Breaking ground with technology-driven student assessment

The University of Sheffield Medical School has been breaking ground in the area of technology-driven student assessment, using tablets for real time marking and recording of student performance in the largest known electronically marked objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) in the country.

Group of people using mobile devicesThe advantages of electronic marking over traditional paper scoring are substantial. Using tablets drastically reduces the resources and length of time needed to record and assess the data, as well as making it easier to detect problems and capture feedback from individual stations.

Professor Deborah Murdoch-Eaton, Dean of Medical Education, led the examination. She said: “The success of our OSCE shows the real potential for electronic marking to improve the efficiency of such a complex examination. With overwhelmingly positive feedback from our examiners, we see this as a milestone in revolutionising the way we mark student performance. This system will raise examining standards and improve the experience for students, patients and examiners.”

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching, Wyn Morgan, added: “Our new Learning and Teaching strategy champions a flexible approach to all areas of learning and teaching, and it is excellent to see innovations such as this one in the Medical School. By thinking creatively about challenges at a departmental level, they have devised a solution to improve efficiency and reduce unnecessary workload, resulting in a more effective examination system for everyone involved.”

This system will raise examining standards and improve the experience for students, patients and examiners.


Following the success of the OSCE, the system is being rolled out across the Medical School. Alongside the final OSCE in April 2017, it will improve many other assessment procedures, such as the setting of examination questions and standard setting.

Beyond this, tablets will play an important role in many teaching situations, such as providing immediate feedback in simulated skills training. These measures will bring a new, exciting dynamic to learning and teaching in the University's Medical School.

Additional information

How did it work?

The team ran 15 circuits of 17 stations, each lasting eight minutes, and in total 3,136 stations were marked electronically by examiners using tablets. This complex examination involved 224 students, 190 examiners and 146 patients and took place in Don Valley’s English Institute of Sport.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2016 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.