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Developing secure online exam capability

22 June, 2018 | by Dr Samar Zutshi

Institutions that need to administer high stakes exams for a geographically-dispersed student cohort can benefit from developing the capability necessary to deliver online exams.

This is something I’ve addressed in a new white paper for OES, ‘Developing secure online exam capability’, as a starting point for others to consider online exam capability holistically and to discuss how to develop it.

The significant growth in online and distance learning has come with the opportunity to design and create more authentic assessments but has also raised the need for secure and user-friendly online assessments.

There are several technology vendors providing related solutions, but an institution needs to build significant capability internally to work with them and successfully execute online exam pilots and transition to large-scale rollout.

Since 2014, OES has piloted and scaled up the delivery of secure online exams. Beginning with a small pilot of fewer than 100 sessions, OES has gradually scaled up to delivering more than 5,000 online exam sessions in 2017 in collaboration with a university partner and technology providers.

Though this experience, OES experts have learned that for an institution to be able to deliver secure online exams without compromising the user experience, capability needs to be developed across a number of dimensions.

As the paper outlines in detail, this includes:

1. Assessment digitisation: the capability to convert exam content such as a paper-based multiple choice into an online format.

2. Proctoring or Invigilation: the ability to supervise a student taking an exam in a location of their choice by connecting to their computer, viewing what happens on their screen and monitoring their activity via a web camera.

3. Integrated student support: the creation of an integrated student support capability means establishing and maintaining support materials and channels for the students and staff involved, and iteratively refining them from one exam period to the next.

We’ve also compared and contrasted organising large-scale geographically-dispersed online exams and face-to-face exams from the point of view of security.

There is a case to demonstrate that online exams can provide a level of security that is comparable to (and in some aspects superior to) those of face-to-face exams.

If institutions proceed to develop the capability outlined and make considered security decisions, then online exams can offer a valuable complement to an institution’s assessment portfolio. OES can work closely with partner institutions to help them fast track their own secure online exam capability as part of their end to end solutions for online learning.

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