Imagine a scenario where you are appearing for an exam in the comfort of your home. Now imagine an invigilator standing right in front of you, scanning your every move, change in voice, posture, and even wandering of eyes. While the former is a dream of every student, the latter is a desire of educators. The two seem to strike a balance in the latest innovation called ‘take-home exams’ or exams from home.
While this has been practiced in certain countries, now Indian education and employment assessment institutes are inclined towards it due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Kashipur is among the first Indian institutes to have held take-home exams. GMAC is ready to conduct GMAT, a global competitive exam for admission to management courses, in a similar format. OP Jindal Global University has announced its entrance exams through AI-proctoring, besides Delhi Technical University which will hold its internal semester exams through this mode.
With the University Grants Commission (UGC) allowing higher education institutes to conduct exams online and in innovative ways, the take-home exams can be a huge relief for academicians but the major concern remains one of ensuring integrity. How can one ensure a candidate is not cheating? Here is an attempt to understand these exams:
How are online exams conducted?
These exams can be conducted digitally on any device available with the student, including the phone and laptop. One has to open the link at the assigned time. Just like physical exams, candidates have to open a link at a given time and after verification, the exam will start and end at the given time. The verification can include a scan of the face and even biometrics and digital signatures depending upon the need of the institute.
How to ensure anti-cheating?
An AI-assisted proctor is a software that is often powered by artificial intelligence (AI), which keeps an eye on a candidate. It can note a change in voice, implying a whisper on a phone or even detect a person sitting next to the examinee. In many cases, proctors will also ask the student for a 360-degree plan of the room before beginning the exam, depending on the sophistication of the software being used.
The innovation also has the ability to freeze the examinee’s computer or phone screen, which stops them from opening any other tab on the device. The high-end proctors have the ability to read the candidate’s eye movement, which means reading from another device or a book. Any gestures, movement of the body can be captured as well. In some cases, audio and video of the examinees are recorded. In case of any issue, a message is sent to the authorities.
Why is it not popular?
The core issue is of mindset and beliefs, says Sidharth Gupta, CEO, Mercer Mettl, an online talent assessment firm which has conducted online assessment and exams for the government of India’s digital literacy and skill training test besides for several reputed educational institutes.
“In academia, the adoption of innovation is slow. Online education and exams were not given due respect before the pandemic. While public institutes are comfortable with taking an exam on a computer, conducting them without human involvement is not accepted. We have been conducting computer-based tests or CBTs in India, but fully online exams are still looked at skeptically,” he commented during a conversation with indianexpress.com.
“When we pitch online examinations to institutes, they send their most senior faculty who try to cheat using different innovative methods – from use of chits to a Bluetooth device – during an online exam. The deal for many is that if you catch us cheating, we will consider you. It is still hard for academicians to believe that technology can catch cheating,” he remarked.
He added, “Cheating is a big problem even at test centres with the physical presence of invigilators, while it is hard for academicians to fathom what would happen without their presence. They overlook the power of focused AI-based surveillance.”
What about privacy?
Privacy and connectivity are among the key concerns for opting for completely digital exams, believes Srikant Ganesan, founder, and CEO of Littlemore Innovation Labs – a Singapore-based Ed-tech platform which also provides several digital examination solutions. “Of the nearly 400 million students in India, only a handful have the luxury of having an entire room to themselves for 2-3 hours to take an examination. For others, having a webcam and a recorder monitoring you and a third person remotely surveilling every move with your family being around you is a concern. Educational institutes are also very sensitive to this issue and have not opted for these exams at a very high scale.”
What about the infrastructure?
Another myth, pointed out Gupta, is the need for high-end infrastructure to conduct completely online exams. “There is a technology present in India which can run an online exam on any device from a phone to a tablet or a computer. It consumes very little bandwidth. The assessment can be done using software or it can even provide the answer scripts with end-to-end encryption to teachers as soon as the exam ends and they can evaluate digitally, as and when they want without being constantly connected to the internet,” he said.
Ganeshan claims that the new launch by his firm – ‘PEXA Lite’ can enable taking such exams in very low connectivity areas too. “Even in developed countries having continuous connectivity for a 2-3 hour period is a challenge. For such cases, there are many options available including digital open book exams where access to books is provided. One can download the software a couple of hours before the exam. In such cases, no other windows can be accessed during exam time. Further, the facility of capturing constant images and audios on a device constantly, which is monitored by the algorithm in case of discrepancy, are some options. Other options include post-exam analysis of candidates in case there is a change in behaviour or irregularity in marks obtained, etc.”
Online exams only for MCQ-type papers?
Gupta claims that there can be hundreds of formats in which these exams can be conducted, including descriptive papers. His firm claims to identify and provide over 26 different formats of questions digitally.