IPEd National Editors Conference

The 9th IPEd National Editors Conference will be held in Melbourne from Wednesday 8–Friday 10 May 2019.

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Accreditation Board trials of online version of accreditation exam: 2009–2011

An online exam is, by definition, delivered and completed onscreen, i.e. on a computer. With limited resources, it was decided to research an electronic version of the exam, to be read and worked on onscreen, but delivered online. In this way both the adaptability of the exam to the computer screen, and the least expensive  way of delivering it, could be investigated in the same process. The AB Working Party on exam development, working with a volunteer programmer, decided to focus on developing an onscreen exam which could be delivered online.

Alpha trial 2009

An online exam was constructed in 2009, working in the Moodle virtual learning environment. The exam text used was that of the 2008 sample exam, whose three sections were reengineered, so that all could be delivered online, with Parts 1 and 3 presenting their material interactively. i.e. the questions were presented individually in live windows, customised to the question, some with additional facilities, such as the possibility of reordering the question items, as in the Part 3 question on editing a bibliography.

Eight AEs trialled the exam on their home computers in August 2009. Six of the eight completed the exam successfully in the set time; for the other two, who did not, there were individual issues unrelated to the exam itself. The triallers all agreed that the online exam exercised the skills that they used regularly in onscreen editing, apart from a couple of aspects of the trial exam that were designed to make it match the paper exam: e.g. requiring a list of Author Queries at the end of the Part 2 MS, which onscreen editors do by means of Comments at their point of relevance against the MS. There were also issues around the use of Track Changes.

A report on this trial was presented to the Accreditation Board in October 2009. It included a list of further recommendations, including issues of security, enhancements to the exam content and the platform’s capacities, to enable closer mirroring of Microsoft Word, and questions as to how far it should match the paper version.

Beta trials 2010-2011 (July, October, January)

In late 2009, plans were announced to revise the Moodle platform, which caused some delay for development of the beta version of the exam. A revised interactive demonstration version of the exam, incorporating as many as possible of the recommendations from the previous trial, with samples of each type of question from Parts 1 and 3, was trialled by members of the AB in July 2010.

One of the key issues emerging from the July 2010 trial was the need for the exam to use the standard onscreen editing tools (i.e. Track Changes) and have usual Word functionality (e.g. highlighting with double-click), rather than work with nonstandard alternatives available in Moodle (Track Changes being part of a proprietary tool licensed by Microsoft). The programmer investigated whether such tools could be accessed by other means, and found that the commercial website Watchdox claimed to be able to provide them in association with its collaborative document-writing site, and agreed to IPEd testing the exam on it.

This meant that the sample exam could be used in its Word format, instead of being reengineered in Moodle. Presenting Part 2 of the exam in Word would make it equivalent to the working experience of an onscreen editor. Watchdox provided access to AB members for a fixed period in October, but for various reasons only one was able to investigate this new version of the exam. That person stated that it provided a valid and well-equipped working environment including Track Changes for working on the exam document as one might on an onscreen MS. It matched the delivery of exam material onscreen/online with that of the paper exam.

A further trial (in January 2011) was then arranged with Watchdox, so that members of the AB and IPEd Council could experience the exam, which consisted of representative questions from Parts 1 and 3, and the downloadable MS from Part 2. The MS section did not permit use of Track Changes and other editorial functions. Responses were received from six members of the AB and IPEd Council, none of whom had seen the previous versions. They identified a number of problems in downloading and editing the exam document, including availability only on PCs, not on Mac computers. The AB thanks the AEs who took part in the 2009 trial, and members of the AB and IPEd councillors who took part in the trials of 2010–11.

In summary, after two years of research and development, with considerable input from a volunteer developer, IPEd, through the AB, has been unable as yet to achieve a working model for the onscreen exam that is user-friendly and equivalent to the 2008 and 2009 pen and paper exams. The process has nevertheless produced a fuller picture of what an optimal onscreen exam might be, and what would need to be included in a brief to a developer.

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IPEd has established the Editors Directory. Clients can search the directory for freelance editors using specific criteria. These will identify editors that have specific interests, skills or experience in certain areas.

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