Best practices for a successful e-exam

Last year (2020) confinement has enabled academic teams and students to make a great leap in the ownership of e-exam solutions. As a time accelerator, it has certainly revealed organizational difficulties but has above all brought out good practices. TestWe offers a simple, secure and offline solution to help its partner institutions optimize their evaluation processes, both in remote and in-class environments. 

As a pioneer innovator in this field, TestWe has recently published a white paper in which the company tackles the best practices for a successful e-exam. In this first article, TestWe emphasizes what a remote-controlled e-exam is and highlights the challenges faced by institutions and graduates. It also approaches the sensitive issue of fraud and the technical means available to reduce it

What is a monitored e-exam?

The e-exam is an online assessment, which can be taken remotely or not. The student takes the assessment on a computer, it could be from the classroom, home or another remote location, using a secure platform to reduce the risk of cheating and fraud.

Online assessments can be conducted synchronously or asynchronously. In the first case, the monitoring is done by a person in real time, while in the second case, photo, audio and video capture via the user’s webcam allow later monitoring.

The source of e-exams is not so new, as many institutions around the world are already using them. Just like open distance learning courses (MOOCs) or online library resources, e-exams are part of the tools that many universities have implemented as part of their digital transition.

The e-exam system meets an obligation to conduct the exams online during  the pandemic, while minimizing the risk of cheating. This was a risk related to confinement, but one that proved to be well founded. We also had a dual semester format that allowed student volunteers to continue their semester in distance learning. This option was favored by the majority of our International students and/or those living abroad or in the provinces.

Director of Studies of the ESSEC GLOBAL BBA

How can we ensure that an evaluation is properly conducted?

The e-exam has already been tested for several years. Since 2015, many Erasmus students have already tested the OLS (Online Linguistic Support) platform set up by the European Commission. The reason is simple.

The key issues for the institutions: innovation, recognition and competitiveness

For institutions, this shows a certain capacity to evolve their teaching practices while taking into account the internationalization of their students who increasingly carry out their internships abroad and who can hardly return to their institution for the end-of-semester evaluations. 

The proper conduct of examinations is also critical for the notoriety and competitiveness of institutions. Schools and universities, as they guarantee the excellence of their teaching, must be able to guarantee that examinations are conducted in a secure and verified way, both in-class and distance learning.

Challenges for graduates: skills recognition

The diploma or certification remains a common reference for graduates as well as companies recruiting them. They are a recognized proof of the skills and knowledge acquired during their training. But in the context of the health crisis, students fear that their training will be devalued on the job market because of the postponement (or cancellation) of internships and the organization of exams under unusual conditions. Once again, by ensuring that evaluations are held under secure conditions, their credibility remains intact.

“Doing nothing is not an option” 

For our institution, there is an issue of fairness and maintaining the value of the grades awarded to students. Too much cheating poses a significant risk to the reputation of the program and the entire institution: identity fraud that discredits all the pedagogical efforts of faculty to adapt exam formats; information sharing fraud during the exam that calls into question the value of the grades awarded, the resulting rankings, and all the associated processes (such as exchange assignments, inter-campus mobility, the Dean’s list etc).”

Director of Studies ESSEC Global BBA

Is cheating inevitable?

Everyone agrees that cheating is as old as the exams, even if the heads of institutions minimize this scourge. Today, the number of student cheaters is estimated at 1/3. But with the development of technology, fraud has evolved and so have the means to prevent it.

The technological response and its limits

In asynchronous mode, evaluations require specific technical devices to ensure their monitoring. For example, taking a picture of the student allows us to confirm the correct identity of the student, while audio recording ensures an environment conducive to concentration, without the help of an external person (who could whisper the answers). 

In all cases, however, it is important to take into account and adjust the monitoring technique to the national regulations on personal data protection.

The pedagogical response, the best solution to cheating

In spite of the technological means available today, one of the most effective ways of countering cheating is to choose forms of evaluation that avoid cheating: drawing lots for subjects, limiting the time for answering MCQs, encouraging collaborative work, and valorizing know-how with the new digital tools. This rather pedagogical response must, however, be part of a common desire on the part of the institution and its teachers to review their way of evaluating and testing knowledge.

What exams in 10 years?

It is hard to imagine that we will still have “paper” exams in a decade. Online solutions and digital exams seem to be well on their way to becoming a permanent fixture, as the use of computers spreads in lecture halls and classrooms.  By providing the equipment or allowing everyone to use their own equipment (via BYOD “bring your own device” initiatives), the issue of the digital divide should no longer be an obstacle to the development of dematerialized exams. Especially since educational managers are well aware that face-to-face and distance learning will coexist. 

Starting to set up e-exams, whether or not they are monitored remotely, as soon as possible seems to be the best option to deal with all future situations and to improve the knowledge assessment process. And there is no doubt that the institutions that have adapted the best will benefit the most in the long run, in terms of notoriety, International rankings recognition, and preparing students for professional life.

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