For anyone working in the world of exams, it is clear that online assessment gives awarding bodies a great opportunity to streamline and simplify their assessment processes. Who wouldn’t want to ditch paper-based exam sheets and eradicate the need to move everything manually from candidate to marker to administrator in a secure manner? Awarding bodies immediately appreciate the benefits when they move online, in particular the freedom and time it gives them to devote to course content and exam authoring, rather than worrying about logistics.
If you’re new to the world of certification, it can be surprising to see the variety of methods in which assessment – online or otherwise - is provided by examining bodies to candidates. Each organisation typically has very specific requirements. One may have many types of test centres in remote geographical locations that all access one central system over the internet but each with their own permitted levels of administrative access. Sometimes examining bodies need a secure way to deliver exams online to individual candidates in Singapore or Bermuda or Kazakhstan. In other situations, you see examining bodies who want to run the exam on a local computer network where there is no internet connectivity, but still collect all the results on the same cloud-based system afterwards.
These requirements vary across professional membership organisations, universities, colleges and corporate certification programmes. In response to their needs, the world of online assessment is now seeing a remarkable level of technical innovation and development which seeks to resolve the complex issues facing examining bodies who deliver exams and qualifications around the globe.
From the point of view of someone on the supplier side, I see this innovation in practice on a daily basis. For example, it is now possible to recreate the ‘exam hall’ environment online, where a candidate can sit an exam from any location, while being monitored by a trained supervisor over the web, using video, audio, chat functionality and remote screen share technology. This manages candidates’ enrolment and connection to their invigilator, plus monitors where they are in their exam and when they submit their final answers.
At the other end of the scale, you might have a really remote test centre which does not have reliable internet connectivity. However, you can, using new technologies, run an exam offline on a local computer network, without internet connectivity, and have the results returned to the same central cloud based system. This is done by means of an innovative portal, which allows the online examination environment to be downloaded, along with encrypted candidate data and exams, to a local system. The candidates can sit their computer-based exam on a local network, and all completed exams are uploaded to the central system at a later stage.
The other technical innovation that makes a big difference to examining bodies is the ability to maintain secure computer-lockdown during an exam, so that candidates cannot navigate away from the exam environment. This is often standard for online assessment providers, but what can create interesting technical challenges is when examining bodies require access to a specific resource on the web for a candidate, while still maintaining secure lockdown.
Technical innovation is rising to meet the challenges of supplying secure online exams around the world. If you’re looking for a solution, I would seek out a system that provides a variety of exam delivery methods, so that there is adaptability for your current and any future needs. Look for online delivery at test centres, for offline assessment in remote locations and for the delivery of integral remote invigilation as part of the one application. Give yourself the flexibility to deliver exams using any number of possible methods. That way, examining bodies can have the scope to scale qualifications around the globe without geographical or logistical barriers.
Want to learn more? Download a free Guide to Online Examinations here.