT Level 2 qualification. This is an intermediate-level qualification, equivalent to the Leaving Certificate in Ireland and the GCSE in the UK, which provides enhanced computer and applications usage skills to students.

The system will manage candidate registration and test bookings, allocate test sessions, calculate final marks and return marks from the automated solution to OCR.

The contract is indicative of a growing international trend, led by innovative awarding bodies such as OCR, towards screen-based assessments, which will augment or replace paper exams.

OCR is keen to support the requirements for on-screen assessment and is planning to have solutions in place for appropriate qualifications by 2007. This is well before deadlines set by the UK’s Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, whereby all new qualifications must include an option for on-screen assessment by 2009.

OCR’s assistant director of e-assessment, Patrick Craven, explained: “CLAiT remains the benchmark qualification for recognition of authentic vocational competence in the use of desktop IT applications. The qualification is accessible and relevant to the skills needs of the 21st century.

“We needed a partner that could exploit the potential of technology solutions to enhance the assessment services we offer. We felt that EP was able to offer this expertise,” Craven added.

By John Kennedy