NWU takes

Despite various challenges in 2020 due to the national lockdown and Covid-19 pandemic, the NWU is celebrating yet another teaching and learning milestone for itself. It is moving student assessment to a new online platform.


Lecturers officially started using the new Cirrus e-assessment platform on 1 October, enabling them to assess students in an online environment.


This follows a process that began more than a year ago, when the NWU started investigating assessment platforms that are available locally and internationally. (See text box below: Off to a great start.)


Cloud-based Cirrus bursts with possibilities


The Cirrus platform was found to be the standout solution for meeting the specific teaching and learning requirements of the NWU.


“The platform offers various alternative question types and is cost-effective, and the continued support we receive is excellent,” says Prof Herman van der Merwe, who leads the task team responsible for the implementation of the Cirrus platform. Herman is the deputy dean for teaching and learning in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences.


“It enables assessor annotations, tailored review opportunities, a degree of assessment security monitoring and a level of student analytical reports, as well as a complex range of assessment tools,” he adds.


Green light from lecturers


Feedback from staff has been very positive so far. The new platform offers various benefits to lecturers, who will, for instance, be able to access analytical data about tests and quizzes with the click of a button.


“They can now also incorporate numerical and IT questions, something that was previously difficult to do in an online test or exam,” says Herman.


He says that, moving forward, the Centre for Teaching and Learning will be the first level of support in training lecturers to do effective e-assessments.


The new platform will be adapted to ensure that it integrates well with the university’s systems.

“We believe this is just the beginning of great things and many further developments in electronic assessment at the NWU,” says Herman.


This step will take the NWU into the future, using the best available technology to provide more opportunities for staff and a better learning experience for students.





More about the platform


The Cirrus platform was developed by Cirrus in the Netherlands. It has offices in the United Kingdom and the United States of America and partners in Australia and South Africa.


It is a modern, safe and intuitive platform that provides a future-proofed solution to meet the NWU’s key assessment requirements.


The platform is managed by Amazon Web Services, guaranteeing the safety of data.



Off to a great start


Between February and September this year, a task team consisting of representatives from the Centre for Teaching and Learning, IT department, Unit for Open Distance Learning, Unit for Continuing Education and all the NWU’s faculties, considered various assessment platforms that are available locally and internationally.


Potential platforms were tested during the lockdown period with the aim of fully integrating the most promising platform – once it has met all the university’s requirements – by January 2022.

Prof Herman van der Merwe, deputy dean for teaching and learning in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, has been a champion of electronic assessment at the NWU.



A seamless, well-suited experience


Prof Robert Balfour, deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning, says using the Cirrus platform will be a seamless experience for students in terms of assessment types. It is also well suited to the NWU’s approach of continuous assessment, the value of which has been strongly highlighted throughout the period of the Covid-19 state of disaster.


“The advantages of the Cirrus assessment platform extend well beyond the Covid-19 crisis, as students will be able to participate in exam-type experiences, whether they are on campus or  working from remote locations.”

Prof Robert Balfour, deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning.