NAPLAN online

NAPLAN online logo

In May of every year, students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 take part in the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). NAPLAN was first introduced in 2008 and has become a routine part of the school calendar in Australia.

NAPLAN, which is part of the National Assessment Program (NAP), is how governments, education authorities and schools can determine whether young Australians are reaching important educational goals.

ACARA is working towards moving NAPLAN online. The aim is for students to complete NAPLAN tests using a computer or another electronic device, such as a tablet.

The Australian Government remains committed to a national approach to online assessment, including delivering NAPLAN online.

NAPLAN will continue to be paper-based for 2016.

Moving NAPLAN online brings many new opportunities for students and teachers that are often limited or not possible with paper-based tests.

The benefits of online assessments

Some of the main benefits of students taking part in NAPLAN online include:

  • Assessments will use a tailored test design. Students will answer an initial set of questions and then be directed to subsequent sets of questions based on the accuracy of their responses. Students with a high number of questions correct will be directed to more challenging questions. Students who have a lower level of accuracy in the initial set of questions will be directed to questions that are less challenging.
  • Tailored testing will provide teachers and schools with more targeted and detailed information on their students’ performance on the tests.
  • Use of a computer-based environment provides the opportunity to broaden the scope of the assessments.
  • Delivery of assessments online will significantly reduce the time it takes to provide feedback to schools, students and parents.
  • ACARA research into online assessment has shown that students have engaged well with computer-based tests.

As technology develops, ACARA aims to further refine the delivery of the tests to best use the available technology to provide increasingly sophisticated assessments.

NAPLAN online – key messages

  • NAPLAN helps parents, carers and educators to see if children are meeting important numeracy and literacy standards. It is used to support school improvement processes by enabling teachers to monitor their students’ progress over time and to identify areas of strength and development.
  • NAPLAN provides parents and carers with an individual report, showing their child’s results and a national comparison of their child’s performance against other Australian students in their year level.
  • Federal, state and territory education ministers have agreed that NAPLAN will move online from 2017, over a two-to-three year period.
  • NAPLAN online will provide better assessment, more precise results and faster turnaround of information.
  • NAPLAN online will mean that the tests better meet the needs of all students, including those with a disability.
  • NAPLAN online will use ‘tailored testing’ which gives students questions better suited to their ability, resulting in better assessment and more precise results.
  • The precision and improved timing of the results will help teachers tailor their teaching more specifically to student needs.
  • Currently, an online national assessment platform is being built by Education Services Australia with funds from the Australian Government.
  • Significant planning, development, research and trialling are going on behind the scenes to make sure we are all ready to move NAPLAN online.
  • The online national assessment platform is being built and will be used to trial online assessment in 2016. The platform will also be used to deliver NAP: civics and citizenship in 2016.
  • State/territory education authorities will make decisions about the logistics and timing to move NAPLAN online for their state/territory. These groups will also lead implementation in their state/territory.
  • For schools that are not able to access the internet to the required level for online testing, alternative information technology solutions will be available.

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Frequently asked questions

  1. In moving NAPLAN online, what devices are under consideration?
  2. When will NAPLAN online start?
  3. Will all schools commence undertaking NAPLAN online together?
  4. What organisations are responsible for delivering of NAPLAN online? 
  5. How far advanced is the build of the NAPLAN online system?
  6. How will ACARA know when schools are ready to go online?
  7. Can students use their own tablet or laptop to take NAPLAN online?
  8. How secure will the online assessment platform be?
  9. Won't the expanded test window lead to students being able to tell other students the answers to NAPLAN questions?
  10. How will schools with poor internet and limited computers run NAPLAN online?
  11. Will students with limited keyboard skills be disadvantaged in the writing test?
  12. How will autoscoring work for the persuasive writing test?
  13. Will students who are home-schooled or attend distance education schools be able to participate in NAPLAN online?
  14. Will there be staff training for readiness testing as well as NAPLAN online?
  15. What support systems will be in place for students with disabilities?
  16. What about Waldorf/Steiner schools where students don't use technology before a certain age?
  17. Will a downloadable NAPLAN online student report be available for parents from 2017?
  18. Where do I find out more information about NAPLAN online?

In moving NAPLAN online, what devices are under consideration?

More information on technical requirements and information on devices can be found on the NAP website at Technical requirements.

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When will NAPLAN online start?

The Education Council, comprising state, territory and commonwealth education ministers, has agreed that NAPLAN online will be implemented from 2017 on an opt-in basis over two to three years.

State/territory education authorities will make decisions about the logistics and timing of moving NAPLAN online for their state/territory. These groups will also lead implementation in their state/territory.

There are three components in the program to move NAPLAN online:

  1. Development of the platform, known as the online national assessment platform (ONAP). This is being undertaken by Education Services Australia (ESA).
  2. Ensuring NAPLAN and sample assessments are ready to run online. ACARA is responsible for this component.
  3. Readiness of schools and school authorities to implement the tests, including devices and training.

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Will all schools commence undertaking NAPLAN online together?

No. Implementation will be determined by jurisdictions, school systems and schools, based on readiness, to ensure an effective and efficient transition. NAPLAN online will be implemented from 2017 and it is expected that all schools will be participating in NAPLAN online by 2019.

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What organisations are responsible for delivering of NAPLAN online?

ESA is the lead agency for the development of online assessment capability, but it has received detailed requirement specifications from ACARA.

ACARA is responsible for having the assessments ready to run online and reporting the results of these assessments.

Readiness is an issue for state and territory school authorities. ACARA, ESA and the Australian Government are working with state and territory school authorities to ensure the three components of the program are fully coordinated.

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How far advanced is the build of the NAPLAN online system?

The NAPLAN online assessment platform is still under development. Features will be released progressively throughout 2016, and tested through National UAT, the Platform Trial and Readiness Test (PTRT), and ACARA’s trialling, research and sample assessments. In the latter half of 2016, an online environment using the actual NAPLAN online assessment platform will be made available via an app (for tablets) or a normal browser (for other devices) for students and teachers to familiarise themselves before 2017. 

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How will ACARA know when schools are ready to go online?

ACARA has been working with state and territory school authorities and Education Services Australia on readiness. Activities have included:

  1. conducting a readiness survey
  2. preparing a minimum technical requirements document
  3. designing the system to include options to fit different circumstances (internet-based, downloadable).

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Can students use their own tablet or laptop to take NAPLAN online?

The goal is to support BYOD (bring your own device) for students, however devices must be secured so students don’t have access to unauthorised websites, applications and spell checking features. NAP locked-down browser applications will be available to support schools in ensuring online assessments run smoothly. For more information on BYOD, visit the BYOD section on the technical requirements.

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How secure will the online assessment platform be?

The NAPLAN online assessment platform (under Education Services Australia's direction) will have state-of-the-art security protections. Before NAPLAN goes online from 2017, it will be used to trial various online assessment activities as well as the National Assessment Program: Civics and Citizenship sample assessment in 2016. These activities will allow us to test the security of the system and fix any identified flaws. 

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Won't the expanded test window lead to students being able to tell other students the answers to NAPLAN questions?

NAPLAN online will use the tailored test design, which means the test becomes progressively more difficult or easier depending on the student's performance. This means students are likely to be working on different questions at different times. The tailored test design will also incorporate many more items than are currently used for the paper NAPLAN version, providing additional security protection.

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How will schools with poor internet and limited computers run NAPLAN online?

Transitioning to NAPLAN online works smoothest when schools have suitable hardware and reliable access to the internet. However, to maximise accessibility and fairness, other ways to deliver the test in a non-real time environment are being explored (eg, portable servers). These will be detailed further as we move closer to 2017, and will be tested and refined through National UAT and the PTRT.

Additionally, schools won’t require a computer for every student. The test window for NAPLAN online has been increased to two weeks to allow increased flexibility for tests to be staggered over a longer period of time. As such, students won't all need to sit the tests at the same time.

Students will be allowed to complete NAPLAN online using a variety of devices, such as laptops and tablets. Visit the Technical requirements page on the NAP website for more information on devices.

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Will students with limited keyboard skills be disadvantaged in the writing test?

The writing test is not about handwriting skills and NAPLAN online will not be about keyboard skills. It is expected that there will be variations in how fast and well a student can type, just as there are now in how fast and well a student can write by hand. Students will have sufficient time to complete the writing test, regardless of whether they complete it by hand or by keyboard. ACARA does not expect students to touch type.

While many online assessments, both in Australia and overseas, have not shown any disadvantage relating to keyboard skills, ACARA is conducting its own research in this area with specific context to NAPLAN online. Results from the research will be released in 2016.

Moving NAPLAN online should not be the catalyst to introduce keyboard skills into a classroom. The Australian Curriculum incorporates the teaching of keyboard skills and some state and territory curricula also incorporate it as part of instructional practice.

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How will autoscoring work for the persuasive writing test?

Automated essay scoring has been proven to be a viable option across the world and ACARA’s preliminary research has found that it works in the NAPLAN context. ACARA’s research found that after training by human markers, computers were able to mark children’s writing the same as two human markers. Automated essay scoring will allow NAPLAN results to be returned to teachers and parents in as little as two weeks (or less). As such, NAPLAN results can be better used to drive improvement.

To ensure that the automated scoring is working properly and build public support for this process, ACARA will double score a fixed percentage of student essays (using both human markers and automated essay scoring) for a period of time to ease the transition.

Based on what young people do in NAPLAN now and our research to date, we know that an average year 3 student response to a NAPLAN writing question is about 150 words. Typed, this is approximately 9 or 10 lines.

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Will students who are home-schooled or attend distance education schools be able to participate in NAPLAN online?

The goal of NAPLAN online is to make the test available to the maximum number of students, including those who are home-schooled or attend distance education schools. The protocols for distance education students to take the test online are being developed under the supervision of the national Online Assessment Working Group (OAWG) (a group comprising federal, state and territory education authorities, as well as representatives from the Catholic and independent school sectors) These protocols will be made public as part of the overall communications process for each state/territory.

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Will there be staff training for readiness testing as well as NAPLAN online?

Leading up to National User Acceptance Testing (UAT) in April 2016 and the Platform Trial and Readiness Test (PTRT) in July 2016, Education Services Australia (ESA) will train key staff from states and territories on the functionality of the platform.

State/territory education authorities will make decisions about the logistics and timing of moving NAPLAN online for their state/territory. These groups will also lead implementation in their state/territory, including making decisions on further staff training.

In the latter half of 2016, an online environment using the actual NAPLAN online assessment platform will be made available via an app (for tablets) or a normal browser (for other devices). Students and teachers will be able to familiarise themselves with the testing experience, as well as the types of items to be included in the online tests. Schools will determine the device that students should practise on and it is strongly encouraged that students practise on a device similar to the one they plan to use for the NAPLAN online tests.

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What support systems will be in place for students with disabilities?

NAPLAN online will mean that the tests better meet the needs of all students, including those with a disability. It is expected that adjustments available for NAPLAN now, or comparable adjustments, will be made available for students with a disability to allow them to access NAPLAN tests online.

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What about Waldorf/Steiner schools where students don't use technology before a certain age?

ACARA is currently working with Steiner Education Australia to discuss issues related to participation in NAPLAN online. Information will be provided when available.

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Will a downloadable NAPLAN online student report be available for parents from 2017?

In 2017, NAPLAN student reports will continue to be distributed to schools, which then distribute the reports to parents. Schools administering the test online will receive preliminary reports approximately two weeks after the end of testing; these reports can then be forwarded to parents.

The goal is to ultimately create an environment where student reports can be accessed directly by parents, however there are issues such as identity and access management to work through before this can happen.

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Where do I find out more information about NAPLAN online?

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Last updated: 20 April 2016