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Exams in 2021: Offline Mode, Hybrid or Completely Online?

Examination and Proctoring | 4 Min Read

Exams in 2021: Offline Mode, Hybrid or Completely Online?

Introduction

Mercer | Mettl has been hosting informative webinars, discussing ways to enable institutes and universities to understand how to leverage modern and scientific tools and fill the existing gaps in education and examinations.

 

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Moderated by Anisha Nayar Dhawan, Media & Comm Specialist, Ex-NDTV Profit, the webinar focused on the educational institutions’ global digital shift in 2020. Sanjeev Phatak, Director, AIMA, outlined the challenges in adopting the new form of assessments, also positing the way forward. Co-panelist Siddharth Gupta, CEO, Mercer | Mettl, detailed how the EdTech sector was powering educational institutes worldwide to undertake the desired transition with seamless, user-friendly and scalable products, coupled with round-the-clock service to address real and perceived bottlenecks. Here is a summary of the insightful discussion concerning the future of examinations in 2021.

 


2020 Vs. 2021: A Perspective on Change

From complete lockdowns in 2020 to partial lockdowns in 2021, the world is recovering in fits and starts, trudging back to a new ‘normal.’ Technology has played a vital role in sustaining the global education system, ensuring adherence to established academic schedules. Education and examinations have undergone never-before digitization by switching to the online mode to conduct classes and examinations in the backdrop of the COVID-19 disruption. A year has gone by and presents a unique opportunity to assess the challenges and opportunities in transitioning from offline to online. Educational centers have embraced technology and digital solutions. Even those on the fringes of the entire online vs. offline debate have embraced digital solutions. Should they continue with the online mode of assessments or adopt the hybrid model to ensure familiarity with the old and trusted? Or should the education sector return entirely to offline assessments, believing the disruption to be but a minor blip? These are pertinent questions and have assumed significance as educational institutes gear up to conduct their semester and entrance examinations slated for 2021.

Mercer | Mettl’s data suggests that 82 percent of educational institutes benefitted from technology and shifted online holistically to conduct examinations. Commenting on exam trends in 2020 vs. 2021, Dr. Sanjeev Pathak stated, “In 2020, MAT went completely online, and students took their examination remotely, from the comfort and safety of their homes. Besides, students found it extremely convenient. Some challenges did come across, as not all the students had easy access to laptops, mobiles and internet connectivity. Therefore, we also conduct a paper-based exam to accommodate students from all strata, especially tier-3 and tier-4 cities. We are planning to continue with both modes. We can completely shift online once the internet reaches every city.”

 

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The Challenges Faced by Institutions in Going Digital

Lack of Digital Devices and Technical Skills:

People from all strata now have access to cell phones. However, computers, webcams and laptops have played an equally significant role in augmenting digital education. While mobiles were extremely useful in attending online lectures, they were not ideal for writing exams or submitting assignments. Households with a sole source of income were challenged in affording digital devices as the examination and education system suddenly pivoted to the digital mode. Additionally, students could learn and navigate laptops and the internet easily. In contrast, faculties of a particular age group took some time to develop technical skills.

Connectivity Issues:

Slow internet connection made accessing course materials and platforms a significant challenge. Locales in the hinterland lacked internet access. Even households with devices and internet connectivity could not ensure a smooth learning experience due to power outages and limited power backup.

Difficulties in Reaching Tier-4 Cities:

Digitization has rapidly taken over tier-1 and tier-2 cities. However, digital connectivity pangs remain intact in tier-3 and tier-4 destinations- whether because of the lack of devices or almost no access or highly laggard internet speeds. Students residing in these places experienced a gap in their education owing to the factors mentioned above.

 


Key Takeaways

Sanjeev Pathak (SP): Conducting examinations remotely has resolved logistics issues for all stakeholders – from students, invigilators to administrators and faculty. The stress of reaching the venue on time, undergoing the identification process, locating the examination room, managing the examination’s logistics, if living in a distant city, has now dissipated.

Siddhartha Gupta (SG): There is ample scope for innovation in the online examination domain. For example, if an answer requires significant typing, but the student has access to only a tiny screen, he/she can also upload a video of his/her answer or share the pictures. Artificial Intelligence can help create question papers to ease the teachers’ workload. We also offer multiple skill-based simulators for various sectors. With an omnipresent network, policymakers should also make devices easily available to everyone so that no student is left behind.

Sanjeev Pathak (SP): Exams before COVID-19 were being conducted using the two modes – paper-based and computer-based. However, students had to travel to the examination center for both assessment types. We went entirely online in 2020 – where students were taking their exams from their homes’ comfort and safety. There are logistical challenges in the offline mode due to the limited availability of test infrastructure. Online mode allows us to conduct the examination anytime, anywhere, without the need to accommodate as per the venue’s timetable. Everything is possible with the online mode – flexibility, scalability and students’ convenience.

 


How to Prevent Cheating in a Nation-wide Online Examination and Maintain its Credibility

Siddhartha Gupta (SG): Preventing cheating in an online exam is the most significant concern as your degree’s value is attached to the exam. From an invigilator’s perspective, we provide remote proctoring services that you can customize as per the exam’s type you are conducting. Our most basic proctoring service is backed by an AI (Artificial Intelligence) algorithm, where any suspicious activity of a student is flagged. AI assistance with human proctoring is the next level of proctoring where an invigilator can address the flags instantaneously. Additionally, we offer ‘Mettl Secure Browser,’ that, once launched, will lock your examination screen, and the test-taker will not be able to open another tab. We have 7 years of expertise in proctoring and have partnered with leading institutes worldwide, delivering at scale by conducting an online exam for upward of 200000 (two hundred thousand) students.

 


The Way Forward

Sanjeev Pathak (SP): Multiple stakeholders are involved in an exam. There was a perception attached to an online exam’s credibility. However, the latest technology and AI proctoring services have resolved credibility issues. Online is the way for the future. Today, 95 percent of competitive exams are being conducted online. Complete migration to the online mode is the future of examinations, with the availability of internet bandwidth.

Siddhartha Gupta (SG): Online is the way to go for our future generations. I believe in the hybrid model, but I am sure that most education institutes will adopt the online mode.

Originally published April 1 2021, Updated April 1 2021

Arshmeet Kaur

Written by

About This Topic

Online examination, also known as virtual examination, is conducted remotely on a computer with high-speed internet. Like a classroom exam, it is time-bound and usually supervised through a webcam and proctor, making it cheating-free, secure and easily scalable.

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