It is well recognized now that the advancement in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has greatly changed the teaching-learning process both at school and higher education level. ICT has not only changed the instructional system but the examination and evaluation system is also being influenced to a great extent. In the recent years several innovative initiatives have taken place in the field of examination and evaluation. Online assessment is now very common all over the world. Online examination make the assessments and evaluation system learner centric as it can be conducted when the candidate is ready, rather than at the convenience of the system.
In view of the fact that the learners learn at different paces, there is no reason, other than administrative convenience, to test them at a certain fixed interval in all courses simultaneously. However, now the use of ICT in the field of education has reduced this barrier of administrative inconvenience in making the examination system more flexible and learner oriented. In general, every student should be given a choice of taking exam as per their preparation. Moreover, at higher education level, particularly in open and distance learning system, a large number of learners are working or employed. A large number of such distance students do not get through because they do not get more than a week off before the exams- hardly sufficient time for preparation for all subjects. Allowing them, to appear in the examination as per their convenience and preparation would greatly enhance their performance. Allowing students to take more than two exams once-a-year would lead to a more learner-friendly system and would help in reducing the stress of the learners. In the long run, it becomes imperative that the system gradually moves toward ICT enabled online and/ or on-demand examination system.
Towards ICT Enabled Examination On-Demand
Normally, the examinations being institute centric are conducted in a fixed time frame and therefore many of the students appear without proper preparations which lead to the lower percentage of results in many subjects. Moreover, the faculty is also engaged most of the time in making arrangements for semester end examinations that consumes too much of their valuable time and energy which otherwise they could have effectively devoted to concentrate on academic matters. In view of today’s need of On-Demand Learning, it becomes imperative to make the examination system also more flexible and learner friendly. It is possible by using the ICT in evaluation system.
In India the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) at school level and IGNOU at Higher education level have very successfully implemented the scheme of On-Demand Examination which is basically a blend of ICT with the traditional system of examination. In this scheme individualized question papers are generated online on-the-spot just few minutes before the examination. This comprehensive ICT enabled system of examination has a number of benefits to the students:
- It provides opportunity to the learners to appear in the examination whenever they feel prepared for examination after completing the minimum eligibility criteria.
- It also helps in reducing the possibility of malpractices in the examinations as each student may get different set of question paper.
- It helps in minimizing the fear of failure in the examination and thus saving the distance learner from frustration and depression.
- May help in improving the pass percentage of students in the university by giving chance to really motivated and prepared students to appear in the examination.
- It can improve the reliability of examinations and make evaluation a continuous process,
- It can also reduce the load on the term end examinations of the University.
The OD-Exam software developed by the university takes care of almost all the aspects of examination starting from online registration to question paper generation, online delivery of the question paper and providing various types of information to the learners. It has basically three modules – On-line Registration module, Question Paper module, Regional Centre module. All the three modules are fully ICT based operated online and have multilayered security features, well defined accessibility and provisions for scalability. ICT enabled monitoring of the conduct of on-demand exam under web camera surveillance ensures fair and smooth conduct of OD-Exam.
This innovative and ICT enabled system of examination is quite flexible and independent of the traditional fixed time frame as the students need not to wait for the six monthly examination. It makes use of ICT to solve problems which arise due to human limitations; it makes possible instant generation of parallel question papers, and facilitates authorized data entry at different points, leaving no chance for human error. In fact is an ICT based initiative towards reforming the system of evaluation without abrupt changes. Some of the innovative features of the On-Demand Examination are as given below:
- The registration for On-Demand Exam is completely on-line. After ensuring the eligibility and receipt of registration fee, Hall Ticket indicating date & time is issued on-line.
- There is inbuilt mechanism for checking the authenticity of the student’s data, eligibility for the exam, validity of the admission etc. which insures that only genuine learners are benefitted.
- It has facility for multi mode registration–fee payment which includes on-line payment through credit card, through bank draft and cash challan.
- The entire scheme of ICT Enabled examination on-Demand is an objective, reliable, valid and practical system. It is safe and secured and truly transparent.
- It is not only simple and user friendly but it is also cost effective and saves time and effort in setting question papers, in data base management and in data transfer.
- It is capable of generating individualized question papers on the day of examination exam in encrypted form, picking up the questions randomly from the question bank as per the blue print & design.
- The question can be decrypted by the authorized person using a specific decryption software and unique key generated along with the question paper which is different for different Exam Centers. Moreover, the decrypted question papers cannot be saved in the hard disc of any system.
- Each question paper has unique bar code and a unique question paper code having date and time of generation with the help of which students’ question paper and answer sheet can be matched at any later instant, if required
- It has centralized control on the whole exam starting from the registration to the declaration of result.
- It has an inbuilt provision of backup of the data base such as question papers generated and printed, changes made in the data base etc.. Log files are created indicating the date, time and the IP address of the system from which the server is accessed.
In this context it is to mention that, a provision has been made in the software by which the information about the date, time, name of the question paper and the address of the computer from which the question paper is downloaded, is automatically received in the administrator server. Thus, there is a provision for checking the track of access of question papers.
Towards Instant Testing-Instant Result
Now when the learners want “instant testing-instant result”, the online examination and evaluation may be a viable solution. The higher education institutes, particularly the institutes holding entrance examinations have started using ICT for this purpose. The IGNOU has also developed a prototype of an online evaluation system called e-test. The back end operational strategy includes development of a multipurpose digital question bank, a portal for online registration, online generation of question paper, online evaluation and instant declaration of the result. For this purpose a specially designed multipurpose question bank having different types of questions are to be developed for different courses. The front end operational strategy includes online registration for e-test, instant generation of individualized & unique question papers, online examination and online instant evaluation and declaration of result.
This innovative scheme of online examination and evaluation is not only cost effective but highly learner friendly. Spontaneous generation of question paper online, immediate evaluation online and immediate transfer of student’s data and their records to the Evaluation Division saves time. Other innovative features of this scheme are as follows:
- Error free online database of the students registered and appeared,
- Immediate evaluation of the answers and instant declaration of result.
- Better quality of question paper with 100% objectivity.
- Individualized and unique question papers of comparable difficulty level
- No possibility of malpractices and use of unfair means during conduct of exam and evaluation of answer sheets.
- No possibility of leakage of question paper as the questions are generated instantaneously through random assortment and appear one by before the student,
In addition to the above, most of the administrative involvements such as setting up and printing of question papers, dispatch of question papers to the exam centers, fixation of exam centers, dispatch of answer books to the evaluation centers, deployment of observers, evaluation of answer books etc. are also reduced to a great extent. Thus, it will help to increase administrative efficiency. It also may reduce pressure on Term End Examination.
Normally the online examination systems have a Practice Module having interactive diagnostic feedback; an Assignment Module providing facility for online submission of assignments and instantaneous result along with feedback; a Testing Module for conducting online tests for the purpose of admission, certification, promotion and recruitment etc. with a facility of instantaneous, foolproof result and database updation. Such ICT enabled online examination systems help in making the evaluation system more flexible and learner friendly.
Multipurpose Digital Question Bank
For an effective teaching, learning and evaluation system, a variety of testing tools are to be developed on regular basis. But it has been found that the process of assignment preparation and question paper setting etc. is very tedious, time consuming and costly. Many a times it also becomes difficult to find the right experts at the right time. Moreover, with increasing number of students to be evaluated, increase in the frequency of the tests to be conducted and concern for the needs of human resource involved, an effective, objective, valid and reliable system of examination with least rigidity and maximum practicability is required. The solution of such issues lies in developing a multipurpose questions bank having a large number of different types of questions in digital form specifying different parameters of each question. A good question bank is basically a planned and systematic library of question items prepared by a group of subject experts for the multiple use by the students, teachers and evaluators for effective teaching-learning and evaluation purposes. Using ICT, digital question banks can be developed more conveniently in a cost effective way. Digitization of question bank can also result in significant savings in time, effort and financial resources required for setting the question papers and assignments,
A digital question bank can have multipurpose utility in teaching-learning and evaluation and can be used by the students, teachers and the institutes. Such banks allow a great deal of flexibility into assessment practices and distance teaching. The advantage of digital question bank is that the questions which work out well in practice can be reused in a number of different situations. In fact the proper utility of a question bank lies in its multiple applications for different purposes. Though, the concept of question bank was developed essentially to aid the evaluation process, it is useful not only to the examiners but also to the teachers and students as well. It can act as a neutral testing service helping teachers and examiners to solve some of the problems with large scale testing, it can help students and teachers to plan their teaching-learning process and the administrators to conduct relatively more efficient, more frequent and fair examinations. But it depends on how students, teachers, administrators and universities use the question bank.
Thus it can be said that with the use of ICT, the examination and evaluation system both at school and higher education level can be revamped to overcome the shortcomings of the traditional system of examination. It will not only make the evaluation system more transparent and student centric, but it will provide an opportunity to the students to appear in the examination as per their convenience and choice of date, time and place of examination. Many examining bodies are already using the ICT for both academic and administrative purposes in the field of examination and evaluation. But need is to intensify this effort in a collaborative manner.
By: Dr. Oum Prakash Sharma
Writer is Deputy Director of National Centre for Innovations in Distance Education, IGNOU, Maidan Garhi, New-Delhi-110068.