ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance, and management. Recently, ACCA introduced new flexibility for its students around the world to enable them to take their exams at home or in another location in circumstances where centre-based exam sittings are disrupted. In an interaction with Higher Education Digest, Mohammed Sajid Khan, Head of International Development at ACCA, talks about how they have moved to a virtual platform by offering flexibility for ACCA students in India.
How has been the response from students when ACCA moved to a virtual platform to conduct the exams?
ACCA prides itself on being ‘agile’, and at a time like this when the world is dealing with a global pandemic, we have all had to adapt and make necessary changes in our lives. Remote invigilation is something ACCA introduced this summer for both our on-demand and session-based exams, as we have recognised the disruption and frustration students have faced as a result of exam cancellations – with many students eager to progress.
In India specifically, remotely invigilated exams were introduced in June 2020 for the Knowledge level. We received very encouraging feedback from the students who highly praised the agility and adaptability of ACCA towards exam innovations. As a result, knowledge level students were able to attempt exams from home amidst lockdown. In September 2020, we will be launching remote invigilation for applied skills and strategic professional.
School and colleges closures have brought online learning providers into the spotlight. In this scenario, what are the benefits of administering exams at student homes? How can it augment the efficiency of online learning programs?
For all of our exams taken remotely, this new, innovative development has enabled students to take their exams at home or in another location where centre-based exam sittings have been disrupted. It has worked as a rigorous contingency measure. ACCA has used world-leading partners in the field and the latest invigilation software to ensure its exams have the same security, rigour and integrity worldwide – irrespective of a students’ location. So, if a centre has to close due to health and safety concerns, students have the opportunity to continue their exam journey with us.
In your opinion, how has Computer-Based Testing evolved in India over the last few years?
Historically India has primarily followed a paper-based exam approach. However, in recent years, the usage of computer-based exams has caught up very well. From an ACCA perspective, we launched our computer-based exams in India in the year 2016 and have received excellent feedback from the industry and students alike. ACCA is a first-mover when it comes to tech, as we were the first accountancy body to launch a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in 2015, called ACCA-X. It includes multi-award-winning online courses developed by ACCA, to help learners all over the world develop accountancy and business skills.
As the global body for professional accountants, how is ACCA looking at the possibilities of administering exams from home?
Given the pandemic, we knew we had to act quickly to respond to the crisis and were able to move swiftly to introduce remote invigilation for our On-Demand exams.
In truth, we had started looking at this back in 2019, but we did not think we would be implementing it quite so quickly.
Under remote invigilation, exams are taken online and supervised remotely by a live invigilator. There is a thorough system of checks involving biometrics, artificial intelligence, and recording – rigour, security, and integrity are paramount.
Students can sit remotely invigilated exams for the On-Demand suite – that’s all Foundation and Applied Knowledge exams. And for the majority of our Applied Skills and Strategic Professional exams in India, we’re able to offer students the opportunity to take their September session exams remotely where exam centres have been cancelled. It is really important to us in ACCA to ensure we get it right so that students will be able to take their exams at home or in another location.
We began our remote invigilation of these On-Demand exams on the 11 June. We limited the number of students in that first week to ensure everything would run smoothly.
Following the soft launch, we opened exam entry on the 18 June to eligible students who could book exams from 25 June, and since then we have seen the booking numbers growing daily.
We believe that this is already making a huge difference to students where centre-based exam sittings have been cancelled. It means they can continue their ACCA journey at a time when some exam centres are still unable to open due to Covid-19.
Cheating can occur in several ways, both before and during an exam. What are the efforts from ACCA to control examination fraud?
Maintaining the security of our exams is always a top priority. Our remote exams are remotely invigilated, viewed on-screen by an invigilator at all times, and are as secure and rigorous as our centre-based exams. For example, the exam rules and regulations require students to go through the same ID checks as they would do so at a centre and there are clear exam regulations regarding what students are allowed in their desk environment.
Is Computer-Based Testing set to revamp the overall Higher Education Sector? What should be the focus of Indian education institutions in terms of Computer-Based Testing?
The current pandemic has accelerated a digital adoption which is transforming the way educational institutions operate. It has not only changed the way education is being delivered but also how it is being assessed. As a step in this direction, institutions should focus on investing in reliable and innovative technological solutions which offer security and integrity while ensuring student progression.
As organisations are ready to invest in the workforce to make them skilled through convenient Computer-Based Testing, what is your advice to the people who are still sceptical on “exam -from – home” services?
Do not be afraid to embrace change and new technology. We are in unchartered waters for the foreseeable future, so it makes sense to invest in innovative technology solutions to enable students to progress in their development with minimal disruption to their studies. Our remote exams are contingency options for those students unable to take exams at exam centres, but we are continually looking ahead to the future of exam delivery and will continue to do so.