Online Exams & Remote Proctoring: Let Technology Work for You in Any Landscape

by Sujatha Kumaraswamy - 19 October, 2020, 12:00 2849 Views 0 Comment

When the pandemic compelled a nationwide lockdown earlier this year, it was during a crucial time in most exam calendars – academic, government recruitment, and even organizational promotions. Almost all sectors reacted proactively to the crisis and swiftly advanced towards digital adoption. Working with the higher education ecosystem and governments, we had to immediately jump into action to ensure that our clients were not drastically impacted. From traditional exam centres to online, remote proctored exams, digital transformation progressed quickly and manifold. In fact, as of now, a majority of universities have scheduled or already completed online entrance and semester exams for their students successfully.

But, while many universities adopted online examinations, some high-end exams like NEET and JEE chose to hold traditional pen-and-paper exams. News of numerous candidates failing to appear for the exams by a few minutes even after travelling thousands of kilometers flooded news channels. These offline examinations amidst the pandemic have put governments and educational institutes in a dilemma. Should they risk the health of candidates, invigilators, and others by holding traditional classroom exams, or should they postpone exams and jeopardize the future of an entire generation? Despite the logistical nightmare, and even if organizers follow safety protocols and make proper arrangements at exam centres, the candidates and invigilators are still required to commute to the centre and that poses a major health risk. The third, and most logical option (especially given the circumstances), is to leverage technology for secure online exams and evaluation. Let’s have a look at how technology provides seamless exam solutions even in the most challenging geographical terrains.

The traditional pen and paper model of examinations can be radically transformed with the help of technology. In the past, we have seen numerous cases of question paper leaks and the prevalence of such malpractice can be eradicated with technology. With online exam solutions, question papers are uploaded to the exam platform in an encrypted format. The final question paper is selected by a randomized algorithm from diversified sets of questions and can be received by only one whitelisted system. Encrypted and stored on a secure cloud, the process gives access only to the controller of examinations who distributes it to the various examination centres right before the exam. This process also eliminates third party involvement in the process of drafting and delivering the question papers to the exam halls. The primary requirements for an online exam are a reliable internet connection and a compatible device connected to the internet with a webcam or front phone camera. The added benefit – neither candidates nor invigilators need to travel thousands of kilometers for an exam.

Like traditional exams, online exams are invigilated by professionally trained proctors (or invigilators) who can remotely proctor candidates giving a live exam. Advanced AI-based remote proctoring tools maintain the sanctity of exams by ruling out impersonators through biometrics, and by tracking the consistency of face, eye movement, voice, and background noise. Features like blocking virtual access, disabling Bluetooth devices, and toggling of browsers/screens ensure that honesty is maintained in exams. Webcam recordings and audio-video analytics keep the entire proctoring process authentic, precise, and safe. Remote screening and testing carried out by voice biometrics guarantees there is no misconduct during the exam. The accurate, efficient, and fool-proof nature of remote proctoring makes it most trustworthy for online examinations. After the exams, answer scripts are automatically uploaded to a secure cloud, evaluated online, and accurate results can be obtained in record time.

Rapid digital adoption due to the pandemic has given us a new perspective on India’s capability to digitally transform online exams. Online solutions not only make the exam process convenient, cost-effective, and time-saving, but the efficient design and delivery make exams accessible from even the most remote village or challenging terrains throughout the country.

While there are a few roadblocks ahead, such as lean IT infrastructure and internet connectivity, the development of digital infrastructure in India provides a promising outlook for quality, secure online exams, and recruitment solutions. The long-term benefits of using technology in examinations outweigh the short-term costs that are required to change the system. This revolution, though compelled by a pandemic, is our chance to make opportunities accessible to all our people, in all parts of our country.

Sujatha Kumaraswamy
Author is CEO, MeritTrac Services.

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