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“Innovation opportunities do not come with the tempest but with the rustling of the breeze” Peter Drucker
9 October 2020

“Innovation opportunities do not come with the tempest but with the rustling of the breeze” Peter Drucker

September 2020 marked the first time the PMI has offered a large scale online exam with its Certificate in Pensions Calculations, traditionally a paper-based exam, moving into the digital world across all of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Approximately 700 learners participated in the series of exams over the month.

We are pleased to share that the administration was a logistical success. In fact, Calibrand, the PMI’s exam delivery partner, has reported that the exam was their most successful remote proctoring administration to date, with only approximately 4 percent of candidates experiencing technical difficulties. The PMI has communicated with candidates who experienced technical issues on exam day and have resolved the situation or is working with each of them to reschedule their exam at their earliest convenience.

Forced into a snap transition into online teaching by the coronavirus pandemic, most people in the sector dismissed remote assessment as another unwanted and necessary evil. But the PMI predicts that many will be pleasantly surprised by the results of the shift, while providing the benefits of a more progressive view of assessment methodology.

With this expedited changeover to distance/online examinations it is proposed that all assessment is now conducted remotely, across all of its qualifications. While the capability has helped it manage the coronavirus, the PMI says this has not been the main benefit.

The benefit to the PMI has been the operation and turnaround of processes, with the ability for a ‘cleaner and more efficient’ delivery model. We have to look holistically at assessments. Will learners learn what they need to learn? And can we gauge their abilities? That’s what’s important. The situation has forced us to think ‘what is learning about?’ It is not always about a paper and pencil exam.

In terms of operation, the PMI initially considered high-tech solutions such as close monitoring of learners via live cams, but decided not to go down that route in all cases, as it was not practical. Instead, they opted for a combination of live invigilation, by individual and group, and by recorded invigilation (with an emphasis of more moderation of results).

The PMI’s remote exams boast high-tech features including two-factor authentication and tracking. If participants are constantly looking at the ceiling or to the side of the screen, that’s telling the examiners that there might be notes plastered there. My suggestion is that the assurance of academic integrity via virtual proctoring, if you consider the use of electronics, and one or maybe two people randomly walking across an examination venue/hall, is better than you would get in an paper-based examination type of situation.

Incidences of ‘low-level cheating’ such as learners having textbooks/ study materials on hand, was likely to rise in online exam settings, but such problems were easily nipped in the bud, as learners were noticed and the remote invigilator just asked them to put it away, rather than have an academic misconduct case later on. This was very rare, and in 99% of cases learners maintained the integrity of the exam. In cases where the outcome was necessary to review, because of suspected assistance or cheating, then this was picked up through moderation.

For its exams-on-demand model, the PMI uses regularly updated question banks to guard against learners informing each other about exam content. Not every examination gets the same questions every time, they’re assessed against the same skills, but there are subtle and sometimes dramatic differences.

This seems a more direct and universally accepted method of assessment and we will look at using this more across all examinations . What was a distinct advantage was that learners had a chance to practise with the technology first. This alleviated a lot of the stress of the exam situation. With the value of hindsight we can now see that this had a positive impact on the emotional reactions of learners and their anxieties. The PMI shares the success of this exam administration with all of our Certificate in Pensions Calculations learners, who have remained patient and adaptable through these challenging times.

A big thank you goes to the fantastic team of Vanessa, James, Alim, Kumba and Rapinder, who deserve all of the credit for the outstanding work in producing and delivering these exams, under what can only be described as very challenging, pressurised and sometimes quite difficult times.

We will maintain our focus of finding innovative ways to deliver the examinations we offer, and continually expand our provision to meet the market needs.

Notes/Sources

This article was featured in Pensions Aspects magazine October edition

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Last update: 27 January 2021

Dr. Keith Hoodless
Dr. Keith Hoodless
PMI
Director of Qualifications and Lifelong Learning

Client Director, Trustee Executive

Salary: £80000 - £130000 pa

Location: Work from home, with travel to client meetings/office as required

Senior DB Pensions Technical Admin., 2-3 days from home

Salary: £25000 - £38000 pa

Location: East Sussex, 2-3 days work from home

Pension Administrator (Hybrid Flexible Working Option)

Salary: £27000 pa

Location: South Yorkshire (with Hybrid Flexible Working Option)

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