TCS iON Digital Learning Hub | July 15,2020

With most educational institutions shut down due to COVID-19, the education sector is witnessing an unprecedented challenge. The impact is likely to extend to several months as the world races to develop a vaccination to contain it. Educational institutes have ramped up digital learning alternatives to respond to the new normal. Exams are also widely impacted with the restrictions in place on gatherings. Institutes have adopted one of the following approaches for examinations:

- Redefining Promotion criteria- Certain academic institutions have cancelled their final semester exams and promoted the students based on their summative performance in the session.
- Postponing Examinations- Institutes have postponed their selection exams and they will revisit the schedule once the COVID-19 situation improves.
- Remote Examinations- Conducting Online exams with remote proctoring is essentially overseeing exams now. The main advantage is that exams can be taken from any location without compromising on the integrity of the examination process.
While the first two approaches are short term resolutions to the challenge presented by COVID-19. Conducting remote assessments is long term and viable solution. Adopting remote assessments will help the institutes to future proof their evaluation systems and also expand their reach to candidates of different geographies.

Key factors for shortlisting a Remote Assessments platform

Several platforms are available today for conducting remote assessments. Institutes can select a platform that ensures assessments are free of discrimination, whether conducted face-to-face or remotely, in order to protect students’ rights.

There are various facets to consider when selecting remote assessment platforms. Key factors to be considered are:

1) Telecom Infrastructure in India- Since data is available on mobile phones, it is easy to give an exam from the comfort and safety of homes for candidates. But various studies report that students in India face poor connectivity, poor signals, power issues and cable cuts while using internet at home via mobile hotspot, home broadband or Wi-Fi dongles. So, it is important for online platforms to ensure proper contingency procedures in the event of a remote assessment crashing or individual connectivity problems.

2) Security of the Platforms – Online assessment conducting bodies carry a huge responsibility of ensuring that the platforms are free of any security backdoors or loopholes. They need to ensure this by implementing multiple checks and policies in the platform such as restricting use of other applications during examination, disabling keyboard and USB ports when not required for the exam.

3) Question Paper Designing – This model of the remote exam demands that the question paper being used is not simple and is mainly based on the application of knowledge. Students taking exams from home can resort to unfair means, given that there is no one to check up on them. Utmost precision is required while designing a test for each candidate. Asking questions in various formats that are not readily available in textbooks and the internet will ensure the uniqueness and security of the test. Therefore, platform should support multiple types of questions in the question paper such as video-based questions, long answers etc.

4) Effective proctoring- The remote exams can be taken from any location without compromising on the security and integrity of the process. The platform technology must involve advanced decision-making algorithms to detect possible malpractices by monitoring the candidate’s live feed and screen recording for any anomalies. There are mainly three ways to conduct proctored remote assessments: live online proctoring (monitored by a combination of a remote proctor and computer), recorded proctoring (monitored by a remote proctor after the exam is finished), and advanced automated proctoring (monitored by a computer only).

5) Exam Governance– Malpractice cases often get challenged in courts and probed on how the decision-making algorithm has reported red flags. However, the technicalities of the algorithms, detailing complex code and statistics may be difficult to explain during litigation proceedings. Therefore, the process and model should be auditable to identify responsibilities if there is a failure. This will foster trust, accountability and transparency in the process and platform. With the large data centers being available, storage space is no constraint and therefore recording and storing the candidate exam videos for audit trails is possible today.

6) Results processing– Use of technologies and online storage of the responses makes the processing of results much easier and systematic, with almost zero errors and minimum human interventions. Additional evaluation criteria based on influencing factors need to be defined the platforms to qualify or disqualify a candidate.

With all these measures in place now, the Remote online assessments have risen to become the new normal in the COVID-19 era. TCS iON Remote Assessments is successfully launched with many more provisions to address all the remote examination requirements of the institutions.

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Author: Veena Gupta, Dean, TCS iON Academy


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