Going Back to School With Workflow

by Larry Barrett | 8/15/13
Millions of returning and first-time students will descend on college and university campuses over the course of the next few weeks, eager to learn the facts and theories that will enable them to perhaps become gainfully employed sometime in the not-too-distant future. For many of these students, this fall will also present them with their first opportunity to use workflow applications designed expressly to improve the way they learn and interact with their professors.

Higher education is not only one of the most coveted verticals for enterprise content management and workflow software vendors, but one of the most receptive. Over the past 20 years, many of the core processes – application, course registration, financial aid and even the classes themselves – have moved online to improve efficiency and, most importantly, reduce costs.

So it’s no surprise that a company like Dallas-based ExamSoft is taking the concept of workflow optimization and matriculation to the next level this week with its latest update to its embedded assessment platform for faculty, students and institutions.

Now that ExamSoft has digitized every step in the process required to get fresh-faced 18-year-olds on to their bucolic campuses, the next logical step is to use those same technologies and tools to improve the actual learning process. Students and the accreditation bodies that regulate institutions of higher learning are demanding more concrete evidence of student learning – something quantifiable and measurable rather than abstract or anecdotal.

ExamSoft officials said the latest update to its E.I. (short for Exam Intelligence) assessment management platform will help faculty members and institutions get information in real time and intervene earlier with students to improve their academic performance and retention. Purpose-built for faculty, the new release offers simpler navigation, streamlined question-creation functionality, the ability to blueprint exams by learning outcome, and easier student management and report creation.

“Every faculty member wants to better understand his or her students’ strengths and weaknesses and measure how well they are grasping key concepts. But without the right support technology, using assessment to do that can be tedious,” said Patrick Chadd, manager of Academic Systems and Educational Technology at Rowan University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in a statement announcing the update’s release.

Company officials said developers gathered feedback from faculty members throughout the entire development process and included them in focus group studies to ascertain exactly how the assessment platform’s design could be improved to deliver faster and more meaningful learning data from the classroom.

Along with an improved workflow that brings all system aspects to one screen, the refreshed offering provides quicker access to help functions and tips on “hover-over” and pop-up screens. It also includes an enhanced system for exam building that provides pre- and postexam management on one screen and an exam-blueprinting function for assessments that evenly covers all learning objectives and work in undergraduate and graduate-level courses.

That’s the crux of workflow in any environment: putting actionable information in the hands of the people who need it – and in the ways they want to use it – as fast as possible.

Perhaps most important and relevant, the ExamSoft platform now includes an exam-taker management feature that allows faculty members to track how well students perform and provides opportunities to communicate with students during the exam.

“Access to actionable outcomes data and insights is important to faculty members,” said ExamSoft CEO Daniel Muzquiz in a statement. “But the last thing they need is another cumbersome piece of technology that eats up time. The enhancements included in this release will help faculty get to the most valuable data – data that’s often buried in answer sheets that are thrown away after grades are recorded – and do so in less time.”

Company officials said current ExamSoft customers can upgrade to the enhanced platform in time for the fall semester at no additional cost.

“Everyone is talking about big data today, but big data doesn’t mean anything if it is not relevant, timely and a simple click away from faculty fingertips,” Muzquiz added.

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Larry Barrett

Larry Barrett

is an editor and analyst at BPO Media.