As continued COVID-19 restrictions forced many traditional learning institutions to adopt online learning models to continue their courses. Online learning institutions have also seen unprecedented growth in numbers due to many people wanting to re- and up-skill to improve their employment opportunities in the wake of the pandemic’s economic fall-out. This has lead to a greater need for reliable online assessment platforms.
These platforms provide secure, scalable, and highly flexible solutions that are easy to set up and manage, and that provide exam-takers with instant results and feedback. But, these platforms are not without their challenges, especially in the financial and numbers-based areas of learning.
In this article, we will take a look at these challenges, as well as how one company has been able to overcome them with the integration of a popular collection of applications. But before we continue, it’s important to understand what exactly online assessments are and why going digital is the best way to evaluate and assess learners, employees, and potential employees.
WHAT IS ONLINE ASSESSMENT?
Online assessments can be in the form of tests and/or examinations that are conducted online via the internet. Assessments are done using platforms that have been developed for this purpose. These platforms are fully automated and offer examiners a lot of flexibility in terms of the number of questions available, types of questions, test formats, as well as the ability to conduct proctored exams online.
The platforms also have several anti-cheating mechanisms in place, like per-question time limits and background monitoring. Online assessment platforms save a lot of time by providing auto-evaluations and near-instant results for test-takers.
WHY GO DIGITAL?
There are many advantages for putting down the pen and paper, and switch to digital assessment tools instead:
1.Extensive database of questions & past tests
In the past, when setting tests, examiners had to rely on memory and/or manually reference past tests to determine whether questions have been asked before to reduce the risk of cheating. This was often very time-consuming. Online assessment platforms can store countless questions and previous tests that are quick and easy to reference.
2. Automatically marking and instant results
Another huge time-saver that online assessments provide is marking and evaluation. Online assessment platforms can auto-mark and evaluate certain tests, thereby drastically reduces the time spent by markers, increasing evaluation accuracy, and provide test-takers with near-instant results.
3. Easy scaling
A powerful feature of online assessment is its ability to scale. Pen-and-paper tests require examiners to try and estimate the number of tests needed and getting them printed. Printing is expensive, especially at high volumes, and could potentially create a lot of waste if examiners overestimated the number of exam takers. Since online assessments are digital, none of these problems exist and the number of tests can be scaled up or down.
4. Remote distribution
One of the challenges facing pen-and-paper assessment methods is geographical distribution, especially to remote areas. The only requirement to take online tests or exams is access to a computer and an internet connection. Where the internet isn’t available, special examination centers can be set up in the area.
TRICKY TOPICS (THE OLD DAYS)
The advantages that come with online assessments make it very attractive for businesses and learning institutions, especially distance and online learning providers. However, despite the advances in online assessment technology, some sectors, like the finance industry, still have to deal with clunky testing mechanics and interfaces.
Sectors like finance often require number-based skills that include working with complex calculations, accounting concepts, and/or presentations that mimic real-world applications using spreadsheets or presentation software. In many instances, it may not be possible to accurately measure performance through typical question/answer tests and exams and examiners often have to resort to workarounds like using screenshots and video to put questions and requiring test-takers to do the same.
These challenges can make both testing and marking frustrating and time-consuming, and result in an even more stressful experience for students who are already nervous about taking a test. But this is about to change with the integration of Microsoft 365 into the Cirrus online assessment platform.
COMPLETE 365 INTEGRATION
With its built-in integration of the Microsoft 365 suite of applications into their online assessment solution, Cirrus has created the perfect platform for institutions that rely on real-world situations for assessments. Now examiners no longer have to find work-arounds and candidates can deliver answers in a way that best represents the skills being tested.
The integration of Microsoft 365 into the Cirrus platform has many advantages:
- It supports Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.
- No complex licensing models.
- Seamless integration means no local installation is required.
- Fully featured applications are available to candidates during the exam.
- Makes marking and evaluation quicker and easier.
There are also several advantages for candidates:
- No need to set up and/or log in to a Microsoft account.
- Improves testing experience for candidates by providing all the tools needed to complete questions.
- Since there are no workarounds to worry about, candidates are less stressed and able to provide a more accurate representation of their knowledge.
- Results and feedback are delivered a lot quicker than previously possible.
With the introduction of seamless Microsoft 365 integration into their online assessment platform, Cirrus has overcome these challenges by making it possible for examiners to test skills easier and more accurately. This innovative assessment solution is a big leap forward in online assessment technology.