Case studies of elearning innovation 3

Case study: Moving from OMR to CBA

Area: e-assessment

Institution: The University of Nottingham

Author: Simon Wilkinson

Link: The University of Nottingham, Moving from Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) to Computer Based Assessment (CBA) for summative exams in medicine

Background & context

This case study focuses on the shift from OMR to CBA. This change was derived from ‘time pressures of marking increasing cohort sizes’ and from the ‘desire to create more realistic questions.’

Anticipated problems included 1) availability of large enough computer labs 2) possibility of increase in plagiarism

Various stakeholders were involved in this shift to CBA.

Training for staff and students was implemented.

Technology Used

TouchStone e-assessment platform.

Tangible benefits


  1. External examiners have immediate access to the paper.
  2. Platform administrators can check whether an external has reviewed a paper by a particular deadline.
  3. Such a system provides a centralised storage space through which information may be viewed in various forms.
  4. Marking time is reduced drastically.
  5. Flexibility in timetabling.
  6. Saves paper and printing time.


  1. Use of multimedia and interactive questions is possible.
  2. Reduction in the probability of getting the answer correct through guessing.
  3. Any kind of image (eg x-rays) is easier and cheaper to reproduce on screen then on paper.
  4. Platform keeps an automatic change log.
  5. System does not allow concurrent editing.


  1. Such a system accomadates easily certain disabilities (e.g. dyslexia)
  2. Online exam cleaner. No hickups such as marking multiple answers for same question.


  1. Need large computer labs, powerful servers
  2. Anxiety amongst students and staff due to unfamiliarity with such a system.

Univeristy opted towards a different e-assessment software (Questionmark perception) whilst that department kept using Touchstone.

Lessons Learned

A need for greater involvement of all key stakeholders in online assessment from the outset.

Experience has shown that some of the usual stakeholders in exams take a step back when IT becomes involved.

Rigorous testing is a must to minimise failures.


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