COVID Spikes Online Examination Fever; Proctoring Tools Could Be The Solution

No one really knows how long the Social Distancing Norms will be followed across the country but as long as it in force, Internet-based online exams with a proctoring solution will become the standard.

WFH; that ubiquitous terminology that precedes everything we do today has set in motion a complete overhaul of the way we have viewed the work environment. And as a corollary, everything else too.  

The term ‘assessments’ has been broadened to include examinations, registrations, signups, verifications, interviews and even, project presentations. Essentially, what happened in the meeting rooms is now happening across several connected rooms. 

The online model of the examination was always a revenue generator but pales in comparison to the traditional Distributed Computer-based exams that are conducted in India for High Stake assessments, which run in Crores in terms of exam takers and generate revenues in the range of thousands of crores of rupees. 

Now, that argument has been rekindled with the entry of Proctoring tools. So what exactly is a Proctoring tool; or in the industry terminology, an application. A proctoring tool uses Augment reality and machine learning to verify candidates from the first point of entry; the application for the examination. By using a combination of AI and ML, the tool creates a profile of the candidate that is then the classifying criteria for the candidate. Any departure like a different face profile, a differing signature, a different location of entry is waved off red flags and alerts the owner of the examination to call for additional verification tools to substantiate the genuineness of the candidate. In some cases, this had led to the visibility of nefarious activities and automatic suspension of the candidate. These tools remove the guesswork out of the system and have returned very high qualification metrics in multiple examinations so far. 

The Exam delivery industry has been dominated by a few large players in the industry which muscled their way in with their revenue figures and their experience in the space into an RFP. New players did emerge but had to keep themselves restricted to smaller scales and fringe-level exams, owing lacking the two credentials that the older players possessed. With the shift to Online Proctored exams, many of these smaller but ambitious players have received a shot in the arm. 

It was quite evident that the best of solutions probably had not reached the market till date thanks to the owners of the Intellectual Property not achieving scale in terms of Exam Centres, whether owned, leased or rented and the associated cost of the humungous bench strength to deliver these exams. However, the return of the Internet-based online exams with proctoring solutions has completely taken the requirement of Exam Centres and the Manpower onto to different plane. Many of the traditional players who boasted of incredible numbers on the above 2 fronts are forced to deliver the exams using a medium which provides everyone a level playing field irrespective of their revenue figure or manpower strength. This shift in the modus operandi has certainly given an opportunity to many of these smaller players to join the big league and register their presence. It has also given them a medium to showcase some of the amazing solutions that they have and eventually help the end-user. 

No one really knows how long the Social Distancing Norms will be followed across the country but as long as it in force, Internet-based online exams with a proctoring solution will become the standard for online exams and in event of  organizations/institutions being bold enough, this could well be the future of a pan-geography online exam landscape.  

However, one worrying aspect of this entire situation triggered by COVID has been the rush, moreover the reactive approach of many industry players to launch System driven AI/ML-based Proctoring solutions. It is obvious that many of the players have just rushed to the market with half-baked solutions which haven’t gone through a proper development cycle and have not been beta-tested on a sizeable population to be released for a larger exam-taking audience. The result of such sub-standard solutions is quite certain and it will lead to large scale failure and finally end in Institutions/organizations losing faith in the very concept of Internet-Based Online exams with Proctoring Solutions. 

It might be the right time for the Institutions and organizations to insist on proctoring tools that have excellent end-user feedback and has stood the test of large scale implementation to be part of the overall ecosystem being offered by any online assessment service provider. This could also have a domino effect on product innovation, both inhouse and externally. A word of caution; history has shown that quite often, two best of breed players are better than somebody who has developed the entire solution inhouse. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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