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Technology in Examinations – Scaling New Frontiers

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Technology in Examinations

Technology in Examinations – Scaling New Frontiers

Date: 30/11/2016 | Posted by: MeritTrac | Category: Examination , Education

During the last couple of decades, the world has undergone a massive transformation with increasing impact of technology in almost every aspect of life. The practices we adopted in our lives have become obsolete and we are witnessing new methods becoming the norm. Industry has thrived in this changing scenario while having to adapt quickly to meet the evolving lifestyles requirements.

In these changing times, education has also witnessed a massive transformation in most parts of the world and India is no exception. Universities leveraging technology to deliver classes online, thereby negating the limitation of time and space in education delivery has been a paradigm shift and has introduced new scalable models. The evolution of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is democratising high quality education and making knowledge available for masses.

Examinations, a critical aspect determining success of education has also undergone transformation. One of the first instances of high stake Computer Based Exams in the country was witnessed in 2003 and since then, various exams boards have adopted computer based exams mainly for their entrance examinations.

IIM CAT entrance exam is the one of the first popular high stake exam that went online in the country. Its initial hiccups had almost stalled the progress made in adoption of Computer Based Tests in India, but the successful comeback it made in 2010 gave confidence for more and more examination boards in the country to adopt Computer Based Tests.

In 2010, MeritTrac, along with EDGE and Value Notes organized a structured study in order to learn thoughts on introduction of technology in examinations. With less than 10 examination bodies embarking on transformation using technology, it was important to understand the industry’s views on leveraging technology in future. The study was administered on the key stakeholders in the education system – exam authorities and students.

The study revealed that around 68% of Indian examination bodies had concrete plans to leverage technology in examinations, with specific reference to Computer Based Tests. The key priorities for these universities were the need to increase the speed of result processing and improving transparency & security of high stake examinations. Over 75% student’s perceived transparency as a major benefit of computer based tests. Over 68% of them also believed that computer based tests will offer accurate and timely results.

While the major stakeholders were looking forward to the migration, 62% of the respondents had concerns over the availability and quality of infrastructure. Reliable support was also highlighted as a key concern for computer based tests.

What has changed in 5 years

Since this research, Indian education system has witnessed a massive migration of paper based tests to computer based tests. Transformations embarked by some of the large exam bodies have offered confidence for others to follow. Today over 100 examination bodies have migrated their entrance examinations in the computer based mode. While the 2010 MeritTrac research predicted a massive shift in administration of examinations, it could not predict the pace of this shift. With the recent UGC directive mandating universities to adopt technology for admissions, this number is expected to increase further.

A few factors have led to this fast paced migration.

Changing mind-set – Openness to leverage technology for some high stake initiatives have given boards the confidence in introducing technology in education. Administering examinations in the computer based mode was only a logical extension to this.
Improved infrastructure – Today, India is one of the fastest growing internet markets. The expanse of computer infrastructure to the last mile – villages and other rural areas has fostered the possibility of making computer based exams inclusive. Gone are the days when technology was limited to the geographical boundaries that divided cities from villages. Government’s emphasis on reaching broadband into villages will further enhance the possibilities of computer based exams.

The Digital Natives – It is understood that the digital natives are natural adopters of technology. The increasing use of mobiles and access to internet on these devises have extended the possibilities of computer based exams in the country. Candidates have greater understanding of technology and hence are not flustered in a computer lab.

The growing need for transparency and security – With increasing population and stakes, there is a greater demand for improving transparency and security of examinations. It is well accepted that technology could play a critical role in assisting examination bodies in achieving its goal of secure, transparent and high quality examinations.

Technology advancement and reduction in IT costs – Technology has advanced and with it being designed for greater scale and operational efficiencies, computer based exams have become viable for most examination boards. Moreover, the benefits it offers easily outweigh the cost and technology implications.

While all these transformations have been happening, the use of technology in examinations has been limited to entrance examinations. The vast majority of other examinations – summative / term-end examinations still following traditional models thereby exposing itself to inefficiencies and security threats.

The next frontier for technology in Examinations – Technology for Summative Exams

The next big technology revolution in examinations is On-Screen Marking or otherwise called Digital Evaluation. A few large examination boards in the country have already adopted this technology and reaped rich benefits. On-Screen Marking has allowed examination bodies to enhance quality of evaluation of descriptive answer scripts while making it transparent and secure. They have also succeeded in publishing results earlier than before. All these have been viewed as beneficial to the important stakeholder – the students. Ability of this technology to allow evaluators to evaluate from home also leads to greater convenience for the examination body and its evaluators. This is a technology that has been widely used in most developed countries. The initial success of On-Screen Marking in India will definitely have a ripple effect in the country.

Large and prestigious examination bodies have been looking for solutions that can help their exams be secure, transparent and efficient. One of the biggest challenges with these high stake exams are that they are vulnerable to risks and frauds. Ensuring security of question paper has been a priority for these examination bodies. Question paper printing, transit and storage have traditionally been vulnerable to leak and exposure. These instances could lead to reputational risks and legal challenges. How can technology help these examinations be more secure?

Just in Time question paper management – a process of managing question paper security by application of technology will ensure that a question paper is not exposed till the time of examination. The question bank managed by the examination body generates question papers which are accessible at the test centre by ONLY the designated official minutes before the examination. The solution prints the exact number of question papers as required in the centre under surveillance, thereby ensuring its security. This technology coupled with the On-Screen Marking service has already helped a state University in administering secure exams and quick turn-around of results.

After the successful adoption of computer based examinations, On-Screen Marking and Just in Time Question Paper management are the next big transformations that will be witnessed in the India education industry. With increased fairness, security, transparency and faster turn-around time, students will be the greatest beneficiaries of the introduction of this technology.

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