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Examination and Proctoring | 6 Min Read

How Online Tests are Transforming Higher Education

Introduction

Online tests are ideal for a continually evolving world. Like all industries, education also has been in tumult since the debilitating pandemic has forced an unprecedented lockdown. However, ensuring continual educational opportunities without impeding academic sessions has always been a priority for institutions. The disruption caused by the health emergency has only expedited the transition, catalyzing the shift towards online platforms for conducting examinations. 

Over the years, the online examination system has proved to be more productive, credible and quicker means of conducting exams. Online tests require minimal human intervention while allowing educational institutions to closely monitor a student’s growth via deep analytics and exam results. Technology has facilitated a faster and error-free generation of exam reports.

The Traditional Examination Method Posed Many Challenges:

Time-Consuming

Increased Stationery and Logistical Costs

Misplacing Answer Sheets

Scope of Error in Manual Grading

Hassle of Managing Test Centres

However, advancements in educational technology (ed-tech) provided tangible opportunities to institutions struggling with the traditional pen-and-paper examination. Online tests helped address the flaws in the traditional system by conducting exams remotely, thus making them hassle-free and immune to disruptions. They enabled examiners to store students’ information in a cloud database, easily upload information online, prepare questionnaires, create grading logic, provide virtual monitoring and auto-grade. The real-time results further assisted in generating quicker reports. Online tests were convenient for students who no longer had to commute to their exam centers. Students could now take exams from the comfort of their homes, from any part of the world.

Signs of Early Adoption

The Monash University in Australia has been the torchbearer in adopting online test software since 2015 when it started with a pilot project. From 0.5% first semester online exams in 2017, the University scaled it to 8% in the second semester.

But what really triggered the shift was an accident. While rearranging his office, a senior academician placed the answer sheets near a shelf, closest to the bin and forgot to move them. The cleaner shredded 40 answer sheets, thinking that the papers were meant for recycling. This incident fast-tracked the University’s adoption of online tests.

Paper-based exams required extensive manual data entry, tracking analytics was non-existent, and it also meant exams were exposed to human error.

Cliff Ashford
Research, Education and Business Intelligence Delivery Leader Monash University

Monash University has acted as a beacon for other academic institutions by moving 80% of its exams to online platforms by the end of 2020.

Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand also experimented with online test software. A notice in the University’s website read, “The first digital exam pilot was completed successfully in Trimester 1 2019, with a high number of students adopting digital exams. Students in the following courses will take their end-of-trimester exams digitally…”

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How Universities Are Embracing Online Tests to Tackle the COVID-19 Disruption

Universities worldwide have taken a proactive approach to ensure educational continuity. The Indian Institute of Management, Sambalpur (IIM-S), has decided to conduct its end-term examinations online for the first-year MBA (Master of Business Administration) students. Mahadeo Jaiswal, Director, IIM-Samablapur, said, “As we are not sure when the lockdown will end, the institution has decided to adopt the online proctoring examination for the first-year students which will allow them to appear for the examination from home.” Students will be monitored online through an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled tool to ensure a cheat-proof environment. The Business-school (B-school) is also planning to conduct all its examinations online even after the current situation turns normal.

After a meeting attended by 800 affiliated colleges, Bangalore University Vice-Chancellor (VC) Prof K R Venugopal has decided to submit a request to the state higher education department to hold exams online. Emphasizing the ease of conducting an online exam, the VC said, “Students will face the web camera while taking the exam and they will be monitored by an invigilator during the online tests.”

IK Gujral Punjab Technical University (IKGPTU) has announced that it would conduct online examinations for its more than 1 lakh students for the ongoing semester. The institution will conduct practical examinations and viva-voce through online or digital modes. Likewise, the Central University of Gujarat, which has been conducting science practical sessions using online simulated experiments, would use similar exam methods in July. Delhi University is also planning on conducting open-book online exams in July for final year post-graduate and under-graduate exams if the COVID-19 situation doesn’t normalize.

Universities outside India have not remained untouched by the disruption. They, too, have adopted ed-tech to ensure examination continuity. 280 medical students at the Imperial College London completed their final-year via online test mode in the third week of March. According to university officials, it is historic for medical studies. Similarly, the University of Technology Sydney believes its students are less anxious about online exams as they can take mock tests before the final exam. The University of Bergen, the University of Oslo and the University of Agder in Norway, have also adopted the online examination system.

How Online Test Software Make Examination Seamless

The ed-tech space has seen substantive growth in making the examiner’s and examinee’s test experience seamless. A good online test software provides multiple features to make online examination hassle-free.

Supports a Wide Range of Question Types

An online examination platform allows examiners to create knowledge and application-based questions that can further be divided into multiple question types.

Knowledge-Based Questions

Knowledge-based questions analyze a candidate’s ability to learn and remember facts, terminologies and any other details. There are seven categories of knowledge-based questions:

Application-Based Questions

Application-based questions enable candidates to apply their learning to a real-life problem or situation, unlike the one intended at the time of learning. They can be divided into ten categories:

Candidates can undertake simple or sophisticated formulae writing, math equations, calculus, integration, differentiation, trigonometry, matrices, chemical notation, and equations, among others.

Supports Exams on All Devices

An online test software facilitates ease of use by allowing examinees to take exams from their digital devices. However, depending on the stakes of the exams, the following are recommended:

Low-stakes Exams: Quiz and mid-lesson tests that need low security and can smoothly run on mobile, laptop, desktop, iPad, or tablet.

Medium-stakes Exams: Mid-semester exams need more security and hence require proctoring. It is suggested to take the exam on a laptop or a desktop.

High-stakes Exams: End-semester and competitive exams are high fidelity tests. So candidates should take the test on a laptop or a desktop.

Quick LMS Integration

REST APIs can be used to integrate the examination platform with any existing Learning Management System (LMS). 

i) LTI-based integration with 250+ LTI compliant platforms such as Canvas, Moodle, D2L, edX, Blackboard, and others.

ii) Deep integration with other non-LTI compliant systems with the option of adding custom workflows.

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Customization of Questions and Bulk Uploading

A functional and useful examination platform enables you to create your own test and questions or use questions from the digital library. The online test software platform permits you to upload different types of questions simultaneously.

You can also upload bulk questions onto the platform. After uploading the questions, you can set up the exam by integrating the examination platform with your existing LMS to configure the results.

Easy Scheduling

After uploading the candidate data, you can select time-slots, send test invitations and follow-up emails to the test-takers.

Secure Browser and Browsing Tolerance

The secure browser terminates any browsers or websites upon its launch. It disables screen minimization, navigation, right-click menu options, function and shortcut keys. This restricts candidates from taking a screenshot or copying/pasting the test content. Additionally, browsing tolerance curbs navigation to different websites. Once the browsing tolerance has been determined, the test will terminate when the candidate reaches the pre-defined limit.

Online Invigilation

 The availability of numerous anti-cheating measures assists institutions in preserving the sanctity of the exam.

i) The entire test can be recorded and reviewed at a later stage. The time-stamped activity allows the examiner to check a specific time frame.

ii) AI-enabled proctoring flags any suspicious activities, such as gesturing, absence of the candidate, additional person, or device in the webcam feed. The instances are automatically flagged. 

iii) Meanwhile, live proctoring involves a human proctor who can pause, resume, or dismiss the exam. The examinees can interact with the proctor via a test window if they face any challenge.

Comprehensive Reports

The perks of conducting exams on online test software include delivering real-time reports that significantly reduce the turnaround time. Autograding feature eliminates any scope of human error and generates faster and credible results. The reports contain a comprehensive summary of the difficulty level, the time taken to attempt each section and section-wise performance.

Business Impact

Empowering TWC to Conduct High-stakes Scholarship Assessments in a Secure, Scalable and Credible Manner

About the Client

Established in 1975, The Washington Center (TWC) for Internships and Academic Seminars envisions bridging the gap between higher education and a professional career. The institute’s unique approach to helping professionals reach their full potential includes an integrated mix of professional experience, academic coursework, and real-life challenges. 

Requirements

Due to the disruption of the ongoing scholarship program, the exams could not continue as per the schedule. TWC felt the need to automate the process. It set-off the search for an end-to-end virtual proctoring software.

Challenges

Since TWC’s prestigious scholarship program needed a precise business solution, the center faced numerous roadblocks:  

  •         The absence of a secure and integrated examination platform.
  •         The unavailability of an efficient and user-friendly process.
  •         Limitations in customizing assessments.
  •         Lack of online proctoring software.
  •         Inefficient and insecure browsing experience.
  •         The need for a robust anti-cheating mechanism.

Solution

After gaining an in-depth understanding of TWC’s concerns, Mercer | Mettl suggested its most viable value proposition- Mettl Examine. Our online examination platform addressed TWC’s concerns in the following manner:

  •       Easy-to-use examination platform
  •       Supported customization of questions
  •       Live and manual proctoring
  •       Browsing tolerance
  •       AI-based anti-cheating solution
  •       24×7 operational support

Impact

  •        TWC was able to conduct its high-stakes examinations in a secure, proctored environment.
  •         A short turnaround time of two months.
  •         A proactive customer service upheld the quality of experience.
  •         TWC was able to roll out its customized questionnaire.
  •        Provided a seamless examination process for the exam-takers, without compromising on the quality of exams.

What Makes Us Unique?

Mercer | Mettl has partnered with AIMA (All India Management Association) as its assessment technology solution provider for conducting the online MAT (Management Aptitude Test) exam. AIMA has introduced the remote proctored internet-based test as the third option, apart from paper-based and computer-based modes, to continue with the examination schedule while following social distancing norms. MAT is a national level test for MBA and allied programs for admissions to over 600 B-schools in India, conducted across 60 cities. This test can now be administered virtually with Mercer | Mettl’s platform. Candidates can appear for these exams from their homes and invigilators can monitor them remotely. 

In the last five years, Mercer | Mettl has been associated with over 150+ institutions such as Ashoka University, Amity University, IFIM Business School, IIM Bangalore, ISB, Bennett University, UPES, Alliance University, NIIT University and other such reputed names.

Originally published June 22 2020, Updated June 23 2020

Megha Singh

Written by

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.

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