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NZQA Boosts Computer Power For Exams

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Feb 17 NZPA - The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) says it has significantly boosted its computing capacity -- even when internet access to exam results is flooded by National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) students.

NZQA today told Parliament's education select committee it had outsourced its data centre to run what were effectively multiple computer servers on a smaller number of actual machines, initially alongside the Education Ministry, Careers Services, and National Library.

The improved flexibility meant that in the first few hours after exam results were released, only 25 percent of the available capacity was taken up by those seeking details online.

This was "encouraging" because the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) is looking at providing results online except where students "opt-in" to specifically request hard-copies of their results to be mailed.

"We are moving to a position where it is web-only -- unless you opt-in to say `I want hard-copy delivery'," said NZQA chairwoman Sue Suckling.

NZQA has previously indicated the exam booklets of high school students could be scanned, marked online and the electronic versions sent to pupils.

An electronic system would let pupils ask for marking reviews online and potentially even allow papers to be marked from overseas.

At present exam papers are first sorted and posted all around the country to markers and then back to pupils.

An electronic system would save time and money.

Potential "fish-hooks" include the ability of markers -- often senior teachers -- to use the technology and whether markers would easily be able to annotate papers and flick back to other papers.

Online marking could not only eliminate instances of lost and misplaced papers, but allow closer monitoring of marking and markers during the process.

Electronic marking has been introduced in Britain and the United States, but it is likely art portfolios and audio-visual assessments would not be marked online in New Zealand.

According to information previously provided by NZQA, up to 18 million pages from exam booklets would need to be scanned over a two- to three-week period, and up to 1.7 million pages a day. The online marking application would need to support up to 2000 users at the same time.

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