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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-based examination system (CES), also known as computer-based testing (CBT), 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.
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.
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. Other benefits of conducting CBT are as follows:
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.
Originally published December 4 2019, Updated July 3 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.