In 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak forced people into social isolation. Many colleges and universities closed down, switching to online teaching. A year later, not much has changed. While some institutions have adopted blended learning, many haven’t. The unpredictability of the coronavirus has made it difficult for universities to conduct offline classes.
In the midst of whether online or offline classes are better, another question has arisen: should universities conduct online exams? While making all students sit together in a room is still not considered safe, examinations cannot be eliminated. They are a crucial part of a student’s education journey and help assess their understanding of a subject.
This is the prime reason that organizations are realizing the benefits of online examination systems. They ensure the continuity of educational processes and empower administrators and teachers to conduct online tests in an objective manner.
Benefits of Online Examinations
To avoid in-person contact and prevent the spread of COVID-19, some institutions have chosen to conduct their exams online. While online examinations are still new for Indian universities, which have relied on paper-based evaluations, there are several advantages to it. Many state-of-the-art online examination software providers such as ExamOnline have been helping universities implement virtual exams successfully by setting up a structured framework.
So let’s dive in and understand why online examinations are the need of the hour.
1. Environment Friendly
First, online examinations are environment-friendly. Unlike pen-and-paper tests that require institutions to print numerous question papers and answer sheets, online exams require no such thing. The only thing that is required is a computer or laptop and a stable internet connection.
2. Reduce Wastage
Moreover, paper-based examinations can lead to a lot of wastage if there are any printing errors. As a result, all the question papers need to be discarded, and new ones need to be printed.
3. Save Time
The third advantage of online examinations is that they save time. In paper-based exams, students are required to travel to an examination center, where they are given the question papers followed by the collection of the answer sheets once the exam duration gets over. In addition, these examinations also require one or two invigilators to prevent cheating.
With online exam software, such logistical issues are eliminated. Students are usually not required to arrive at an examination hall, and no invigilators are needed. Moreover, since many online exams use auto-grading, teachers do not have to spend hours grading answer sheets.
Besides, running an online examination allows you to lock screens, preventing students from any scope of cheating.
Another advantage of online assessments, however, is that they are quite convenient. Examiners can set the papers by selecting questions from question banks and a database of previous year’s question papers at random. This helps eliminate the chances of cheating, as students do not know what kind of questions would be asked during the assessment. Moreover, examiners only need to upload the question paper right before the exam starts, rather than printing numerous copies.
In addition, students can get their results sooner with online examinations since many of them are auto-graded. This is particularly useful for students who are in their final year of university and are applying for jobs or graduate programs and require transcripts as proof of education.
6. Improved Assessment
The most significant benefit of conducting online examinations is that it helps better assess the student’s knowledge of a subject. In a country like India, where rote learning is emphasized in both schools and colleges, online exams go a long way in eliminating this practice.
Unlike in-person exams, which have a limited duration, online exams are flexible. Examiners can upload the question paper and give students a day, or even 2-3 days to complete. This provides teachers the liberty to ask questions that test the analytical abilities of their students, who are expected to consult existing literature and readings that have been prescribed for the course.
7. No Limit on Number of Students
During offline exams, only a few students can sit in a classroom or examination hall. With online examinations, however, there are no restrictions on the number of students who can appear for the exam. Be it 50 or 100, all the students can take the exam simultaneously due to no location constraints.
Criticism Against Online Examinations
There are several arguments against the implementation of online examinations.
Lack of Internet Connection
Critics have pointed out that it leaves students who lack an internet connection at a disadvantage. In addition, students who do not own a computer or a laptop may be unable to sit for online assessments, causing their education to suffer.
In India, the internet is still not accessible to many. With universities switching to online teaching modes, many students have been unable to continue their education. Some students were even forced to drop out due to the absence of internet connectivity.
Leads to Cheating
Another criticism against online examinations has been that it would increase cheating. Due to the absence of proctoring, universities are worried that students would discuss questions among themselves and copy answers. However, the concern mainly emerges due to the system by which we assess the students as modern software solutions such as ExamOnline have a range of advanced remote proctoring features.
Advanced Proctoring Features of ExamOnline
Examinations in India have been known for rewarding rote learning and memorization. There are several exam guides and question banks that students use to memorize answers and cheat during tests by carrying scraps of paper. By evaluating students on what they have understood rather than what they have memorized, universities can minimize cheating.
Not All Students Would be Comfortable
One of the biggest advantages of digital learning is that students can study from the comforts of their homes. However, those who don’t have proper study spaces may not find online learning a pleasant experience. Shortage of space at home and a lack of privacy can pose difficulties in studying and giving exams online.
Another issue with online examinations arises when students don’t have their personal devices. If, in a family, a single mobile device or a computer is shared among two or more people, students are left at a disadvantage. They then have to adjust their device usage time according to other people, causing them to miss lectures or submit their exams on time.
Difficult to Grade Long Answers
Although online exams boast of auto-grading features, it is only useful when the questions are objective. In the case of subjective questions, examiners need to read all the answers carefully. This leads to a delay in the grading process.
What Does a Successful Online Examination Model Look Like?
To implement a successful online examination model in India, institutions need to start testing students on their critical thinking abilities. Due to the time duration flexibility, examiners can evaluate students on concepts rather than on rote learning.
Furthermore, exams can include multiple-choice questions to assess student’s knowledge. These questions can be attempted even from a mobile phone. Examiners can also conduct viva-voce over WhatsApp video calls, making it convenient for students who do not have a computer or laptop.
Take-home exams are another option for institutions looking to conduct online examinations. Students can be given a few hours or a few days to solve a question, which can then be submitted online. For such exams, universities can provide the option to give the exam from home or at an examination center. Students who have a stable internet connection and a desktop can attempt the exam at home, while those who don’t can go to an examination center.
To reduce cheating among students, assessments can include questions that are not direct. In other words, exams should ask questions whose answers require thinking rather than just copying from books or the internet.
Additionally, universities can impose penalties to minimize the chances of cheating. For instance, they can request students sign a declaration of originality before accessing the question paper or submitting their answers. If the university finds that students have discussed the questions during the exam or copied answers, a lower grading could be awarded to them.
Online assessments existed before the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to do so even in the future. ExamOnline has successfully conducted online examinations for Universities such as Madan Mohan Malviya University of Technology since 2009 – a technology that was still developing at that time. The SBI Promotion Exam was conducted by ExamOnline in 2011 in 14 Countries simultaneously in a seamless and structured manner. A market leader in the domain of conducting online examinations, investing in a platform such as ExamOnline is a sureshot way to conduct virtual assessments objectively.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a disruption in our education system. Traditional teaching and assessment methods need to be re-evaluated as the world rapidly moves towards digitization.
Online examination software is being developed to make it easy for schools and universities to conduct online examinations. It provides cloud-based solutions where corporations, educational institutions, and government agencies can create and assign tests, distribute instructional materials, and generate custom reports. Most modern solutions such as ExamOnline even provide tools to identify and prevent potential cheating.
While universities such as the University of Calcutta and the University of Delhi have given students the option to either give in-person or online exams, the benefits of the latter far outweigh its costs. And it won’t be long till more universities adopt online examinations in the future.