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Examination and Proctoring | 5 Min Read

EBZ Business School’s Journey to Digital Exams

From Pen & Paper to Remotely Proctored Online Exams

COVID-19 pandemic has forced industries across spectrums to embrace digitization, in all its functions. The education sector is in the midst of a spirited debate over the prudence of using technology and the online ecosystem. The lack of security, fraud, data protection, and structural concerns about IT, etc. are negating the adoption of technology by educational institutes. Conversely, educational centers wish to embrace innovative technological advances and digital solution approaches to ensure continuity in education and examinations. The debate continues to shape opinions and the sector’s probable course in the near and long-term.  

Mercer | Mettl is a technology platform that enables institutes and organizations globally to continue their business as usual, whether education, remote work, workforce management, learning and development initiatives and certifications. We recently conducted a webinar in the series of webinars titled ‘How does technology ensure continuity in examinations and learning,’ moderated by Thomas Gruhle, Senior Principal, Central & Eastern Europe, Mercer.

Siddhartha Gupta, CEO, Mercer | Mettl, was joined by Raphael Beuthner, Chief Information Officer, EBZ Business School, University of Applied Sciences, Germany, to discuss various aspects of the subject.

Siddhartha Gupta shared his expertise in helping institutions digitize their examinations and reflected on the road ahead for the sector. Raphael Beuthner detailed how the ongoing disruption led EBZ to Mercer | Mettl’s examination platform and the requisite steps needed by universities when choosing an online examination platform. Raphael Beuthner discussed how evolving with the pandemic was inevitable and how Mercer | Mettl helped the University embrace the change smoothly, quickly and efficiently.

What would be your main concerns/challenges while conducting online examinations?

Key discussion points:

  • The impact of the pandemic - the pros & cons of digitization in the education sector
  • Challenges and benefits of online examinations
  • Best practices to ensure business continuity in the new normal

Experts Speak: Future of Online Exams

A Few Selected Excerpts from the Conversation Between Raphael Beuthner (RB)
& Siddhartha Gupta (SG):

i) The Present & Future Landscape of Technology in Education

SG: The adoption of online tools was already progressing at a decent rate. The last three to four years have seen the emergence of numerous edu-tech platforms. A vast number of institutes are offering education online and conducting exams, but this pandemic has taken things completely off the roof. 

It was estimated that the edu-tech market would be around USD 350 billion by 2025 but, now, I  think it would be achieved much sooner than 2025. 

RB: Digitization, in its varied manifestations, is not primarily about technology, but about people. Within the last two or three months, we have actually achieved the pending two years of digitization. Many didn’t want to go through with it but were almost forced to, owing to the pandemic. Many students might decide to swap the traditional system with a distance learning system for comfort and flexibility. And that’s where online examinations are beneficial. If you really want to continue to do everything on-site, as it has happened in the past, we’d need classrooms of the size of football fields, which is impossible. The online world has become a reality now. And even the slowest of us need to come around to accept this reality.

ii) Online Examination Platform from the Point of View of a Platform Provider & Platform-Seeker

SG: I’d like to highlight three critical capabilities when looking for an examination platform provider:

  • In our quest to find the right online examination platform, we should not forget the actual reason behind the exam, which is an accurate measurement of the learning outcome. The test engine must be built with the flexibility to align with the educator’s agenda. This means the exam format should have the ability to offer multiple question formats — math equations, graph diagrams, chemical equations, simulators, etc.
  • The system’s robustness and scalability: Examinations usually entail many students taking the test simultaneously. The examination platform needs to respond to a similar need for scale. Since numerous students will log in concurrently, the system needs to be prepared to allow all of them, in thousands, to register and attempt the test. Managing it (the test) on low bandwidth, considering the students’ digital abilities, and the limitations of the device, are some other features that must be considered.
  • The academic integrity of the exam: The rigor of its examinations reflects the value of any institution. The examination platform promises a fair system where all students can showcase their skills and knowledge. If there is any compromise, the entire ecosystem will lose faith in the institution and the value of its certification.

These are the building blocks of Mercer | Mettl’s examination platform.

RB: I was exploring different possibilities to give online exams from home. Since German legislation is stringent about university exams, several options were instantly off the table. We had to find a more serious solution. We needed to find a system that was going to enable us to provide similar levels of supervision, as during our on-premise exams. 

We needed a system that was going to make our students feel comfortable. Whenever students take exams, their stress levels increase considerably. So we didn’t want to make it worse for them by choosing the wrong platform. 

We needed a system that would allow our students to do exactly what they would have in an on-site exam. The platform needed to enable students to draw entity relationship diagrams, fill in tables, create workflow diagrams, undertake mathematical calculations, type complex mathematical formulas and online coding. When looking for a solution, I was not worried about regular long text answers because of their ease. Everything else was critical and seemed complicated to me when I first analyzed it. 

While there are other proctoring solutions on the market, Mercer | Mettl is the only system I’ve seen that is available in almost all languages. Our students are German-speaking, so we needed a system where the student interface was available in the German language. When students sit for an exam and the stress levels are high, we want them to feel comfortable and use a familiar language. So it had to be an easy to use system that was available in German. The Mercer | Mettl’s proctoring solution also allowed us to use our in-house proctors, to which not many platforms acceded.

We needed the best support available because this was also entirely new for us. We didn’t know anything about online exams; none of us have ever given them before. We needed a system that allowed us to contact someone instantly if we faced challenges; if we didn’t know how to set up a certain exam. Now that we have used Mercer | Mettl, we will undoubtedly continue to use its platform for the rest of eternity because of our great experience.

iii) How Do You Envision the Education Sector Shaping Up Post the Pandemic?

SG: We will have to brace up for similar shutdowns in the future; this is not the last crisis of this nature that we all are facing today. Going online or having the ability to go online is imperative, which cannot be put on the back burner anymore. While technology was always available, the education ecosystem was taking its own sweet time to adopt it. But now the time has come to accelerate the entire process.

RB: Any good university is always well-advised to possess as many tools at their disposal as possible. I’m certainly glad that we have the Mercer| Mettl examination and proctoring system in our toolkit because that will always be used for our distance learning students in the future. We don’t know what will happen in the future. We want to be prepared to address all our students’ needs and concerns. Mercer | Mettl is an excellent tool for that purpose. It enables us to be there for our students, ensure continuity, and prepare them for the future. I still believe digitization is foremost about people, and this tool genuinely makes that possible.

Our Take

These extraordinary times require extraordinary efforts and solutions. As universities grapple with the challenges of the debilitating pandemic, service providers are going the extra mile to cater to educational institutions. Ensuring continuity in learning and education is a common goal shared by platform providers and platform-seekers. The current situation requires a behavioral shift and understanding the technical know-how in equal measure. As platform providers, we understand that well. This webinar is a step in that direction. 

Originally published June 10 2020, Updated June 19 2020

Bhuvi Kathpalia

Written by

Bhuvi is a content marketer at Mercer | Mettl. She's helped various brands find their voice through insightful thought pieces and engaging content. When not scandalizing people with her stories, you’ll find her challenging gender norms, dancing to her own tune, and crusading through life, laughing.

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