Q. How does the British Council cross boundaries of distance and technology to deliver its Aptis English language test around the world?

A. With Janison, it goes beyond online, delivering reliable and equitable testing no matter how remote the location or unreliable the connectivity.

In early 2017, the British Council partnered with Janison to create a new platform to deliver their internationally recognised English language proficiency test, Aptis.

The British Council offers Aptis globally in more than 100 countries across government, educational and business sectors, to some of the most remote and technically challenging locations in the world.

Aptis tests are targeted at test-takers who need to demonstrate their proficiency in the English language with the aim of migrating to a new country, gaining employment or entry to university study – critical, life-changing outcomes and opportunities for every candidate.

Thanks to innovative technology created by Janison, these opportunities have been considerably widened, particularly to populations in highly remote or developing countries for whom poor or no internet connectivity has been a barrier to accessing online assessments.

Jonathan Ford, global head of assessment at British Council, said: “English language testing stands above other subjects, because it is an enabling set of skills and competencies.

“It’s not just about our work and professional existence – it’s also about communicating and bridging between different communities and cultures.”

“China is the prime example of how a relatively insular and restrictive country can become an open environment. English is a key part of China opening to the world, and the world opening to them. It facilitates not just communication but understanding, sympathy and recognition, the normal human elements that come through the language exchange.”

The challenges

The critical challenge for British Council to delivering consistent testing is access to secure computer facilities and poor online connectivity. In addition, its previous test-delivery solution was based on Adobe Flash technology which has limited support across operating platforms and was neither scalable, flexible nor reliable. What’s more, changes to the platform were time-consuming to implement.

The solution

Leveraging Janison’s global leading assessment platform, Insights, Janison designed and developed some innovative new technology, called Replay, in order to reach this new audience. Replay is a brand new assessment player with a wide variety of options for effective and reliable test delivery. It has a unique capability to seamless transition between online and offline modes.

It allows tests to be taken on a variety of different devices and in the event of a connectivity drop-out, it ensures that the test session data continues to track locally, providing a rich, consistent, seemingly uninterrupted offline test-taking experience but still within a familiar modern browser-based environment. It means that poor internet – or indeed, no internet – is no longer a barrier, providing confidence to the British Council, and its customers, that the candidate experience is of the highest quality.

Beyond online

In the event of a loss of connectivity during the test, the user and their pages enter “reliable mode” and the candidate is still able to continue taking the test as though it were online. The test content is securely cached on the computer, giving Replay all the information required to act like a standard web application.

Even when offline, the application remains interactive, displaying test content, supporting navigation and storing test results. The test taker is not even aware of a dropout – and continues an uninterrupted test-taking experience.

Flexible delivery modes

As a delivery system, Replay can be set into different modes. In “lock-down” mode the system ensures that test takers cannot access other applications, or indeed, search “Google” for the answers.

In scenarios where the internet is not available at all, any device can be prepared beforehand to run completely offline but act like it is delivering a live online test. This is one of Replay’s greatest strengths – exactly the same testing experience is delivered either online or offline on any device and in any location that British Council find its customers.

Upon completion of the test, Replay will attempt to automatically synchronise the test results, but in the event of further disruption, the test invigilator can reconcile the data on the device and upload the candidates responses back to the Insights platform via a secure export process.

Rollout and beyond

Within just six months British Council successfully delivered Aptis on the new Replay assessment player to more than 115,000 candidates in 78 countries, from India, to Colombia, the Philippines and the UAE. Overall, the number of tests being taken is rising by an average of 10% per month since Replay’s inception.

 

Smoothing out logistics

Replay allows the full suite of Aptis assessments to be conducted on the one platform for a candidate. Grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, listening and speaking tests can all be taken online without the need for skilled examiners in the room.

This allows examiners to be able to measure proficiency of any candidate seamlessly on the other side of the world, without the need to travel. Delivering the speaking tests online in particular avoids the need for more time-consuming and fault-prone testing methods such as dictaphones or phonecalls.

Transformative testing

Jonathan Ford said: “If you strap together British Council’s ability in language and its coverage of the globe with technology – then you get something very special. The technology makes it available. You get not just the power to test, but the power to develop people personally.

“People don’t take Aptis just once, they take it several times. It’s all about their growth and improvement and personal development: enabling state school kids in provinces in China to learn and test their English; or in Andhra Pradesh, where we’re working with students looking to enhance their employability.”

Looking ahead to mobile

Over the coming 12 months as it continues to develop Replay, Janison aims to focus on increasing our capacity to deliver language proficiency assessments on mobile devices – particularly the speaking component of such tests.

This would greatly level the playing field in developing countries where many test-takers often do not have access to a computer, but do have a smartphone.

Published by Janison

Statistics and Key Milestones

Within just six months British Council successfully delivered Aptis on Replay to more than 115,000 candidates
Tests are being successfully delivered in 78 countries, from India, to Colombia, the Philippines and the UAE
Number of tests taken rising by an average of 10% per month since Replay’s inception

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