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3 ways to get started with Online Exams

Universities are now aware of the many benefits of moving to Online Exams. The challenge is how to get started. The delta between the ‘as is’ and ‘to be’ process can seem so large — all the while business-as-usual activities need to be supported. Like any summit, there are multiple paths to the top, and no-one makes it in a single bound. Here are three ways to get started on your journey…

1. Authoring Online

What does it involve?

Using a cloud-based authoring tool to create, modify, curate and collaborate your Item and Exam Bank. This often replaces MS Word and storing files on network drives / over email. Exams can be printed directly from the system (once approved), before traditional pencil-and-paper delivery.

Who is affected?

The people that write your exams (lecturers, tutors, etc). Existing processes for students taking the exam, exam scheduling and invigilation and marking are not affected.

What are the benefits?

A standardised process across all faculties to ensure consistency. Increased security via roles, workflow statuses, audit trails and two-factor authentication. Comments to facilitate collaboration. Time spent on curating the item bank becomes an investment in intellectual property. Once this is in place, you could move to Marking Online, by scanning the student papers.

2. Marking Online

What does it involve?

Using a cloud-based marking tool to perform marking of (scanned) student responses. This on-screen marking of scanned paper answers replaces marking the physical response sheets.

Who is affected?

The people that mark your exams (lecturers, tutors, contractors, etc). Existing processes for authoring the exam, and students taking the exam, exam scheduling and invigilation are not affected.

What are the benefits?

Markers need not be in the same physical location, with support for team management and real time monitoring .Increased efficiency, as the system handles the delegation and collection of responses to markers. Increased quality, with anonymisation, double-marking, tolerances, blind quality monitoring, escalation, commenting and reviews. Digital marker training can be delivered for professional development points. Next steps would involve expanding the use of the tool for full Authoring Online (if not already).

3. Run an Online Exams pilot

What does it involve?

Taking a couple of subjects through the end-to-end process of digital Authoring, Delivery & Marking. The lecturers would author these exams on a cloud-based authoring tool. It would then be delivered digitally; through an invigilated computer lab, a locked-down terminal in an exam hall or perhaps via BYOD with a safe-exam browser. The responses are then available in the marking system.

Who is affected?

Everyone confined to the chosen subject(s). By running a pilot, you limit the scope of total people affected, while gaining invaluable data from the few that are.

What are the benefits?

This approach is in line with Agile methodologies, to ‘experiment, inspect and adapt’. Lessons learned are taken into the next iteration, where more feedback is obtained, repeating the cycle. Organisations that have lead the pack on moving online have almost all taken this progressive ramp-up approach.

Not all subjects lend themselves to the digital medium yet — mathematics for example. One of the most powerful things about online exams is reducing the disconnect between how students learn and work, and how they are assessed. A pilot or phased approach can help ensure that this is maximised appropriately; for the arts, humanities and languages, business, and computing. For these, the digital experience is normal and exam engagement can be greatly enhanced.

Take your first step.

When taking the journey to online exams, look for a solutions provider with national and international experience. One that isn’t content giving you something out of the box, but will go the extra mile to ensure it’s the right solution for you. A company that has a strong view on online exams and strong product roadmap.

Moving online is a once-in-a-generation change. It’s your journey — make sure you take the right Sherpa.

Feel free to reach out to me directly for a confidential chat about your organisations assessment challenges via

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Published by

Stuart Dalrymple

Business Development Manager, Certified Scrum Master. My goal is to help organisations realise the benefits of online exams.

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