They say that necessity is the mother of invention. This is never truer than with the case of online examinations. Our qualifications at the PMI rely on summative assessments for progression and these summative assessments are in the form of an end type of exam.
The unprecedented lockdown due to Covid-19 has taken away the wind from the sails of the conventional education system and the type of exams we offer. Learners have been confined to their homes for large swathes of this pandemic, and as a result, paper and pen exams in a traditional examination setting are no longer feasible.
The uncertainty associated with the tenure of the lockdown and postponement or cancellation of large numbers of exams across the industry has threatened the progress of thousands of learners enrolled in our education programmes/qualifications. The direct impact of this delay is on the learner, but the indirect impact is much larger, as it disrupts the well-oiled supply chain of qualified people that are required to fuel the growth of the (pensions) sector.
It is quite paradoxical to note that many competitive examinations of international status have gone online and from home, and some time ago, but the PMI found it difficult to adapt when the same understanding was applied to their own examinations.
We do understand there are direct and real reasons for uneasiness because the present situation is complex and demands that the online exams be administered in a manner that can be taken by the learners from their home, which in itself creates part of the main problem.
What happens if there is a power blackout or the connectivity to the internet is lost?
Power blackouts and connectivity failures are realities that we cannot ignore. However, the risks associated with the same are easily mitigated by configuring such exams to maintain the last state of the machine and resume the exam when power or connectivity is restored. We will always work with a learner when this happens, as it is something we need to resolve together, as it is neither of our faults.
In the post Covid-19 era, social distancing is going to be the new normal. We may lose
the convenience of organising exams in venues that can accommodate many learners. The availability of examination venues may become a scarcity in the coming weeks, months, years and to overcome this, there may have to be an increase in the frequency for examinations (therefore increasing a more flexible approach).
There are also specific and identifiable advantages to examining online for both the PMI and the learner, these being:
- Automatic marking of multiple-choice questions and some other types of questions can reduce the burden of assessment considerably and can eliminate the occurrence of errors in assessment.
- Preventing impersonification, in other words ensuring that the paper is answered by the registered/actual learner and not anyone else is also well addressed by technology. Applying two/three-factor authentication, the same mechanics used in online banking applied to examinations eradicates fraudulent submissions. Our approach to e-proctoring allows for this.
- The online examination system also offers multiple solutions to help differently-abled persons to write examinations along with the peer group in the batch. Questions could be read out by the machine and answers can be captured by voice files or replace the actual need for a reader or scribe to increase the levels of equality and diversity.
- Last but the most significant, saving of paper, resources spent on transporting and logistics for delivering exams the conventional way and the subsequent resources spent for assessing the answer sheets is not only more convenient, it also mitigates the risk of paper leakage substantially. Not to forget the reduced time in delivering examinations and its associated logistics can reduce the stress on the learners and help in declaring the results in a better time.
Most of the world has been moving online for the last ten years, the pandemic has brought this ‘new’ technology that was waiting around the corner, kicking and screaming into the daylight.
We are still learning, but learning quickly, online examinations are here to stay for the PMI and enhance the agenda we announced in January of 2020 by becoming ‘digital by default’.
We value all of our learners, and the commitment they show to taking our exams, we will always strive to produce exams and offer certification in a way that puts their needs first.
Last update: 24 November 2020
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