Guest Authors: Mr. Harsh Nagpal, Lead – Skills Enablers Business, TCS iON and Mr. Ankit Singh, Manager – Skills Enablers Business, TCS iON
The Indian education system is one of the largest in the world with more than 1.5 million schools with over 260 million students enrolled and about 800 universities and 39,000 colleges (Reference – Report – Educational Statistics at a Glance published by Ministry of Education 2021-2022). These numbers underline the importance of digital learning in India and the adoption of digital assessments, especially in today’s context.
Globally we have seen a pronounced trend towards digital learning. However, post-pandemic, there has been a major leap in the adoption of digital assessments as well. Even examinations such as GMAT have switched completely to the online mode. This would not have been possible if the processes for the online model were not already in place. And, it’s heartening to see that such changes have found greater acceptance in our community.
The use of an online test model by one of the largest testing agencies undoubtedly increases our confidence in authenticity, reliability and cost-effectiveness.
In India, TCS iON has been at the forefront of the phygital and digital assessments movement. Focusing on the robust tools and secured techniques used for credible digital assessments to complete this digital learning environment and ecosystem, TCS iON has been actively working with eminent organizations to implement digital assessment mechanisms within the larger education ecosystem.
Different Modes of Proctoring
In a conventional examination, a proctor is an individual who ensures identity verification of the test taker and that he/she doesn’t indulge in any unfair means to attempt the exam, prevents malpractices and maintains the sanctity of the exam environment. In the virtual world, proctoring involves:
- Human Proctoring – A proctor will keep an overall central eye on candidates appearing for assessments through integrated and enabled web cameras of the respective device. The system will capture the evidence in form of photos/short videos of test-takers during the entire assessment. Proctor will ask participants to produce a government ID card in front of the web camera to capture proof of it.
- Remote Proctoring – Test engine will keep an eye on candidates appearing for assessments through integrated and enabled web cameras of the respective device. The system will capture the evidence in the form of photos/short videos of test-takers during the entire assessment at regular time intervals. The participant has to produce a government ID card in front of the web camera to initiate the assessment and it can be used as proof of validation and evidence at a later stage.
- Digital AI-enabled Proctoring – Machine Learning and Artificial intelligence-enabled platforms derive intuitive alerts for better decision-making and malpractice score based on multiple parameters like – face detection, full-screen mode, webcam monitoring, violation scale, and image flagging. Alerts for any malpractice during the conduct of assessments can also get raised.
Potential risks in digital assessments and mitigation plans
There are risks involved and nothing is foolproof. However, with the advent of technology being at the forefront of technological advancements, many IT and EdTech organisations have developed strong systems and platforms with cutting-edge and immaculate algorithms with the help of AI, Machine Learning and Cybersecurity technology.
Here are some of the possible risks and their corresponding mitigations:
Risk 1: Candidate attempting to search for possible solutions on the internet
Mitigation: The assessment engine will not allow any participant to toggle out of the test engine system. In case a participant frequently attempts that, post one warning, the assessment will get terminated.
Risk 2: Candidate attempting to impersonate an identity
Mitigation: Human proctors can authorize the right candidate before initiating any assessment on the basis of the registration details provided and the government-approved ID card. The process gets recorded and is available in the report.
The AI-based system takes over the process and tracks the candidate throughout the assessment, raising the flag at every instance of unfair practice.
At the same time, human proctors continue to track the candidate by keeping an eye on the live video feed that is being streamed through webcams to ensure no malpractice is done. Human proctors have features like chat, pause, or even terminate the test of the candidate at any point in time.
The entire assessment gets video recorded and recoding is available for audit and future evidence.
Risk 3: Exposure to the question bank
Mitigation: Any test taker can’t take a screenshot from the assessment engine and in case tries to click the snapshot through any mobile, the webcam will capture it and the test can be stopped immediately.
Risk 4: Browsing other websites in an incognito window
Mitigation: Secure Browser (SB) is a locked-down browser that will not allow the candidate to browse through any other website. The only way to move out of the test window is by ending the test.
Risk 5: Candidate not present in front of the system
Mitigation: Notifications and alert flags get raised at every instance when the candidate is not present in front of the system. A screenshot of the candidate’s test screen is taken at this instance and kept as part of the record.
Advantages of adopting digital assessments
- Credibility: Preserves the value of the program and any malpractices. If we generally talk about any advanced robust test engine then we may roughly indicate that it will support 30 – 35 different types of questions. To name a few such as: case-based, simulation-based, attention to detail, game-based, match the columns, programming, typing, and voice-based. The advanced algorithms help in the randomisation of questions and even possible answer options in the case of MCQ questions. The advancement of technology and AI-enabled supervision will only make it more secure going forward. Gone are those days when we had to wait for results. With the advancement of publishing instant results, online assessments are considered highly credible.
- Cost-effectiveness: Saves money spent on physical infrastructure or commute time of the candidates. Wider use of online assessments provides the best solutions, especially for large-scale examinations in the shortest amount of time. Both the assessing organization and the test taker save money in terms of travel and utilization of physical infrastructure and human resources.
- Flexibility: Test anytime, anywhere, on any device. The most important value of an online assessment is its adaptability. These tests are easily customized and conducive to quick deployment. The test taker too can schedule it as per their convenience and can appear through any device from the comfort of their preferred location.
The way forward in digital assessments
With the dust settling on the Covid-19 pandemic and activities picking up at a rapid pace, the present context very appropriately provides an opportunity for all educational institutes to transform their current systems of online assessments. With the introduction of concepts like Metaverse, assessment platforms and their inherited technologies are evolving towards increased usage of gamified and simulation-based assessments. i.e., assessments should look like fun for participants.
Analytics and insights that are being captured based on participants’ responses are also driving an entirely new tangent and scientific way of developing a question bank which also includes policy for retiring and adding questions, defining the difficulty level of questions and item analysis. Now it is up to all of us to ensure that all modes of learning, skilling, and assessment of the future workforce are credible and forward-looking.
Inviting comments and suggestions from stalwarts in digital assessments space. Happy to connect for discussion