Secure Exams From Home To Complete The Cycle Of Online Education

Although learning has gone online, administering exams from home continues to pose a challenge.

COVID-19 has impacted all education institutions resulting in shortened academic cycles, operational interruptions, and more. With the recent UGC release of their latest guidelines on examinations and academic schedules, the full realization of the impact of the pandemic on the ecosystem is slowly unravelling. Under these circumstances, even if the academic year commences from August 2020, there exists a possibility of further disruptions. Hence, it is important that these interruptions should not further impact the academic cycle of Universities, which include the smooth conduct of examinations. Universities need a business continuity plan for such force majeure events. 

Educational Institutions have begun leveraging technology for teaching and learning from home. Although learning has gone online, administering exams from home continues to pose a challenge. Institutions have to make calibrated decisions before going ahead with exams from home. While computer-based online exams have been around for a long time, they have primarily been administered in tightly controlled on-premise environments where multiple levels of redundancy and security layers were built-in with on-site proctoring. 

Due to current situations, exams will need to be conducted from home using students’ Laptops, Desktops, or their smartphones, and even under limited Internet connectivity situations. Online exams rely solely on the internet for the successful delivery of exams. Right from login, submission of answers to remote proctoring - all functionalities are built on the premise that reliable internet connectivity will be available through the exam session. Reliable and stable internet connectivity in India is a challenge and only a very small percentage of the households have such connectivity for such high-stake events like online exams. Hence exam software applications that work with limited internet connectivity pre and post-exam and with limited or no connectivity during the exam session are the need of the hour. Students should ideally be able to log in, start, and finish their exam session without internet connectivity. Internet at best would only be required to download question papers and for upload of answers scripts. Both activities could be done a few hours pre and post-exam on the availability of reliable connectivity. Data security in disconnected mode can be ensured through advanced encryption mechanisms. This hybrid approach will ensure the smooth conduct of exams from home and will address the security concerns as well. 

To further secure the Exam Environment a 2-factor authentication needs to be part of the exam software application. A laptop camera and microphone can record the entire exam session. Post exam red-flagging can also be done on patterns of suspicious activity.  One can add advanced data encryption leading to zero tamperings of data and zero threat to question paper leakage. With data integrity validations at multiple levels, the exam software application provider must ensure that there is no compromise on security, even without continuous internet connectivity.  

One must also take into account exam-taking device disruption, where the provider of the exam product and service must enable that if there is a device issue the exam must resume with zero loss of data and time. Let’s not forget privacy concerns especially in India where large families stay in relatively smaller homes. Students in such an arrangement may not have the luxury of writing exams in a separate room. Thus exam software applications offering assessment solutions will need to be cognizant of this fact and make sure their solution works around the privacy concerns. 

Implementing innovative exam centric solutions that take into account the above, would ensure that examinations are conducted seamlessly and securely even at home thus ensuring no disruptions to the academic calendar.

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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