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The education sector is experiencing an evolution. Distance learning has gained significant momentum over the past decade. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted the adoption of distance learning. As the pandemic forced the whole world into lockdown, the education sector adapted, the adoption of distance learning increased, and new challenges arrived. The first challenge is creating a secure environment that decreases the chances of cheating or other wrongdoing. Universities, schools, and corporate organizations are searching for ways to tackle this challenge. However, before diving into the ways to tackle these challenges, it is essential to understand every facet of distance learning and online examinations.
Distance learning enables students to learn through web-based platforms and eliminates the need to gather in classrooms and training centers for education. Instead, they learn from trainers and teachers through a live video or by accessing already-uploaded or recorded sessions at their convenience. Moreover, many distance learning platforms have already created interactive and informative online courses catering to various subjects. Students can gain knowledge through online books or by downloading eBooks.
Due to the benefits of flexibility, distance learning is gaining massive popularity. The flexibility to learn from anywhere, at any time, has become the most appealing factor in the considerable surge in its adoption. According to the Digital Learning Pulse Survey 2021, nearly 73% of respondents “somewhat” agreed that they would take fully online courses in the future. From major universities to large corporations, almost every organization is adopting distance learning to conduct classes, provide training, and develop skill sets.
This number continues to grow. According to estimates by the leading research firm Statista, the global e-learning market will reach nearly US$400 billion by 2026. This statistic indicates the growth potential for the future. But first, let us understand how the distance learning model works.
In a nutshell, trainers, teachers, and learning management systems train or teach students and share information online. Students can utilize their phones, tablets, laptops, and other gadgets to access information and courses from remote locations such as homes, cafes, offices, and others. They do not need to visit university campuses or training centers. All they need is one of the aforementioned electronic devices and internet connectivity. The following sections detail the process in which distance learning works:
Many universities offering distance learning courses have basic entry requirements regarding academic background and work experience. They verify applications based on their entry requirement criteria and select candidates accordingly. Once verification is carried out, students can apply for the courses.
Before distance learning begins, universities and course providers provide login details, timetables, planners, dashboards, course guidelines, and other necessary information. In addition, they provide access to online libraries and study materials such as journals, eBooks, and others to download. Moreover, they provide information regarding online forums and platforms for seamless communication between tutors and students.
They also recommend the software and apps that need to be downloaded. According to the Digital Learning Pulse Survey 2021, 68% of students agreed that they want to see greater utilization of technology in online classes.
The online courses and degree programs are divided into modules. These modules deliver the lessons, carried out in various ways. For example, in traditional classroom-based training, a tutor will conduct lectures, utilize boards, give presentations, and conduct interactive programs to deliver teaching.
On the other hand, learning management systems have interactive and engaging e-learning modules with no in-person tutor. Instead, lessons are delivered through pre-developed programs containing information, questionnaires, videos, audio, and animations.
E-learning modules conduct group discussions and seminars to ensure interactive learning. They take place through video calls, audio calls, and online forums. Sometimes, tutors and courses may ask students to refer to study materials such as eBooks, films, documentaries, journals, and other resources that are provided.
According to the Digital Learning Pulse Survey 2021, more than two-thirds of survey respondents said they would like to take courses in a combination of online teaching and in-person teaching.
Every distance learning online course has a different way of examining students. In the traditional examination model, students must visit exam centers, university campuses, or training centers to give examinations. However, online tests can be given through web-enabled devices such as laptops, tablets, personal computers, and phones. They are paperless and provide results
as soon as they are completed. Students can utilize their own devices to conduct examinations. However, in some cases, students need to visit authorized exam centers.
There are different ways in which online examinations in distance learning work. Many courses conduct assessments after each module to determine whether students are keeping up with ongoing lectures. Assessments are conducted in the form of quizzes, a series of questions, and short examinations. These assessments need to be completed within a given timeframe. Students need to obtain marks above the passing level set by course providers and if they are unable to score above the minimum level, they can reappear.
On the other hand, many courses conduct examinations at the end of the course or on pre-determined dates. For this, students must set aside time from their schedule and attend the examination.
Rapid result generation is one of the significant advantages of online examinations. Students can know their marks instantly after the completion of the examination. However, some courses and universities deliberately announce the scores later if the volume of students is high and the scores impact the future course of action.
To ensure the integrity of online exams, organizations need a robust online examination platform with online proctoring tools. Mercer | Mettl’s Online Examination Platform is one such tool, with end-to-end exam management capabilities, excellent security along with proctoring abilities. The platform facilitates institutes, universities, and corporate organizations in conducting online examinations with ease and at an unprecedented scale.
Distance learning is aimed at providing convenience and flexibility in learning. However, along with benefits, there are also several challenges that arise:
As distance learning gives flexibility and freedom to learn from anywhere, students can use their laptops in a cafe, park, home, and other places with good internet connectivity, but the surroundings may pose many distractions.
Students must ensure that they begin learning in a surrounding that encourages them to focus on the task and is free of unnecessary distractions.
Every student has a unique way of grasping knowledge. That is why some learn quickly through interactive sessions with teachers, while others need animations, visual presentations, and pre-recorded videos to learn independently.
Students must inquire or gather detailed knowledge about the teaching sessions, learning materials and resources, and examination timelines before signing up for a course or a degree program. Based on this information, they must determine whether their learning style aligns with the learning style followed during the course.
Many universities, institutes, and corporate organizations need help implementing secure, scalable, and robust examination software for distance learning. They also need help creating the tests. Servers may not be able to bear the load of multiple simultaneous examinations. In addition, there is a need for more ease in navigation, efficient functioning, and brief analysis.
The solution is choosing the right online examination software for a distance learning program. An online examination software must provide ease in creating and conducting questionnaires, quizzes, and assessments. It must be equipped with a user-friendly interface, suitable to deploy on a single server, and capable of handling multiple examinations simultaneously. In addition, it needs to give an extensive analysis and reporting of correct and wrong answers.
Mercer | Mettl brings a reliable and scalable online examination platform to conduct semester and entrance examinations. Users can create tests with more than 26 question types. Moreover, the platform can conduct nearly 200,000 examinations in a single day. It is also GDPR compliant and contains data encryption to ensure the security of the examination data.
Conducting examinations after the successful completion of courses is a standard procedure. In the traditional examination model, a supervisor keeps an eye on each factor, from preventing cheating to maintaining accurate records. However, there are no human supervisors in the distance learning model. This gives rise to different cheating methods, including searching for
answers through Google Lens, discussing with friends and fellow students through online mediums, or utilizing pen drives and other connecting devices to copy and paste codes.
The solution involves utilizing an online proctoring system to create a secure examination environment. Proctoring system deploys a technology-based monitoring software to supervise the online examination.
Mercer | Mettl brings an extensive suite of online remote proctoring services to ensure cheating-free examinations. Its solution portfolio includes multi-factor authentication technology, artificial intelligence (AI)-based technology, and a secure exam browser. To help in proctoring, its Secure Exam Browser disables unauthorized software, devices, and applications. Moreover, it allows the required software and disables developer tools, additional tabs, virtual machines, and custom software. It also disables external ports, pen drives, hard drives, and other devices. With live recording and reviewing and AI-based auto proctoring, it is an ideal solution for conducting online examinations.
The adoption of distance learning will continue to grow in the coming years as students opt for convenience and flexibility in learning. Moreover, distance learning courses are more cost-effective than regular courses at university campuses, institutes, and corporate organizations. They continue to address existing challenges, such as technical issues, learning methods, software, and cheating. Implementing scalable and reliable online examination software and a technologically-advanced proctoring system will improve the overall distance learning experience.
Exams are conducted in distance education through the implementation of online examination software. Examiners create different online examinations and conduct them later or incorporate them into courses to enable students to opt for them after completion.
Online exams can prevent cheating by implementing online proctoring systems and secure exam browsers to disable unauthorized software, devices, and actions.
Originally published December 14 2022, Updated December 14 2022
Online remote proctoring is the technology through which exams are conducted online in a cheating-free manner, using high-speed internet and a computer with a webcam. Online remote proctoring uses video streaming and AI or human proctors to invigilate large-scale exams securely.