Offline Assessment or Offline Exam Delivery… All your questions answered!

Student taking offline exam delivery on laptop

1. What is offline exam delivery or offline assessment?

Offline exam delivery, or offline assessment, is the method by which organisations can run computer-based examinations in remote areas where there is not a reliable internet connection available, instead of relying on a paper-based process which is inflexible and hard to administer. True offline exams do not even require an internet connection on exam day, to launch or submit the exam.

2. Why run examinations offline?

There is increasing interest in the use of e-assessment because of the range of benefits it provides to candidates to be able to sit their exams on a computer and reduce time-to-results, and also the positive difference it can make to organisations running exams worldwide with regard to security, cost-efficiencies and a reduced administrative burden. However, in many areas of the world internet connectivity is not reliable enough to facilitate the running of exams, and to ensure that users do not get disconnected or experience a degradation of system speed during their exam. Running assessments on a computer but without the need to be connected to the internet (offline), using a secure delivery system, resolves this difficulty.

3. What sort of technologies exist to run exams offline?

With offline assessment, typically an encrypted exam package is downloaded to a test centre by someone with sufficient security access in advance of the exam. At exam time this is deployed over a local network so that candidates can connect to a local server and have a similar experience to the experience they would have if they were taking their exam online. After the test completes, answer data is then securely uploaded for marking, moderation and results processing.

4. Who uses offline exam delivery?

Offline exam delivery is of interest to any organisation who has test centres in remote areas where the internet connection is too unreliable to run exams over the web. It is ideal for examining bodies who want to avail of auto-scoring or on-screen manual marking and need to have all their examination data from both online and offline exams in one secure system.

5. What are the benefits of offline assessment?

  • Fairness: It gives all candidates the same exam experience irrespective of whether a candidate is at a location with good broadband and is able to take their exam online, or is at a location with poor internet connectivity so they take their exam offline. Without the capability to deliver computer-based exams offline, then typically those without internet connection have to use pen & paper – this is neither fair nor equitable.

  • Candidate benefits: Even though there is no internet connection, people can sit their exams on a computer using the same tools they use in their work environment, so being able to type rather than write with pen, the option to cut/paste text, use spreadsheets etc.

  • All data in one system: For the examining body, using different exam delivery methods but keeping it all computer-based, means that all data is retained in the same system and is completely secure. So no matter where the candidate is based, their details, exam paper and results are all stored securely in one application, and all results for all candidates are available on the same dashboard.

  • Increased security: Some organisations run paper-based examinations in areas without internet connectivity, which are then scanned and marked in the same system as computer-based tests that were run in other locations. With this approach, there is always a risk of paper exams being lost or question content compromised. Moving to offline computer-based delivery removes this security risk.

  • Randomised papers: If you wish to generate random exam papers for candidates, where questions are selected from question banks according to different rules such as topic, difficulty rating etc., this can easily be achieved using offline delivery. This helps maintain security and reduces the risk of collusion between candidates at test centres (as everyone taking the exam has a unique exam paper).

  • Speed of marking and results: Transporting and scanning paper-based answer sheets typically takes quite a bit of time. With an offline solution, once the exam is finished, it is a straightforward process to securely upload an electronic package of exam data, which is then immediately available to markers or for results processing, so the turnaround time from exam to results being issued to candidates is greatly reduced.

6. What are the factors to consider when looking into offline assessment solutions?

  • It is very important to ensure that the transfer of data from an online solution to the offline delivery location is done in a completely secure way, for example, the data should be fully encrypted when it is downloaded and uploaded from a local server.
  • It’s important that the candidate experience and interface is exactly the same as the one delivered via the online version, so that all candidates are treated in the same way and none are at a disadvantage.
  • There should be a local network in place at the test centre, which can deal with the volume of candidates who will present to take their exam. For larger cohorts, this will typically involve local IT resources to configure adequate networking options.
  • The overall process for local administrators should be simple to follow. Often remote test centres may be in different time zones or English may not be their first language, so it is really important that the steps they have to take are straightforward and also that they are properly enabled to carry out the necessary tasks.

If you’d like to read more about the TestReach product solution, including our Offline Assessment Portal™ visit our product features page here.

You can read more about the general benefits of e-assessment here.