The future of digital assessment: why test-takers no longer need to be online to sit an “online” exam
There is no question that the future of exams is digital. But the critical challenge when switching from paper-and-pen exams remains poor internet connectivity in many parts of the world, as well as Australia. So, how are assessment providers answering the key question: what happens to my online high-stakes exam if the web drops out during a test?
Technology is in development to be able to “suspend” the real-time internet if there is a drop-out, delivering a seamless online exam experience. Essentially this means you no longer have to be connected to the internet in order to take a digital exam. There is a range of solutions depending on your hardware and on your reach and scale. The solutions vary in their levels of abstraction from online – depending on how far removed you are from an internet connection.
Poor internet (or no internet) is no longer a barrier to delivering digital exams.
Among these key new technologies is Service Workers, which provides rich off-line experience using an internet browser. These progressive web application patterns allow devices to provide tests in online and offline mode.
This literally means your test is going beyond online, and into a new digital realm regardless of whether you have internet or not.
So, what are the options to deliver a high stakes exam where there is no internet, or where the internet connection unreliable at best?
Progressive web application (PWA)
Originally developed by Google, Service Workers (which are not currently supported by all browsers including Safari) allows a test-taker to have an online experience despite there being no internet connectivity. It means that even if the connection drops, the user enters “reliable mode” and is still able to progress with a test as though they were online. Upon completion of the test, the invigilator reconciles the device and uploads the responses which had been entered either in online mode or in reliable mode.
Janison’s adaptation of progressive web app technology is called Replay. The technology used in Replay means that pages pass into “reliable mode” during an internet drop-out, allowing the user to continue to work. Content is cached on the computer, giving it all the information it needs to act like an application, despite operating entirely through browser technology. The application keeps moving and screens continue using the browser and storing information, even without internet connectivity. The user is not even aware of dropout and continues an uninterrupted browser experience.
A Replay application is available that also has a function which “locks down” the internet browser so that test takers cannot go and search Google for the answers. This is a solution that is being used in the delivery of Naplan testing in Australia.
The Portable Replay solution allows examiners to prepare a physical device (such as a laptop) or a USB stick beforehand which act like they are delivering a live online test. The physical machine can then be taken to an individual without connectivity, who can sit the test. The device is then returned to the examiner who connects and downloads the test responses.
Amplify solves this issue on a broader scale. For example, if an online exam needs to be delivered to 40 test takers at a remote school located in the Northern Territory without an internet connection, it is less practical to prepare 40 laptops. Janison is producing an appliance called Amplify – essentially a box which acts as a server, has its own wifi and back-up power supply. The appliance sits in the examination room and generates its own wi-fi signal to which test-takers connect and sit that test “online”.
Amplify can solve a number of problems. From remote classroom test delivery, where there is no / poor internet connectivity to highly regulated off campus testing where government policies prevent the use of Cloud technology.
It can support 100 test takers simultaneously and supports distance learning. For example, it allows ITE students in Malaysia to take a test even without an internet connection.
Reach is being developed as a solution for exams in countries with restrictions on internet access, such as China. Reach is a regionally based server that allows users to access a local internet pages. This avoids potential firewall issues accessing exams which could be blocked or poor performing.
Developing the technology to deliver tests in any kind of mode means that your assessment provider can ask: how you want to take your test and tell you what’s the best approach for you to deliver it.
Janison is already delivering these solutions in more than 40 countries – from Aptis testing for the British Council, to tertiary exams in Singapore. Find out more by booking a consultation.