Why the pandemic-provoked remote proctored assessments may inspire a permanent shift in the education system

Publication: FICCI
September 10, 2021

While the devastating ripple effects of the pandemic were felt across continents, economies, industries, and practically every aspect of life, the impact has been most acute in the education industry, depriving and displacing over 32 crore students in India alone. Today, educational institutes find themselves in uncharted waters as they continue to navigate the impacts of the pandemic. But this situation has also accelerated innovation and development in the industry and has changed the traditional structure of education as we know it.

In March 2020, schools and colleges were under immense pressure, forcing faculty to abandon the traditional classroom after a national lockdown was imposed. Students, parents, and faculty grew increasingly concerned about the profound implications this could have on the affected batches. This pandemic-induced education divide provoked the industry to conduct numerous experiments in remote learning and examinations to adapt to this global shift. The role of technology was quickly recognised as a critical tool in facilitating learning continuity and making education accessible to students worldwide. Institutes looking to overcome uncertainty and panic began leveraging new-age tech designed to combat these challenges. From classes to guest lectures, webinars and job fairs, fee payments to even exams – technology made everything possible remotely, securely. Finally, the education technology sector had created advanced automated, AI-powered systems that left no room for setbacks or hesitation in implementation.

Several institutes prefer remote assessments over offline examinations – and not just because of the situation of the pandemic. Virtual learning and examinations have proven to collectively empower students and institutions. This virtual alternative is favoured by many over traditional methods due to its flexibility, security, and ease of use. A study conducted by the World Economic Forum suggests that this digital-education shift has boosted student retention skills and makes for a quicker more efficient system. The scale to which the implementation of technology has been adopted over such a short period has provoked thoughts of (and quite strongly indicated) a permanent integration of aspects like online exams, online proctoring and result generation in the traditional system of education.

Though many are opting for remote examinations, shifting assessments digitally is still a challenge for some institutes that have resorted to cancelling or postponing examinations. This has resulted in student and parent distress about the negative consequences this could have on the future of students. Alternative methods of assessments have become a need of the hour to combat this crisis. There is evident health stress weighing on offline examination attempts. With physical contact posing a dire threat, online modes of examination have risen to popularity as a viable solution for our current predicament. It is a long-term solution to equip the industry for not just any future unforeseen crisis but also as a worthwhile option to seamlessly function in today’s digital age.

How does it work? Virtually proctored examinations innovated to meet pandemic constraints, allow invigilators or proctors to efficiently monitor students remotely through AI and ML-enabled tools. Designed to authenticate visual identity and biometrics, track body movement and ambient noises, monitor keyboard handwriting, and analyse system usage – advanced proctoring solutions allow for a higher percent of integrity and reliability of tests as well as the elimination of bias. AI-enabled technologies allow proctors to successfully supervise students via a webcam as they would in person. A report with detailed information is produced for the proctor when the exam is completed, allowing them to make a fair judgment on the integrity and credibility of a candidate. These tests produce remarkably fast, accurate, and informative findings.

Remote proctoring allows greater flexibility, eliminates bias, and enables data integrity by ensuring that only authorised personnel has access to it. These tests are foolproof as they prevent malpractice, are easy to use, and improve the overall productivity of the process compared to traditional methods. With the dawn of new advancements in education, like AI and other emerging technologies, for the first time, large-scale exams like NEET and JEE can be administered effortlessly across the country. The University Grants Commission (UGC) too has authorised a set of colleges to offer full-termed online degree programmes in India indicating a definite step towards a technology-powered future for the sector.

Despite the evolution of technology and tools we have access to today, it is surprising to reflect on how a shift of this magnitude was possible in mere months and was not proactively initiated pre-pandemic. Access to basic education has been a global crisis but we have only begun to feel the weight and intensity of it now because of how it has started to affect us at a personal level. This also changes the way we view international education – far from shelling on plane tickets, accommodation, and living expenses. Technology, if implemented correctly, can make online education and online examinations more accessible and affordable to students everywhere – not only to those in small towns and cities but also to those in remote areas who often give up pursuing an education due to various accessibility issues and other limitations. One lesson that has emerged from this situation is a global shift in perspective when it comes to allowing technology to innovate our traditional systems. As the dust settles, we can see that traditional learning and assessment methods are far from obsolete, but proctored assessments have proven to be a lucrative post-pandemic solution that could influence a shift in the traditional education system in the long run.

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