Changes in Remote Assessment
As we start into the New Year, it seems like a good time to take stock of how changes in the world of assessment have developed over the pandemic. How has the upheaval of the last few years affected our industry? What features and services now need to be provided for awarding organisations running certification programs? And what are the key considerations when comparing possible remote examination software solutions?
Since the onset of the global pandemic it has not been an option for awarding organisations to continue with pen-and-paper based exams in test centres, due to the necessity of preventing people from meeting indoors in large numbers and the need for social distancing. For an awarding organisation offering certification programs, remote assessment software has become a must-have rather than a nice-to-have as testing simply would not be a feasible option without such a useful pathway. Remote assessment methods are becoming the new normal, as remote learning is replacing more traditional in-person written work and written exams as the world adapts to post-pandemic life.
This in turn means that users of these assessment solutions – both the candidates themselves, and examining bodies running the exams – are becoming more familiar and experienced with the technology used in remote assessments and examinations. Though students' performance has taken a hit in the initial stages of remote testing introduction, the channeling of considerable effort into the adaptation to suit the new concept of learning has made certain that this was as minimal as possible. Awarding organisations have had to work in an agile way to quickly change so that they can still maintain the best levels of online management and delivery of their certification programs, without which examinations could not have been run. This experience means that when assessing which platforms to use, new considerations are beginning to emerge.
With these factors in mind, we have taken the opportunity to outline below six key areas that are becoming some of the most essential concerns for anyone who is delivering certification programmes online this year. It’s not a totally exhaustive list, but for anyone who is asking to compare online assessment solutions and platforms, these are key themes well worth keeping in mind to choose the best remote assessment methods. If you find an assessment platform that maintains these themes, then your organisation will no doubt be able to reap the rewards as a result of such adaptation.
Today’s Essential Requirements from Remote Assessment Solutions
1. Positive exam user experience
As mentioned above, the exam candidate experience is of vital importance to the awarding organisation. Organisations selling certification need to keep the consumer happy as possible despite the current pandemic-induced limitations, so that they will continue to progress with their qualifications for the foreseeable future within your organisation. In the case of membership associations, they will also be more likely to become a professional member in the future if they can go through a positive remote examination experience.
Exam candidates may have used an online assessment solution at some point, or at least have become accustomed to working with online applications and video technologies. This growing familiarity means that on both the technology and the customer service fronts expectations have been raised. The platform used should have a clear workflow. It should be straightforward to download and easy to book an exam, and the candidate interface should be intuitive when working through question options, with clear navigation and easy access to resources such as calculators, notepads, timer and case studies. A practice or mock option to try out the solution before the actual exam day may be expected, as this can help students to monitor their own performance and seek out extra resources and support should they realize they now need it.
Quick and informed responses to enquiries sent to a customer support team are also an essential feature for a wholly positive candidate journey. With remotely proctored exams, friendly and well-trained supervisors who can engage with candidates and put them at ease are essential - taking an exam makes everyone nervous so the impact of this is not to be underestimated, as taking the time to encourage students can make a world of difference to their confidence and self assurance which in turn affects their overall exam experience. If the technology has been specially designed with great user experience in mind, and is also backed up by a responsive customer support and invigilation team that can engage and interact with candidates, then they will likely have a more positive impression of the awarding organisation.
2. Flexibility in exam delivery options
Of course the key adjustment during the pandemic was for certification programs to move to remote proctoring. This was a fundamental change for many organisations running high-stakes examinations and it was a steep learning curve for many. Now it has become more normalised, as remote assessment methods have exploded in popularity. Instead of making decisions about whether or not to use remote proctoring, decisions now relate more to the type, quality and scalability of the service. With some testing centres now back up and running again, organisations can choose to use a mix of test centers delivery and remote proctoring formats. This gives complete flexibility and convenience to candidates who can choose their own preferred method of exams and assessments.
Awarding organisations are planning to continue to offer remotely proctored online exams even in an envisaged post-pandemic world. Different delivery methods offer different benefits, and being able to switch between them, or offer them together, is an essential progression that has proven to have many benefits. However, this does in turn mean that remote assessment solutions need to cover all methods within the technology platform to facilitate such a switch between delivery options, and then use them in any combination as required. The benefits of staying agile here are far reaching and should be focused on. For example, medical doctors who previously had to block out 2-3 days off work to travel for an exam can now take it at a flexible time from home, which has long-ranging impacts on medical staffing. You can read more about a case study for the use of proctored online medical exams here.
A core benefit of moving examinations online is that certification programs can be run internationally and at a much larger scale. No longer confined by the geographical distance to a test centre, or the availability of a trusted supervisor, an awarding organisation can offer their qualifications worldwide at any scale to any number of people. However, over the past couple of years we have heard of situations where online platforms did not deliver as promised on busy exam days, so this needs to be something you bear in mind. Scalability will depend on the supplier, so this is a vital area to investigate when considering what platform to work with for remote exam delivery. Awarding organisations need to be sure that the maximum concurrency of exams is adequate, and to check that this has been tested in practice. Talk to a similar sized organisation using the platform and ask for feedback to hear how it has worked for them. At TestReach, we give clear guidance to our clients on what number of exams can be run simultaneously globally, while maintaining high levels of security and candidate support.
4. Global delivery
Awarding organisations need a stable and robust system that works for any location worldwide, being totally accessible for people from all backgrounds due to its availability in any language. Offline options must also be provided where required in order to suit every learning style and education center respectively, as technical issues may be something that organisations need to contend with. To maintain a positive candidate experience, the technology should be architected in a way that can adapt to short fluctuations in internet connectivity. Should internet connections ever fail, there needs to be an option that allows a candidate to resume their exams easily without problems. It is imperative that exam content should never be lost in this scenario. These are considerations that apply when an organisation is looking for a truly global examination platform for the future. If you’d like to read more on this point, here is a case study from the International Software Quality Institute, where they deliver exams in multiple languages and via different delivery methods at any location worldwide.
5. Sophisticated Exam Canvas with Multiple Question Types
Because the pandemic forced a quick change to online delivery, many awarding organisations simply switched existing question banks online, and the questions – having been paper-based before – were often variations on multiple-choice or essay-based question types. Now that the concept of remote assessment is more familiar for certification programs, there is greater willingness to try out and experiment with different question styles to create a more immersive assessment experience for the candidate. For constructed response, there is great scope to use multimedia forms such as audio and video recording. This is something that would not have been a feasible option for in-person assessments, as access to such a large quantity of technology was previously unheard of in most organisations.
As bigger teams of exam authors write questions using online platforms, we will see greater variation from the standard MCQ and essay model. In the future, exam banks can be expanded using these approaches. Varied item types and multimedia options will give greater insight into what people know and how they apply that knowledge in practice. The previously utilised written tests and oral exams will be adapted and transformed to suit the new concept of online assessments, while being intertwined and combined with new concepts and methods that aim to take remote constraints into consideration.
6. Professional and well-trained invigilators / supervisors.
With remote proctoring, not all solutions are created equal. Different types of proctoring have a variety of benefits and price points. The most secure and professional online proctoring is provided live and in real-time by an in-person trained supervisor. For high-stakes exams, an in-person supervisor (also known as an invigilator or proctor) is essential to ensure that exam integrity is maintained. With automated solutions (where detection technologies mark movement or noise with a flag to review later), or record-and-review (where videos or exams are reviewed at a later stage), there is no way to step in and investigate in real-time. You can read more about different proctoring solutions here.
There needs to be a maximum level of students per supervisor, so that a close level of supervision can be maintained. The supervisor should be well trained and understand the assessment solution on which the exam is being run. It is not good enough if, while sitting a high-stakes exam, a professional exam candidate does not get the support or information they need when asking questions of their supervisor. Awarding organisations running high-stakes exams need to know that the supervisors meeting their candidates will be welcoming, well-informed and supportive. It is essential that a positive experience is had by the student, while maintaining the integrity of the examination session with a close level of supervision via video, audio and remote screen share. Supervisors need to encourage students to ensure their performance hits peak levels during their assessment.
It is worth noting that at TestReach, we provide a remote assessment solution that includes live, online proctoring as an integral option within one single application. Our proctoring is provided by TestReach trained supervisors, a professional service relied upon by many leading awarding organisations. This is quite different to other platforms where proctoring is often provided by a separate organisation to the remote assessment software provider. It leads to a smoother user experience and a higher level of security, as we remain in constant conversation to ensure no technical issues can have an affect on your assessments.
If you are interested to learn more about remote proctoring, the different approaches and considerations for this type of examination delivery download our free eBook here