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Data Storage To Be Vital If ‘Victorian’ Exams To Be Replaced Ask anyone what they remember of school exams and the answers are likely to be the same – row after row of desks in a large hall, where everything would be done sat in silence with paper and pencils. This has been the common experience of students for centuries, but one leading education figure has argued that the system needs a hightech overhaul to move it away from these "Victorian" methods of assessment.

Chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools David Hanson told the Daily Telegraph he wants to see paper and pen-based exams replaced by a new regime based on both assessments and marking taking place using computers, a point he will make this week at the association's annual conference. He told the paper: “We’re being forced to live with a system that we’ve had for more than a century, with children being sat down on a hot summer’s day and writing on an exam paper which is then dispatched to someone who spends their summer holiday marking it,” he told the Telegraph.

“That’s not necessary. It’s expensive and it’s subject to all sorts of variables, not least human failure. That whole system is just out of step with technology and I think it’ll be consigned to history soon.” Of course, many papers are marked by computer but, as Mr Hanson noted, not all are, while most exams are still conducted with pen and paper. One exam that is not, however, is the Common Entrance test, which is taken by private school pupils entering senior-level fee-paying institutions.

The kind of paper that could be easily market by computer is the sort where a multiple choice answer is selected, such as the Richmond Tests used in the 1980s. These can simply be scanned for levels of correlation with the correct answers. In the cases of written papers, however, there are obvious human elements involved, such as being required to read the handwriting of the student. Nonetheless, human frailties among examiners are an issue too, Mr Hanson argued – too much so to jeopardise the chances of a candidate getting the results they deserve.

Carrying out exams on computers, however, creates two needs. One is to have sufficient storage for all the data that will be created, while the second is the critical issue of information security. Cloud computing may help with both of these issues. In the first instance, schools may not have the capacity within their own IT systems to take on the extra data, before transferring it to the relevant exam boards. The boards themselves may be potentially overwhelmed too as thousands of schools transfer over their data. Therefore, offsite backup may be needed to add more capacity.

The security issue is also vital. It will not be an entirely new concern, as completed exam papers waiting to be marked could in theory be lost, stolen or damaged by fire or flood. It is therefore important not to think that this important matter will only exist if the information is stored in electronic form instead of on paper. However, there are good reasons for thinking electronic data storage is safer. Firstly, any unauthorised persons wishing to access it for nefarious purposes cannot get physical access to it, while the encryption of data means they would not know how to get to it. Secondly, it can be backed up more swiftly and easily by computer than by the physical reproduction of thousands of papers by laborious methods such as photocopying.

Indeed, having the electronic backup could help ensure the safe storage of data in the event of any paper copies being damaged by a mishap to the physical storage space, the kind of disaster recovery contingency many companies will have in place for their commercial operations if their hardware is damaged by calamities affecting their offices. With more companies using such data storage methods and other IT innovations, it may be inevitable that, before long, the school examination system will start to catch up with it. The examination room of tomorrow may look very different.

Storetec News/Blogs."" ‘Data Storage To Be Vital If ‘Victorian’ Exams To Be Replaced. September 23, 2013. Storetec.

Data storage to be vital if ‘victorian’ exams to be replaced