Will NAPLAN Online Crash IT In Schools?

The Australian Government plans to conduct the National Assessment Program -- Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) online from 2016. This presents a significant challenge for Australia's 9,500 schools.

Picture: Scotch College Adelaide

Conducting NAPLAN online has many potential benefits. As the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority accurately indicated, this will enable "tailored testing" and will provide more timely marking, feedback and results. A greater range of things can be tested once no longer restricted by paper and pencil tests, including testing students' ability to read, understand and apply digital texts.

However, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority acknowledges that NAPLAN online will present challenges for schools' digital capabilities. Plans need to be developed to manage this massive task.

So how do Australian schools and students get ready for NAPLAN Online? There are some important considerations relating to the physical implementation of NAPLAN online, as well as how the scope of NAPLAN can be broadened once it's in an online format.

Understand the scale of the task

The scale of NAPLAN being implemented online in all Australian schools is considerable. When the nation-wide roll-out of NAPLAN online occurs, it is likely situations could occur where students are unable to sit the test due to technical and infrastructure issues.

Pilot research and trialling studies have already been undertaken. It would be wise to conduct further trials in various sites and school contexts before scaling up to nationwide implementation.

Ensure school infrastructure is ready

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority already understands that most schools do not have enough computers or internet bandwidth to enable all Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students to sit NAPLAN online at the same time. There are many gaps in digital technologies and infrastructure within and between schools. There are serious doubts that all schools will be technologically ready for their students to do NAPLAN online by 2016.

Audits on each school's readiness need to be conducted. Having the infrastructure capability for NAPLAN online is essential. If this is done well, then more timely feedback can be provided to students, parents, and schools.

Recognise the importance of school leadership

School leaders will need to design and implement strategies to prepare schools for NAPLAN online. This requires more than preparing the technological infrastructure, but will require leadership vision, strategies and tactics to build online capabilities in the teachers and students themselves.

The strategies used to prepare students for the paper-based NAPLAN test will no longer be sufficient. School leadership will be needed to seriously shift attention from paper-based learning, teaching and assessment practices to online learning, teaching and assessment approaches.

Understand that many students use a range of devices at school and at home

While the focus will likely be on ensuring strict conditions for NAPLAN online to ensure integrity of the testing, instead greater focus should be on enabling students to demonstrate what they know about how to use digital technologies. Many students already use a range of devices and applications at school and at home, so the tests should be designed to enable students to demonstrate what they know about technology, and what they can do with what they know, using a range of devices.

As we move into a post-PC world, with many schools moving to a phenomenon known as "bring your own device", this presents a significant challenge for the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. The authority must design and implement a test that understands the array of new and emerging technologies available.The Conversation

Glenn Finger is Professor of Education at Griffith University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


    As someone who has done an 'online test' during highschool, i predict this will be a disaster. This was a number of years though.

    I can tell you right now this is going to fail spectacularly. I'm the ICT at a primary school and past year we were part of the national testing for naplan. First their servers failed (tested using in school and using my phone on 3G a the same time.) then our wifi started cutting out as the computers are out of date and couldn't do it and the only option was ipads.

    And that was only 30 students. This year we're going to have 107 students all using wifi a the same time across the school on a 17/7 connection. Lord knows how it's going to work with those on satellite!

    I'm sure it could be progressively taken up, where some schools or classes or years do the test online, and the rest use books.

    If the technology fails during the test, then fall back to using a book.
    Then over time as the online test method becomes sorted out, a larger percentage can do the test online.

    Online tests will shorten the return of results as we wont have to scan all the books to mark them, and the data can be collated into reports sooner.

    Last edited 24/04/14 2:41 pm

    It won't stop schools from teaching the test though, not unless the questions are randomised...!

    we already do online testing

    no issue what so ever.

    not sure what the NSW system is like, but we get standardized servers and server images from the department of education, we can always host an internal server, get the kids to log into that, and do their test (the server will handle the load, and remember, you won't have every single student doing it at once).

    results get saved on the database locally, and gets uploaded when all is done.

    Please just use traditional paper tests... Unless you intend for writing to have written paper tests, online tests would probably not test their handwriting skills, something very important.

      How so? Going through school, they put so much pressure on typing assignments, and how you need to use a computer for nearly everything in the workforce (the only true thing ever taught about work from school), then BAM! written exams.

      Year 12 QCS exam was the worst. Imagine having to write 1500 words approx. in 3 hours for a long written essay when you NEVER did it in the classroom environment.

      Testing is a joke, especially when the skills being tested on aren't even taught in classrooms anymore.

      Last edited 25/04/14 1:59 am

        It never ceases to amaze me that the pedagogical push is embrace web 2.0 and onwards for every year level, yet students then come to a crashing halt at the traditional exam methods and delivery. Why don't the relevant examination boards for HSC,VCE etc. exams fall in line what is being pushed at every other year level?
        As to the NAPLAN, maybe direct your attention to products like Xirrus (you can look it up) which means more $$ so that a school can maximise their wifi infrastructure.

    We conducted the year 10 OLNA testing this year at my school. All of us teachers, including the regular computing classes, were banned from using the internet/network for anything at all for an entire week for fear that the network would crash during the test. And that was a staggered test with only a couple of classes at a time doing it.

    Heaven forbid what will happen when the entire of year 9 are taking the test all at once - with some on desktops, some on iPads and some on MacBooks (just so we have enough computers for everyone) all on a wireless network that's shakey at best.

    Last edited 24/04/14 11:00 pm

    We've been preparing for this since the DER started and can comfortably cope with online testing now. I'm more concerned with the ability of the Government to adequately plan the resourcing of the servers and of course. Our connection is very stable but what happens if the Internet connection does die for more than a few minutes?

    If we could get sufficient bandwidth into our school area would be a good start. We're up to the stage where an NBN Gigabit Fibre would be really good, but will have to stick with team 4 ADSL connections, and hope the other 600 students using the school resources can go easy while NAPLAN is on. The other option would be to have it as a locally hosted VM, that can upload the data later in the day, thus no internet connection required.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now