In a fast-transforming digital world, education, too, is undergoing a constant change. With the infusion of new-age technology, different stages in the formal education process – from entrance exams to placement preparations – are undergoing digitization. A growing student population is also driving the consequent need for affordable and conveniently accessible quality education.
Although the shift toward technology has begun, with automation leading the way, the education system needs to jump on the bandwagon to give way to a more robust and flexible structure that is in tandem with the future of jobs. With an increasing demand for new-age courses, the scope of online education has expanded, resulting in a growth spurt.
With online education continuing to grow by leaps and bounds, there is an imminent need for educational institutions to move toward the online mode, starting with the virtual examination process. Other processes that can be easily digitized to save considerable resources are admissions, fee payment, student information, attendance, examinations, certifications, etc.
The digital learning space is witnessing a surge in the number of online learners. With an increasing number of global universities entering the digital learning space, offering full-fledged degrees and certifications, technology is being deployed to administer remote exams and clamp down on cases of cheating and academic fraud.
Massive open online courses, or MOOCs as they are commonly known, are the new fad in digital education. Affordable and flexible, the online learning space uses technology for delivering lectures and conducting virtual examinations. These courses are open to all and are a great way to build skills on the go.
The latest online exam management systems are garnering the trust of numerous premier educational institutions, helping them to broaden their horizon, increase accessibility, and explore the virtual examination landscape.
Examinations play a crucial role in the disbursement of education, but the authenticity of processes and results are significant concerns, and thus, technology is being seriously considered to address them decisively.
A virtual exam or remote exam is an exam that a student takes from a location other than the physical classroom or any physical exam center. In a virtual exam, the student is not supervised at a physical location but through a software and webcam. A virtual exam is conducted with the help of the internet, making it location agnostic for both the students and the invigilators. A virtual exam is similar to a traditional exam. It is time bound and is audited or monitored by an AI-based proctor or a human proctor or both.
A virtual exam works through an online exam management system with remote proctoring features to make it secure, credible, and scalable. Virtually proctored exams are administered through a robust examination platform that allows students to take the exam from anywhere.
Virtual exams give real-time results and save the time of faculty members by allowing auto-grading. Virtual examinations are seamless for all stakeholders involved – test-takers, test-makers, and invigilators.
As things work around us, anything high-stake moves at its own pace, often with varying degrees of resistance, especially when it is about adapting to change. Such changes are disruptive and are, therefore, slow.
The toughest step in moving toward digitization is the decision of its implementation. With most institutions following a set process for decades, the idea of virtual exams has been slow and most difficult for them to adapt.
The education system has internalized the idea of classroom examination that is carefully and physically invigilated. Hence the shift toward fully online examination services is often not trusted enough. Digital examinations are often questioned on their credibility, with arguments based on cases of impersonation, i.e., who took the exam, and the use of unfair means.
Although some of the major large-scale common examinations happen on a LAN center-based virtual exam model, there is still scope for that leap of faith to move entirely to an online exam tool, which makes digital examination a seamless experience for all stakeholders involved – institutions, faculty, and students. An end-to-end online examination platform where the faculty can create tests from anywhere, students can take the tests from anywhere, proctors can ensure authenticity and credibility. Institutions, too, can avoid the hassle of managing large examination centers.
Technology has evolved tremendously to offer robust, scalable, authentic and auditable solutions to authorities and institutions, willing to take that step and test new-age technologies to bring in the age of digital examination.
The traditional examination system needs reform at various levels and a virtual examination software can help overcome the challenges mentioned above by providing a more holistic solution that empowers institutions to conduct high-stakes virtual exams securely and efficiently, with minimal hassles.
With lesser logistical hassles, infrastructural needs, and resource utilization, online examination services help institutions save enormous costs. Institutions invest significant time and effort to conduct pen-paper exams, such as the opportunity cost in arranging physical examination halls, aligning faculty hours for creating, planning, executing, and invigilating the exam. Additionally, the faculty spends significant staff-hours in evaluating papers and manually preparing results. The new-age digital examination model eliminates the need for physical test centers, extensive loads of paper, time for manual evaluation by the faculty, and restrictions due to the physical requirement of key stakeholders. Almost all of these tasks can be digitized using the available technology and the time and cost involved can be put to better use. It can also help store all student information and exam papers in cloud-based storage to access at any point in time. Not just for institutes, virtually proctored exams allow students to take the exam from anywhere at any time slot of their choice. This increases the reach of educational institutions and makes education more accessible even for students sitting in the farthest corners. The students don't need to travel to a physical exam center, saving time and cost of travel. Also, virtual exams only need an efficient wifi and webcam. Virtual exams are safe from environmental or social disturbances and thus ensure educational continuity.
Online examination tools can support a variety of question types, ranging from MCQs, essay type questions, diagram-based questions to hands-on skill-testing questions like simulators or hackathons, easing the manual labor involved in creating and designing a question paper. Customized reporting eliminates the need for manual correction, saving significant time, while differential grading and benchmarking provide a comprehensive and section-wise summary of a candidate’s performance.
Remote/online proctoring is a technology that uses a combination of manual and AI-based remote invigilation technologies to conduct virtual exams. These virtual exams prevent candidates from indulging in any unfair means. Remote proctoring allows a test to be taken from any location, provided the candidate has a computer, webcam, speaker and a high-speed internet connection. Remote proctoring gained popularity with technology reaching the global hinterlands, making online learning possible, even in remote areas. With the growth in the number of distant online learners and test-takers, remote proctoring started becoming the go-to technology to conduct these tests in a highly secure environment that lent the much-needed credibility to these assessments.
Live proctoring simulates a traditional examination hall scenario, wherein candidates have to go through a live authorization process by submitting their live image as well as an image of their valid ID proof to prevent impersonation. Only after the live authorization, a candidate can access the test. During the entire course of the exam, the candidates are monitored live by artificial intelligence and/ or human proctors placed at centralized and authorized locations. The AI raises red flags in case of suspicious activities, such as the candidate looking away from the test screen, identifying additional person/s, device detection, or an attempt to move away from the test screen, etc.
For a post-exam audit, institutions/authorities can also refer to recorded videos of each candidate during the test, along with a detailed report with time logs and records of the red flags raised. With multi-level checks, online proctoring ensures that only a genuine candidate is authorized to access the test. The candidate is monitored throughout the exam to control malpractices and record suspicious activities for a future audit.
Traditional examinations, taken from a designated venue with physical invigilation, will eventually become a thing of the past, as they will be unable to match the cost, efficiency, economies of scale, and reachability of virtually proctored exams. As the outreach increases, calling candidates at a venue will require a reasonable budget.
Online examination services, configured with proctoring technology, are scalable and efficient means for institutions to create a global outreach.
The use of online exam tools and technologies to oversee online learners and digital exams will have a significantly positive impact on the broader online education landscape, providing the same credibility and experience of a physical classroom.
IIM Bangalore – lauded as one of the top B-schools in India – stepped into the digital learning space with MOOCs in all areas of management. In their attempt to provide quality education to all and sundry, IIMBx, their digital learning initiative, was faced with specific concerns:
Mercer | Mettl’s online examination platform enabled them to conduct virtual exams with the desired quality, catering to all their concerns by offering a robust and credible solution.
IIMB’s academic integrity and brand reputation depended on the quality and rigor of the exams conducted by them. Hence, Mercer | Mettl empowered them to uphold the quality of their exams through a robust online examination platform, supporting multiple question formats, the power of flexibility and customization and strengthened with multi-layer proctoring. AI-powered proctoring was administered with an additional layer of human proctoring for maximum credibility and minimum suspicion. A detailed individual report with time logs, red flags and credibility index gave further assurance for a post-exam audit.
Originally published October 14 2019, Updated August 5 2021
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.
Online examination, also known as virtual examination, is conducted remotely on a computer with high-speed internet. Like a classroom exam, it is time-bound and usually supervised through a webcam and proctor, making it cheating-free, secure and easily scalable.