The COVID-19 pandemic has forced industries across the spectrum to embrace digitization — in all its functions. The education sector is in the midst of a spirited debate over the prudence of using technology and the online ecosystem. The lack of security, the prevalence of fraud, and data protection and structural IT concerns are deterring the adoption of technology by educational institutes. However, educational centers also want to embrace innovative technological advances and digital solutions to ensure continuity in education and examinations. The debate continues to shape opinions and the sector’s probable course in the near and long term.  

 

Mercer | Mettl offers a technology platform that enables institutes and organizations globally to continue their business as usual, whether it involves education, remote work, workforce management, learning and development initiatives or certifications. We recently conducted a session in a webinar series on “How Does Technology Ensure Continuity in Examinations and Learning,” moderated by Thomas Gruhle, Senior Principal, Central & Eastern Europe, Mercer.  Siddhartha Gupta, CEO, Mercer | Mettl, was joined by Raphael Beuthner, Chief Information Officer, EBZ Business School, University of Applied Sciences, Germany, to discuss various aspects of the subject.

 

Siddhartha shared his expertise in helping institutions digitize their examinations and reflected on the road ahead for the sector. Raphael detailed how the ongoing disruption led EBZ to Mercer | Mettl’s examination platform and the steps universities should take when choosing an online examination platform. Raphael also discussed how evolving with the pandemic was inevitable and how Mercer | Mettl helped the university embrace the change smoothly, quickly and efficiently.

 

Key discussion points:

  • The impact of the pandemic — the pros and cons of digitization in the education sector 
  • The challenges and benefits of online examinations
  • Best practices to ensure business continuity in the new normal

What are the critical challenges in conducting online examinations?

 

Excerpts from the conversation between Raphael Beuthner (RB) and Siddhartha Gupta (SG) moderated by Thomas Gruhle:

 

The present and future landscape of technology in education

SG: The adoption of online tools was already progressing at a decent rate during the pre-COVID-19 period. The last three to four years have seen the emergence of numerous education technology (edu-tech) platforms. A vast number of institutes are offering education and conducting exams online, but this pandemic has taken things completely off the roof. 

 

It was estimated that the edu-tech market would be around USD 350 billion by 2025, but now I think this number will be achieved much sooner than 2025. 

RB: Digitization, in its varied manifestations, is not primarily about technology, but about people. Within the last two or three months, we have achieved a level of digitization that we originally thought would take us two years to accomplish. Many didn’t want to go through with it but were almost forced to, owing to the pandemic. Many students might decide to swap the traditional system with a distance learning system for comfort and flexibility. And that's where online examinations are beneficial. If you want to continue to do everything on-site, as it has happened in the past, we’d need classrooms the size of football fields, which is impossible. The online world has become a reality now. And even the slowest of us need to accept this reality.

 

Choosing an online examination platform — from the point of view of a platform provider and platform-seeker

SG: I’d like to highlight three critical capabilities to look for in an examination platform provider:

 

1. Flexibility to serve varied needs: In our quest to find the right online examination platform, we should not forget the actual reason behind the exam, which is an accurate measurement of the learning outcome. The test engine must be built with the flexibility to align with the educator's agenda. This means the exam format should have the ability to offer multiple question formats — math equations, graph diagrams, chemical equations, simulators, etc. 

2. The system’s robustness and scalability: Examinations usually entail many students taking the test simultaneously. The examination platform needs to respond to a similar need for scale. Since numerous students will log in concurrently, the system needs to be prepared to allow all of them, even if they number in the thousands, to register and take the test. Other critical elements to consider: managing the test on low bandwidth, the students’ digital abilities and the limitations of the devices students use.

3. The academic integrity of the exam: The rigor of its examinations reflects the value of any institution. The examination platform must promise a fair system in which all students can showcase their skills and knowledge. If there is any compromise, the entire ecosystem will lose faith in the institution and the value of its certification.

 

These are the building blocks of Mercer | Mettl’s examination platform

RB: I was exploring different possibilities for giving online exams from home. Since German legislation is stringent about university exams, several options were instantly off the table. We had to find a more suitable solution. We needed to find a system that would enable us to provide similar levels of supervision that we use for our on-premise exams.  We needed a system that was going to make our students feel comfortable. Whenever students take exams, their stress levels increase considerably. So we didn't want to make it worse for them by choosing the wrong platform.  We needed a system that would allow our students to do exactly what they would during an on-site exam. The platform needed to enable students to draw entity relationship diagrams, fill in tables, create workflow diagrams, undertake mathematical calculations, type in complex mathematical formulas and online coding. When looking for a solution, I was not worried about regular long text answers because of their ease. Everything else was critical and seemed complicated to me when I first analyzed it. 

 

While there are other proctoring solutions on the market, Mercer | Mettl is the only system I've seen that is available in almost all languages. Our students speak German, so we needed a system where the student interface was available in the German language. When students sit for an exam and their stress levels are high, we want them to feel comfortable and use a familiar language. So it had to be an easy-to-use system that was available in German. The Mercer | Mettl’s proctoring solution also allowed us to use our in-house proctors, to which not many platforms acceded.

 

We needed the best support available because this was also entirely new for us. We didn't know anything about online exams; none of us have ever given them before. We needed a system that allowed us to contact someone instantly if we faced challenges or didn't know how to set up an individual exam. Now that we have used Mercer | Mettl, we will undoubtedly continue to use its platform in the future because of our great experience.

 

How do you envision the education sector shaping up post-pandemic? 

SG: We will have to brace up for similar shutdowns in the future; this is not the last crisis of this nature that we will face. Going online or having the ability to go online is imperative; it cannot be put on the back burner anymore. While technology was always available, the education ecosystem was taking its own sweet time to adopt it. But now the time has come to accelerate the entire process.

 

RB: Any good university is always well-advised to possess as many tools at its disposal as possible. I'm certainly glad that we have the Mercer| Mettl examination and proctoring system in our toolkit: We will be sure to use it for our distance learning students in the future. And we don't know what will happen in the future. We want to be prepared to address all our students’ needs and concerns. Mercer | Mettl is an excellent tool for that purpose. It enables us to be there for our students, ensure continuity and prepare them for the future. I still believe digitization is foremost about people, and this tool genuinely makes that possible.

 

 

These extraordinary times require extraordinary efforts and solutions. As universities grapple with the challenges of a debilitating pandemic, service providers are going the extra mile to cater to educational institutions. Ensuring continuity in learning and education is a common goal shared by platform providers and platform-seekers. The current situation requires a behavioral shift and the technical know-how in equal measure. As platform providers, Mercer | Mettl team understands that well.

Contact us

We help clients adapt and thrive through change every day. At times of uncertainty, we remain a trusted advisor and we are here to support you. Contact us below:

*Required Fields