Editorial Team

Mercer | Mettl, a global leader in online talent assessments and remotely proctored examinations, has recently launched its annual ‘The State of Online Examinations 2021 Report’. The report outlines the impact of COVID-19 on examinations and the education sector’s pivot towards the digital ecosystem in the past 15 months. Over 650 respondents, including deans, HODs, professors, and other influential decision-makers, from over 150 educational institutions from across 18 countries, participated in the survey, lending the report unmatched credibility. The document assesses the pandemic’s impact on examination continuity and how it has catalysed tech adoption, besides its seminal role in shaping the future of examination in 2021 and beyond.

The second-in-the-series annual report indicates a massive and never-before shift towards the online ecosystem after the pandemic set in, with 56% of those surveyed employing online examination platforms after March 2020. The finding is in sharp contrast to the massive preference for traditional, center-based exams among educational institutions in the pre-pandemic era, as 56% of those surveyed report having never conducted online examinations before the pandemic. This overwhelming dependence on traditional means has likely contributed to academia’s challenge in transitioning ‘online.’

The numbers indicate a broad-based and swift acceptance of digital assessment tools, highlighting the education sector’s readiness to adopt and leverage technology to offer exams. The shift from most respondents reporting no exposure to digital evaluation platforms in the pre-pandemic era to them reporting high satisfaction levels now validates the quality of platforms and proctoring technologies available on the market.

Almost 6 out of 10 respondents (57%) cite cheating as their primary concern in offering online examinations, suggesting that providing tests with integrity and in a sanitised environment takes precedence for academia over all else. Interestingly, cheating had also topped the list of concerns in the previous version of this annual report (2020). This revelation is a direct message to service providers to enhance their platforms’ anti-cheating proficiencies to assuage educational institutions’ many real and perceived concerns in shifting examinations to the virtual model.

Universities and colleges have also posed a substantial wish list of features and services. For example, almost 7 out of 10 respondents expect better mechanisms from online exam service providers to clamp down on cheating to ensure cheating-free virtual examinations, followed by 62% who expect enhanced ability to stage multiple types of exams (MCQs, descriptive, diagram type, etc.). The numbers indicate that universities and colleges are keen on using online platforms and will offer directional cues to service providers to improve their offerings. There seems a symphony in play.

On the launch of the report, Siddhartha Gupta, CEO, Mercer | Mettl, said, “Education and examination practices have undergone tectonic shifts in the past 15 months of the pandemic. The State of Online Examinations 2021 report details how even being a late entrant, the education sector has exhibited tremendous resilience and willingness to move to the online ecosystem and adopt futuristic methods of education and examination. I expect the report to encourage educational institutions to consider innovative approaches to examination in 2021 and beyond. The onus is on leaders, equally in the education and Edutech sectors, to ensure that they sustain these hard-fought gains made during the pandemic. They must ensure mainstreaming tech adoption and insulate the education ecosystem from current and unforeseen disruptions.”

The survey’s findings emphasise how an overwhelming three-fourths (76%) of respondents confirmed to online exam service providers meeting nearly all their exam-related requirements, with some areas of improvement. A fact demonstrated by 64% of respondents reporting the use of online exam platforms to conduct semester exams for final year students, mainly to help them obtain their degrees and aid employment opportunities. Semester exams for non-final year students was also a focus area, with 53% of respondents voting it as their priority.

Most respondents report setting up or designing question papers for diverse subjects as the most prominent benefit of using online examination platforms, compared to giving offline exams. Over 46% of respondents listed it as their foremost preference, followed by exam evaluation and the grading process, highlighted by around 42% of those surveyed. The report underlines how online examination platforms enabled universities and colleges to offer exams for various subjects, pose diverse question types, including subjective, graph-type, and multiple-choice questions.

The pricing of online examination platforms is also not a concern for most respondents. Over 64% of them report that they cost less or invariably the same as hosting offline, center-based exams.

With a mix of remote online exams and traditional center-based tests, the hybrid model of exams is the way forward in 2021 and beyond, according to 63% of educational institutions participating in the survey. To sum up, the education sector is now much better placed to conduct online exams, having acquired the desired proficiency, awareness, and prerequisites to offer all kinds of assessments.

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