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The COVID-19 crisis has created perceived headwinds in the global economy, leading to business losses and layoffs. In a recently held press conference, Kristalina Georgieva, Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF), admitted that the world had entered a recession. There are major disruptions across industries, and the higher education ecosystem has not remained untouched from its evolving impact. The disruption in routine life has led universities globally to cancel lectures and shut down campuses to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
Higher education in India has also been impacted due to these unprecedented circumstances. As the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India, advised universities to take precautions, the University Grants Commission (UGC) sent the following directive to all Indian universities:
All universities and affiliated colleges should postpone exams till March 31 and suspend evaluation work. (A) Further schedule should be decided following a review of the situation.
The Ministry also announced that the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), a preliminary test for admissions in premier institutes such as IITs and NITs and other engineering colleges, had been postponed from mid-April to the last week of May.
The International Baccalaureate Organization canceled the examinations for its diploma program and career-related programs scheduled between 30 April and 22 May 2020, reportedly affecting more than 200,000 students worldwide.
Similarly, Chinese students studying in the United States of America (USA) are at the receiving end of the current situation. Due to the travel restrictions imposed on China, the spread of the coronavirus has been slow but has left international students stranded. As per the survey ‘COVID‐19 Effects on US Higher Education Campuses,’ 830 Chinese students have not been able to return to the US to continue their studies. These are just a few instances that balloon to staggering numbers when accounting for students from South Korea, Hong Kong, Macao, Vietnam and other countries under lockdown.
Source: COVID-19 Effects on US Higher Education Campuses
To avert a scenario that endangers students’ careers, universities must take the necessary steps to address the situation via the online exam system. It is time to embrace technology instead of canceling or postponing the exams indefinitely. When classes can be taken online, virtual exams can also be conducted. Technological advancements in the higher education ecosystem have made teaching and learning notably seamless. Students can now take lectures and notes and solve queries by communicating with teachers in online classes. With the online exam system, students can take exams from any part of the world.
Embracing the Shift
The scope of the online examination system is massive. A report published in ZDNet in August 2019 revealed how Monash University would cut down AU$7M from its examination cost by moving 80% of exams online. The growing adoption of online assessments in higher education has been tempting universities to shift to the online examination system for the past couple of years. After the coronavirus outbreak, universities previously averse to adopting online examination systems, warmed up to digital platforms to conduct their exams.
Change can be daunting. But, universities that are yet to move to virtual platforms can take cues from those that have already transitioned to the online exam system. Universities must take prompt measures to safeguard students’ interests. The termination of lectures, fewer admissions and more cancellations may just be a temporary effect of the outbreak. Higher education will resume as usual once normalcy is restored. Students and faculties would have adapted themselves to the digital learning and exam platforms by then – that are far more convenient to use.
An online examination is conducted digitally to evaluate students’ academic knowledge and understanding of the curriculum, along with their creativity to devise new ideas and solutions. Evaluations typically continue to be based on the pen-and-paper approach, wherein students are gathered and handed the paper, to be completed within an allotted time. Students then submit their answer sheets, and examiners disclose students’ scores after the evaluations.
With the advent of the online examination system, the new method of conducting assessments has come to the fore. While the traditional methodology continues unabated, instead of an examination center, students log onto an online system to take the test and share their responses. The assessor evaluates and circulates the results.
What is the Purpose of the Online Examination System?
The purpose of the online examination system is to test the subject knowledge of the students. Such a system eliminates logistical hassles and drawbacks in the traditional mode of the pen-and-paper examination. The online examination system adopts a more streamlined examination approach by shifting to a virtual platform that only allows educational institutions to upload multiple question formats and get real-time updates. They can conduct exams anytime, anywhere, while preserving the exam’s credibility and integrity.
Why do We Need an Online Examination System?
We need an online examination system to ensure examination continuity amid any present and unforeseen disruptions, such as the one caused by COVID-19. Traditional education has suffered immensely because of the ongoing pandemic. The only way universities can sail through such times is to do away with the pen-and-paper mode of examination and adopt an online examination system. This ensures seamless continuity of academic sessions, widening the scope of an online examination system.
The London School of Economics, University College London, Durham University, Manchester Metropolitan and Loughborough, became the first centers of learning in the United Kingdom to do away with classroom teaching, embracing the online exam system. Though students and faculty are gradually adopting the new teaching mode, they are circumspect about conducting semester and annual exams. The lockdown has mandated people to stay indoors, causing a worldwide postponement of exams, also delaying the onset of the next academic year. Universities that still follow the traditional approach are contemplating using the online examination system to circumvent the delay.
Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham, have decided to replace their summer term exams with an online examination system as thousands of students petitioned the administration to allow them to opt-out of appearing for their finals or start anew. Similarly, the London School of Business has given the go-ahead to conduct online exams until the end of the academic year. It has offered the much-needed respite to students who have been concerned about their future. Sharing an email with students earlier in March, regarding the scope of the online examination system, Prof Martin Williams, Pro-vice Chancellor for Education, Oxford University, said, “There would be no conventional exams next term, and the university is expected to include open-book exams taken remotely and submitted online.”
Leeds University is also preparing to shift to an online exam system shortly. Its dean of digital education,
In the USA, Stanford University has terminated the remaining two weeks of classroom learning and moved to an online exam system. After a staff member contracted the coronavirus, the University of Washington has also stopped its ongoing classes. Even though several universities offered distance learning courses, there was not a pronounced focus on online teaching. But, the current situation has egged institutions to move to online learning.
Traditional VS. New-age Methods
The steps mentioned above taken by educational institutions indicate the scope of the online examination system in battling the current situation. Even though the existing situation has forced universities to utilize technology in conducting exams in a streamlined manner, most institutions would gradually embrace online platforms as the mainstream approach to conducting exams. This is because the traditional methods are cumbersome, require more time and resources, manual invigilation and grading, and create a logistical hassle. However, exams can be easily configured on a digital platform due to the immense scope of online examination systems. Additionally, online proctoring and auto-grading bring down costs and reduce the turnaround time, offering the flexibility to take exams from anywhere in the world using an online exam system.
Educationists have preferred traditional means of education. Even though digital transformation has continued to disrupt the education sector by widening the scope of the online examination system, not many universities have entirely moved to an online teaching and examination model. But, the COVID-19 pandemic has fastened the transition in the education sector. Now, it is critical to conduct online exams to avoid delays in starting the new academic year. However, let’s try and understand the reservations among universities in shifting to an online exam system.
The lack of awareness is one of the biggest hurdles in transitioning to an online examination system. College administrations are not aware of the ready availability of online platforms for hosting exams. An online exam system is capable of hosting low and high-stakes exams with ease. Universities are also concerned about invigilation, and therefore the credibility of such exams.
Anyhow, it must be highlighted that proctoring technology flags instances of cheating and all other malpractices that students may employ while appearing for exams online.
Despite the digital revolution, many universities remain averse and non-commital to change. They continue to take pen-and-paper tests or even delay the term exams when faced with unprecedented circumstances, such as the ongoing coronavirus. Change can be difficult, especially when giving up on a set and time-tested process. However, change is the only constant and embracing digital examination platforms would significantly simplify examinations.
In traditional examinations, invigilators ensure that the students taking the exam have authentic IDs. However, university administrations are skeptical if such scrutiny is not available on an online examination platform. Such hesitancy and lack of knowledge lead to a lack of faith in an online exam system’s authenticity.
Teachers and administration prefer to connect with students in-person when conveying the necessary information. They assume that the absence of human touch can create communication gaps between students and universities. Little do they know that online exams facilitate effective communication. Proctors can even resolve students’ queries and communicate with them during the exams.
Cheating prevention is one of the major concerns of universities for students who attempt to use unfair means to fare better in online exams. The most common forms of cheating in an online exam system are:
In high-stakes exams, students may often use impersonators to take the exams on their behalf. They may even forge admission cards. Hence, universities are skeptical about the candidates’ identity in online exams.
When students have friends or family members helping them from behind the webcam with answers, they may have to hide their faces or stay away from the screen to seek answers from the ones helping them. It raises concerns for the authorities who question the scope of an online examination system.
Students use smartphones or smartwatches to cheat on their online exams. They may even log on to a different web browser or open new windows to search for the answers. Such malpractices hamper the integrity of the examinations.
The systems used by candidates for taking exams serve as a potent medium for cheating. With easy access to several web applications and software, students go to great lengths to score good grades on their exams. Connecting external storage devices, screen sharing, keeping answers handy, and switching screens effortlessly are some of the many methods that enable students to cheat.
Online tests, coupled with the use of technology, can detect various cheating instances. There have been monumental advancements in the online examination system. Technological developments have enabled educational institutions to counter cheating in the following manner:
The first layer of anti-cheating measures asks students to click their picture, furnish an identity proof and share registration details. The proctors, available round the clock, verify the photo IDs against registration details to attest if the candidates are bonafide.
The scope of an online examination system in curbing virtual cheating can be fathomed by the increase in the adoption of AI in virtual monitoring. Auto proctoring and live proctoring have emerged as antidotes to rising instances of online cheating. AI-based proctoring monitors the candidate’s live webcam feed, auto-flags various cases such as detecting a smartphone, another person in the background, or the candidate’s absence.
Meanwhile, live proctoring has a human invigilator supervising the exam remotely via webcam. It comes with the functionality of pausing, resuming, or halting the test in real-time if deemed necessary. The proctor can communicate with the students through a chat window if they wish to clarify any undesired activity.
Once the university authorities have defined a list of restricted apps and websites, the secure browser restricts students from screen sharing or accessing different websites by sending a warning. The feature disables screen recording or projection and any application that is not whitelisted, expanding the scope of the online examination system.
Pen-and-paper tests have been the norm in the education sector. The COVID-19 outbreak is just one instance that has forced universities to conduct online exams leading to online examination system demo. However, in a world of constant upheavals, a catastrophe of any nature can disrupt the normal pace of events. Hence, it is crucial to shift our energies and focus on what is required to stay abreast and mold our approach to adapt to the changing times.
The Benefits of Online Examination System Demo
The scope of the online examination system is massive, as it is an entirely automatic system that delivers faster results with greater accuracy and transparency. It has automated the typical manual process, without compromising the credibility of the exams. The other benefits associated with an online examination system demo are as follows:
An online examination offers multiple features that make the examination experience seamless and hassle-free.
The scope of the online examination system makes examination platforms easy to use. With simple configuration, teachers can create questionnaires or seek help from the question bank. Quick scheduling of exams intimates the students in any corner of the world. The online examination system demo supports multiple languages and question types such as MCQs, short or descriptive questions and more. Quick test results and analytics further help the administration draw insights that could be used in the future. Thus, an array of functionalities assist universities in effortlessly managing the entire examination process.
The online exam system works on a highly robust platform. Unlike pen-and-paper tests, online assessments can be scaled minus the cost escalation. The online examination system demo platform does away with all the logistical hassle that involves scheduling and physically conducting exams at different exam centers. The exams can be taken from anywhere and anytime, with a stable internet connection and a system. Therefore, it enables students from all corners of the world to take exams without commuting to the examination centers.
Allotting invigilation duties and managing teachers’ availability are some of the main concerns in undertaking written exams. However, with the readily accessible remote proctoring technology, universities no longer need to assign invigilation responsibilities to teachers. Solutions such as online authentication, secure browser and online proctoring negate the possibility of cheating on the exam, maintaining the assessment’s integrity.
AI’s intervention has changed the way exams are graded. The automated grading feature has eliminated the need for assigning and managing teachers. A quick online examination system demo enables examiners to familiarize themselves with the platform. It removes the scope of human errors and provides faster results. Auto-grading does not only offer MCQs but also expands across essay-type questions and extensive codes that demand considerable time from the invigilators. Universities can significantly cut down on the turnaround time, with ease, using an online examination system demo.
The confidentiality of the questionnaire is of the utmost significance in conducting online examination system demo and exams. Any misuse of content compromises the exams’ standards and results in postponing or re-test. This problem is efficiently addressed in online examination system software. Questions can be randomized in a secure environment, and the exam content is stored in a database that can only be accessed by exam authorities.
Furthermore, the authentication process allows only genuine students to appear for the exam, drastically reducing the probability of a fake identity.
There are numerous procedures associated with the examination- creating questionnaires, editing, registration, managing physical exam centers, evaluation, result declaration and re-evaluation. But, the scope of an online examination system solves these problems by automating manual tasks, significantly reducing efforts. Universities can now reduce the expenses incurred on question papers, answer sheets and invigilation duty. The resources required to manage transport facilities, supply questionnaires and answer sheets are eliminated.
You can create an online exam system in five easy steps that involve setting up the exam, inviting test-takers, authorizing and proctoring the test, getting real-time results and having group-level analytics.
Creating an Online Exam System
The first step to an online examination system demo is to upload questions or choose questions from the bank. The platform supports different question formats. At this stage, university administrations integrate the examination platform with the existing Learning Management System (LMS) and configure the results.
The online examination system demo followed by the exam enables authorities to upload candidate data in bulk. Time-slots are selected as per convenience and test invitation and follow up emails are sent to the students.
ID-based authentication serves as the first step in assessing the students’ credentials. AI-based live proctoring averts any cheating instances. The credibility score generated by the AI upholds the candidates’ integrity while taking the exam. The entire test can also be recorded for human proctors to examine at a later stage. This can be easily tested via a quick online examination system demo.
The online examination system can provide real-time results. The results can be duly customized by university authorities and shared with students in PDF or HTML formats.
It is a step ahead of individual results. The online exam system efficiently analyzes bulk student data and a diverse set of students and provides useful group-level insights. The analysis can be customized as per the university’s requirements.
Online exams are taken on desktops or laptops. Students can easily click on the test link and follow simple instructions to take the exam. Online exams provide the flexibility to appear for exams anywhere, anytime, in the world. With the world moving toward online learning, online exams are here to stay and can be taken from the comfort of one’s home, without going through the hassle of commuting to the exam center.
How a Top Indian B-School Moved to Online Exams
The business school (B-school) had been conducting traditional pen-and-paper exams since its inception. However, these exams were incurring significant costs. Therefore, the institution sought a cost-effective and scalable means to conduct exams.
Established in 2001, this private B-school has three campuses across India that provide certificates in various post-graduate management and executive programs.
The pen-and-paper tests for entrance exams had raised the following challenges for the administration:
Mercer | Mettl provided a completely digitalized examination platform. The remote proctoring feature eliminated the need for examination centers and the hassle of managing a large volume of test-takers.
Mettl Examine helped the B-school in significantly reducing the costs associated with managing the test center. Our team also provided deep question analytics and benchmarks that have now become assets for the institute.
The online exam system benefits intuitions in maintaining the integrity of the test, data and attendance records by ensuring that the data is safely stored on the cloud. There is no concern over misplacing manual entries. With proctoring, authentication and browsing tolerance, the concerns about malpractices have also been addressed. Most importantly, the ease of use, candidate experience and quick turnaround time make online examination a hassle-free process. Witnessing the multi-fold benefits of an online exam system, it is high time that universities realize the importance of making the digital shift, and for good.
Originally published April 13 2020, Updated September 21 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.