What the NAPLAN Fail Tells Us About Testing in Education?

Implications of Software Testing in the field of Education

The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) are school tests administered to Australian students. This August, the online program was offered to 1.5 million students. Students failed to log on. 

Had the software undergone functional testing, the program could have launched successfully. A functional testing company verifies every function of the software function as per requirements. It is a black box type of testing where the internal structure of the product is not known to the tester.

Functional and Performance Issues – Naplan’s problem has been ongoing. In March, it took students 80 minutes to get to online tests. The requirement was of 5 minutes. The software performed shockingly different from what was planned. 30,000 students had to retake tests, which too were marred by technical glitches. The test data was not automatically saved. The data recovery time was 15 minutes compared to the requirement of zero minutes. Once again, the software did not perform as expected. Eventually, the problem was resolved, however, it came at the expense of dropouts and time lags. 

Accessibility Issues – Naplan software had other errors that a functional testing company could have taken care of. The features that were designed for students with disabilities were not functional. Alternate text for students was missing, incorrect and inaccessible for students with auditory disabilities. The color contrast was poor. The color contrast was of immense importance to those who required accessibility help with seeing visuals. 

In the Naplan case, a functional testing company would prepare several test cases to verify the functionality of the login page, accessibility features, load times and data recovery times against the requirements specified. Functional testing would cover unit testing, integration testing, interface testing, and regression testing. In addition to manual testing, a functional testing company would perform automation testing. Software testing tools automate tests to improve the accuracy and speed of execution.

Naplan’s online system was reviewed by PricewaterhouseCoopers to reflect these problems. The report nails down the cause of the issues to a lack of automation testing, “[Education Services Australia] continues to work with [Education technology provider] Janison and Microsoft to improve upon the current recovery time of 80 minutes and recovery point of 15 minutes, and believe that eventually an automated service may become possible, however, the current environment is unable to do so.” 

What do we learn?

Naplan’s fail tells us that software testing in the field of education is as important as in other industries like healthcare and banking. Modern school systems rely heavily on online resources, not simply for research but also for exam and course work. As schools shift from traditional paper-based teaching methods to electronic systems, they must remember to test their software in sync with technological demands.

Without robust testing, school systems can be severely impacted.

  • The administrative costs would go up in rescheduling exams for students.
  • The school would also lose credibility as students will mock the sluggish approach.
  • Students who are dedicated to working will become demotivated. ‌
  • Positive school culture is likely to dwindle.

Before that happens, educational institutions must think of software testing!

This is a guest post by Ray Parker

Author Bio:

Ray Parker is a senior marketing consultant with a knack for writing about the latest news in tech, quality assurance, software development and travel. With a decade of experience working in the tech industry, Ray now dabbles out of his New York office.