Offline paper-and-pencil exams used to be the only way to deliver assessments at scale. The introduction of online exams was a revelation – higher fidelity item types, immediate scoring & feedback, and scalability all changed with the advent of the personal computer and the internet. Delivery mechanisms including remote proctoring provided students with the ability to take their exams anywhere in the world. This all exploded tenfold when the pandemic arrived. So why are some exams still offline, with paper and pencil?
Many education institutions are confused about which examination models to stick to. Should you go on with the online exams model they used when everyone was stuck in their homes? Should you adopt multi-modal examination models, or should you go back to the traditional pen-and-paper method?
This blog post will provide you with an evaluation of whether offline exams are still worth it in 2021.
Offline Exams; The good, the bad, and the ugly
Offline exams have been a stepping stone towards the development of modern assessment models that are more effective. We can’t ignore the fact that there are several advantages of traditional exams.
Some advantages of offline exams include students having familiarity with the system, development of a social connection between learners, exemption from technical glitches, and affordability. Some schools don’t have the resources and pen-and-paper assessments are the only option available.
The Bad and The Ugly
However, the pen-and-paper method of assessment has not been able to ensure that exams that achieve their core objectives. The traditional method of assessments is paved with uncertainties and inaccuracies.
How do you develop and decide the main learning objectives? How do you measure performance and know what to do to improve learning outcomes? And how do you evaluate student strengths and weaknesses? These are just a few questions that the traditional assessment method can’t answer.
Below is a list of challenges pen-and-paper methods face from test development to evaluation:
1. Needs a lot of resources
From test development to evaluation, pen and paper methods require a lot of resources. Resources can range from high human resource fees to materials needed to develop and deliver the exams to students.
2. Lack of seamless collaboration and scalability
The ability to cater to a bigger audience is important for productivity and saving resources. However, the pen-and-paper method offers no room for scalability. Only a fixed number of students can take exams at a certain period. This is not only expensive but also wastes valuable time and increases the chances of leakage.
3. Prone to cheating
Most people think that offline exams are cheat-proof but that is not the case. Most offline exams count on invigilators and supervisors to make sure that cheating does not occur. However, many pen-and-paper assessments are open to leakages. High candidate-to-ratio is another factor that contributes to cheating in offline exams.
4. Poor student engagement
We live in a world of instant gratification and that is the same when it comes to assessments. Unlike online exams which have options to keep the students engaged, offline exams are open to constant destruction from external factors.
Offline exams also have few options when it comes to question types.
5. Flawed evaluation system
“To err is human”
But, when it comes to assessments, accuracy, and consistency. Traditional evaluation methods are slow and labor-intensive. Instructors take a long time to evaluate tests. This defeats the entire purpose of assessments.
6. Poor result analysis
Pen-and-paper exams depend on instructors to analyze the results and come up with insight. This requires a lot of human resources and expensive software. It is also difficult to find out if your learning strategy is working or it needs some adjustments.
A glimpse into online exams
Also referred to as digital exams or e-exams, online exams are delivered over the internet. The best online examination platforms include modules to facilitate the entire examination process, from development to delivery. Online exams provide instructors with the ability to diversify question types and monitor the assessment process. Using learning analytics, they are also able to modify learning methods to increase the quality of output.
Online exams work like your typical pen-and-paper methods but with more accuracy, scalability, and reliability. The grading of the papers is done automatically after the assessment is done, depending on the question types. For essays, instructors can use online essay scoring. E-examinations have improved the assessment process and those are just a few examples.
Here are some pros and cons of online exams to help you contemplate whether online exams are for you
The pros of online exams
Unlike traditional testing methods which have a fixed number of people who can take an exam in a fixed time, online exams can cater to bigger audiences. This saves education institutions a lot of resources that would be invested in developing and managing examination centers.
2. Automated report generation and visualization
This is the greatest advantage online exams have over offline exams. The automated report generation and visualization functions integrated into online assessment platforms enable instructors to accurately gauge learning outcomes. This gives them actionable insight to improve the learning process.
Online exams can be taken from anywhere in the world. All one needs is a computer and an internet connection. This has given students access to knowledge from global learning institutions.
4. Support for diversified question types
Unlike traditional exams which are limited to a certain number of question types, online exams offer many question types option. Multiple Choice Questions, video assessments, coding simulators, and many other question types are supported. With this kind of freedom, instructors are able to decide which question types are fit for certain topics.
5. In-built psychometrics
Psychometrics is an important part of an assessment as it ensures the development of high-quality tests. The implementation of psychometrics into traditional pen-and-paper methods is a difficult process and depends on the experience of instructors.
With online exams, you can easily capitalize on it through tech-enhanced items, automated test assembly, Computerized Adaptive Testing, etc.
6. Improved academic integrity
Cheating is the biggest concern when it comes to online exams. Most people wonder, ‘Isn’t giving students access to a computer and a high-speed internet connection just handing over answers to students?’ Well, that is far from the truth.
In fact, online exams are safer than offline exams. Online exams are protected using advanced technologies such as Lockdown browser, IP-based authentication, AI-flagging, and many other strategies.
Check out this article to learn how online exams are secured.
7. Environmental friendliness
Sustainability is an important aspect of modern civilization. Online exams eliminate the need to use resources that are not environmentally friendly such as paper.
The cons of online exams
1. Digital transformation challenges
The process of transitioning examination from offline models to online platforms is one that requires intense planning and resources. However, this barrier can be eliminated easily by creating awareness among students and instructors on how to capitalize on digital assessments.
You can also hire firms with experience in migrating to digital assessments to help in the process.
2. Academic integrity concerns
Cheating concerns still remain a turn-off for institutions that wish to transition to online exams. There are many ways students can circumnavigate security protocols to cheat in exams. Some ways include impersonation, external help, surfing the internet, and many others.
However, these cheating ‘tricks’ can be avoided using Assess’ online assessment software with security features such as lock-down browser, IP-based authentication, and AI-powered remote proctoring.
Offline Exams vs Online exams
Offline exams vs E-examinations
Are offline exams still worth it in 2021? No, they are not. As we have seen from the above sections, the traditional exam approach has several flaws that are barriers to effective assessment. However, it’s not as simple as that. There are many instances where the traditional approach would be a better option. Some instances include when students can’t afford infrastructure. But, when you are looking to conduct high-stakes examinations, online exams are the best option.
How Assess Can Help
Transitioning from offline exams to offline exams is not a simple task. That is why Assess is here to help you every step of the way, from test development to delivery. We provide you with the best assessment software and access to the most experienced team. Ready to take your assessments online?