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The steep rise in COVID-19 cases is a global challenge for industries and sectors and education is no exception. Institutions that believed the disruption to mitigate soon are now rightfully concerned about students’ distress, delay in examinations, results and academic sessions. They are taking several approaches to bring continuity to their curricula and academic sessions. While some have canceled their remaining exams, a majority of universities are contemplating shifting to computer-based testing.
Often, institutes don’t see the bigger picture, factoring in minor challenges that accompany online examinations. Though the adoption of online examination may have been gradual, the ongoing global disruption must expedite the process of embracing technology by doing away with unfounded concerns about online exams.
Many universities in India have already undertaken the transition. Given the social, financial and geographical diversity among students at Mumbai University and its affiliated colleges, University officials are considering a combination of options, including online and physical exams, for college and varsity exams that have not occurred due to lockdown.
An official statement by Nagpur University reads:
“We are contemplating holding (a) 30% objective, 70% descriptive question paper. (A) Thought is also being given to the possibility of holding examinations online.”
In a meeting held between Vice-Chancellors (VC) of different varsities and Delhi Chief Minister (CM) and his deputy, VCs apprised the CM of their decision to conduct the remaining exams online. The Delhi Technological University (DTU) has also decided to conduct all its end-term examinations for theory subjects in the online mode. The exams would be conducted through an Artificial Intelligence(AI)-enabled platform with online invigilation, thus maintaining its integrity.
There has been a discernible rise in computer-based testing, indicating that institutions are likely to continue with the online mode of exams even after the end of the COVID-induced lockdown, which underlines the advantages associated with online examinations.
Computer testing refers to the role of computers in delivering the assessments as an alternative to pen and paper. Such a test can be conducted online through the use of the internet or a computer-aided facility. It is a time-efficient and effective means of hosting large-scale online examinations concurrently. It enables educational institutions to evaluate students’ performance in a short time irrespective of students’ geographical location. Features such as online invigilation, randomization of questions, managing a large number of students and test completion upon the expiration of the stipulated time, lend uniqueness to computer-based exams.
Assessments have been in use for the selection process for a very long time. Traditional approach based tests were widely used before the digital era. With internet technology seeping into different aspects of life and computing gadgets becoming an imperative necessity, can online assessments be far behind! The computer-based test has some potential benefits when compared with traditional assessment methods. Computer testing finds its use in various sectors such as education, government and corporate sector. All the stakeholders involved in the web-based exam format such as the assessors, participants, proctors, administrators, selectors, etc. get benefitted from this medium.
The need for conducting computer-based examinations has rightly increased, given the current situation. There are serious concerns about educational continuity, with universities and schools being shut indefinitely, causing a delay in examination results and the consequent onset of the next academic year. The ubiquitousness of several computer-based examination systems must encourage institutions to shift to online examinations. Computer-based exams (CEB) provide auto-grading and section-wise feedback. They provide easy-to-use and reliable assessment results using cutting-edge technological innovation. For instance, videos or slideshows to assess medical students during surgery or virtual simulations to assess social skills have revolutionized the way exams are being conducted. Besides, the corporate sector also emphasized using computer-based tests to identify the best candidate for available job roles. It simplifies the first level of screening when there aren’t enough applicants. The online CBT exam also comes in handy for shortlisting candidates with adequate skills and talent, thus selecting the right candidates for a face-to-face interview.
Application of Computer Testing:
Web-based exams can be utilized for any exam or during a mass hiring process that has assessment tests as one of an integral part of the screening /elimination process. Computer testing is also used by the management to assist employees in their career advancement. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of candidates, the learning and development team can devise adequate training programs for workforce development. A well-informed workforce keeps the business sustainable and competitive.
There has been a gradual adoption of computer-based exams, with the last two decades witnessing the most profound shift. This is because computer-based tests continue to offer numerous benefits compared to pen-and-paper tests. Some of the advantages include:
-(Riku, Laurif and Ari, 2001)
The advancement in educational technology delivered ample opportunities to measure complex reasoning, which could not be gauged via traditional exams (Bodmann and Robinson, 2004)2. Furthermore, computer-based assessments established a link between observation and interpretation. These enabled institutions to analyze a student’s performance based on actionable items to measure the aptitude to make a fair comparison. (Pellegrino, Chudowsky and Glaser, 2001).
Numerous researches conducted over the last two decades indicate students’ responses to the computer-based examination system. The consensus reflects positive feedback.
A majority of researchers have greatly emphasized the impact of the ed-tech revolution on students and educational institutions. Teachers, however, have remained largely at the periphery of decision making. A study was undertaken in Pakistan to understand the teachers’ opinions on computer-based vs. paper-based exams. The study revealed the following:
Computer-based tests have various advantages over traditional examination methods. From conducting exams to delivering reports, computer-based exams have made the examination smoother. CBTs offer multiple benefits to online learners, instructors and e-learning programs in terms of administering, grading and scaling-up process, which explains why it’s crucial in today’s times. Listed below are some benefits of computer testing:
Learners can partake in several assessments throughout the e-learning program. The data collected from these evaluations can be correlated with specific standards (can be regional or national) for evaluating learners based on these standards. Data gathered over the period will be useful for program instructors to identify key focus areas for improvement. Such data is also exportable from various learning management systems into a database where data analysis for evaluation and research purposes takes place.
Computer-based tests are easy to be personalized to students. The difficulty level of each question can be changed based on the learner’s prior responses. The web-based exam can be taken a notch up by using video applications that enable the instructor to reach out to individual learners and offer them oral assessments. Students can also use apps that allow them to share their questions, opinions, etc.
Multiple choice or True/False questions form the core of select-response tests. Such assessments can be graded immediately, not only enabling candidates to analyze their performance but also allowing instructors to change their approach based on the data garnered from computer testing. Instant grading will enable instructors to focus on those points, which are crucial for learning. Online assessment, depending on its functionality, can prove useful in terms of shedding some light on potential areas of improvement for students.
For most instructors, grading open-ended assessments (projects/ portfolios that use rubrics ) is a time-consuming activity. Online rubric extensions, such as Google Sheets add-ons, enable automated scoring rubrics that provide insightful feedback to both teachers and students.
Vertically aligned tests are used to assess the same knowledge at varying levels of difficulty. Horizontally aligned tests are useful for comparing learners against each other (used mainly in filtering out candidates for scholarships), teaching roles and more. Computer testing provides raw test scores that learners eventually receive either in the form of a percentile score or a letter grade.
Gamification can reveal underlying aspects of a student’s problem-solving skills and help instructors in measuring their higher-order thinking skills. By having students play computer-based tests that focus on digital learning games and evaluating their rationale behind making game-based decisions, online program instructors can personalize and tailor future learning experiences to each student.
Computer testing is useful for candidates with special needs for the features it offers, such as text-to-voice and voice-to-text applications, screen reader, magnification, Braille keyboard and similar tools. Using these tools, candidates can take up assessments more conveniently than ever before.\
LMSs generate lots of back-end data, such as duration of the task, number of log-ins, and number of posts that can be correlated with an individual’s performance-based data to keep a tab on his/her progress in an online course. Moreover, student-centric analytics can provide learners with in-depth insights into their performance and notify them about reminders such as assignment due dates, and early warnings ( if their performance is weak). Such actionable insights can enable students to focus on areas that need improvement before the final test. Instructors can utilize analytics to measure the effectiveness of course resources, track student engagement, and the percentage of items correctly answered by the students. This way, insights can be utilized for introducing new interventions.
There are various security features inherent in the computer-based testing to ensure that test integrity is maintained.
Unlike the traditional examination system, there is no need for students to commute to physical test centers when appearing for an online exam. CBT has enabled students to select an exam slot as per their convenience. Especially now, when social distancing and restricted traveling are globally accepted norms, conducting online exams from any corner of the world has given hope to universities.
The time consumed in creating question papers, registration, arranging supplies and evaluation can be avoided with online exams as it automates the entire process. Additionally, there is significantly lower consumption of resources, such as stationery, invigilators, or transport facilities.
Since the computer-based examination system offers a robust platform, it can support a large number of exams. A stellar computer-based exam software can support over 1,00,000 proctored tests and can be further scaled without spending significantly.
This eliminates the scope of human error and the hassle of allotting evaluation duties to teachers. Multiple-choice questions can be auto-graded easily. This facilitates institutions to churn out real-time reports. There is also a considerable saving in terms of the time spent in evaluating a large number of answer sheets.
Conducting online examinations is not as tedious as it seems. Computer-based assessment software is user-friendly and can be easily configured.
The first step to organizing a computer-based assessment is uploading questions. Good online examination software allows you to upload 17 types of questions. The integration of the learning management system (LMS) and the examination platform occurs here.
Exam authorities upload bulk student data, thus saving on significant time spent in gathering and updating candidates’ details. Invitation e-mails are sent to students, post which they can select a suitable exam slot.
ID-based authentication, AI-based live proctoring, screen recording and browsing tolerance are some features that eliminate impersonation and malpractices, thus making the results as credible as traditional pen-and-paper tests.
A computer-based assessment software provides real-time results that can be customized and shared in PDF or HTML format.
In addition to individual reports, thorough data analysis provides useful group-level insights that can be used in the future.
Before the exam, candidates need to show an id proof, click a live picture on the webcam and submit their admit card. This is followed by providing a one-time password received by students via e-mail. The three-step authentication negates any possibilities of impersonation.
A world-class computer-based assessment software creates a highly secure environment for test-takers by disabling background apps, browsers, or screen sharing. The candidates are barred from browsing outside the exam window and are warned if the system catches such an activity.
Online proctoring ensures that candidates adopt no unfair means to clear an exam. There are three kinds of proctoring:
AI-based examination platforms monitor the candidate’s live feed and auto-flags a variety of cases that endanger the sanctity of exams.
A human proctor monitors the live feed, communicates with the students for any queries, and can pause or resume a test in real-time.
The unlimited video recording storage allows recording of a proctored session for reviewing later. Navigation to a specified time in the recording is also possible.
How Mercer | Mettl empowered IIM Bangalore to conduct secure online proctored exams
Founded in 1973, the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) is an acclaimed public business school (B-school). The institute offers a comprehensive range of post-graduate, doctoral and executive programs. In addition to its notable academic courses, the institute facilitates research, provides consulting services, conducts seminars, educational conferences, and publishes insightful journals.
After careful consideration, IIMB was recommended a suite of Mercer | Mettl’s futuristic online technologies:
Both these value propositions were synergized with IIMB’s existing requirement and its future need to enable blended learning.
Students new to computer testing may experience few difficulties in taking computer-based tests. If you are not familiar with web-based exams, you should understand the necessary steps before entering the CBT exam.
Listed below are the steps for attempting computer testing:
Originally published August 13 2020, Updated August 13 2020
A writer at heart, Megha has been in the content industry for 4 years. Starting her career from print, her journey spans across IT, legal and consulting industries. She has been associated with Mercer | Mettl as Assistant Manager, Content Marketing for 2 years.