Implementation Unravelled: Launching Your Exams

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You’ve migrated your content, integrated all the bells and whistles, and been trained to use your e-assessment platform like a pro. The i’s are dotted, and the t’s are crossed, so now it’s time for the exciting part—launching your first exams. 

As the old adage of the 6 P’s goes: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. The first two phases of the implementation process are mostly about establishing a detailed plan for moving you over to a new platform, However, it is equally important to have contingency plans for the launch phase in case things do not go 100% perfectly, (which is always possible. It is tech, after all).

The Launch Phase

The Launch Phase, or Go Live Phase, is where you conduct your first exams. However, with better e-assessment providers, you won’t be left to manage this alone. At Cirrus, our implementation team follows a proven 3-step process to ensure a smooth and hassle-free transition. We assign a dedicated implementation manager to guide you through each step and support you throughout the process. The implementation team will be on standby, ready to answer questions and resolve any issues that may arise. Consider them your guardian exam angels on launch day. Before this critical moment, there are several key preparations to ensure a smooth launch.

Pre-Launch: Stakeholder Preparation

On and before the day of exam launch, there are three main groups that will be directly involved with the exams on your organisation’s side: Super Users, Users, and Test-Takers. Ensuring that these groups are prepared is important to the success of the launch. This section will outline how Super Users can prepare regular users, and how those users, in turn, can prepare students for the first exams.

Super Users

As the launch day approaches, Super Users play a critical role in ensuring everything runs smoothly. Here’s how they can help:

Final training refreshers: Conduct brief refresher sessions to ensure users remember key functionalities and troubleshooting tips.

Create quick reference guides: Distribute concise, easy-to-follow guides that users can refer to during launch

Establish clear communication channels: Have dedicated lines of communication, such as a chat group or a hotline, set up for quick assistance during the exams.

Coordinate a dry run: Organise a final mock exam to iron out any last-minute issues and boost confidence among users.

Users & Test-Takers

Regular users, such as educators, admins, and markers, play a role in ensuring that students are prepared for the first exams on the new platform. Here’s how they can facilitate this:

Familiarise students with the platform: Before the actual exam, organise orientation sessions for students to navigate the platform. This could include tutorials on logging in, accessing exams, and submitting answers.

Provide practice materials: Give students access to practice exams or sample questions on the platform. This helps them get used to the format and functionalities, reducing anxiety and technical issues on exam day.

Offer clear instructions and support: Ensure that students have clear, concise instructions on how to use the platform. Also, provide a channel for support where they can reach out with any questions or issues they might encounter.

Gather and act on feedback: After initial practice sessions or orientations, gather feedback from students about their experience. Use this information to address any issues or misunderstandings before the actual exam.

Launch Day: Support on Stand-By

From the perspective of the e-assessment platform provider, supporting customers through the first exam launch is a top priority. Using ourselves as an example, the day-of-launch looks something like this on the e-assessment side:

Dedicated customer support team, on-demand: A dedicated support team should be available during the launch period exam schedules. To make sure the exams go smoothly, they should be ready to help with any technical issues, answer questions, and offer real-time solutions.

Real-time monitoring and incident response: Implement real-time system monitoring to quickly identify and resolve any technical issues. An incident response team should be on standby to address any disruptions immediately, minimising downtime and ensuring a seamless experience for all users.

Priority help desk access: On the day of the launch, customers should have priority access to the help desk. This guarantees that any problems are quickly fixed by the most skilled support staff.

Proactive communication: Maintaining proactive communication with the organisation by providing regular updates on system status and any potential issues helps keep everyone informed and prepared to handle any unexpected challenges.

Emergency response protocols: Expect the best, but prepare for the worst. We have a crisis communication strategy to prepare for any potential issues. This looks a little something like:

  • Potential issue (Organisation side)
  • Mitigation (Platform side) 

For example, an issue could be:

  • Server Overload Causing System Downtime
  • Mitigation: 
    • Real-time monitoring and alerts: If the system detects unusual activity levels or signs of server overload, it should trigger immediate alerts to the technical support team
    • Load balancing and scalability: Automatically route excess traffic to additional servers to manage high loads and maintain system performance.
    • Emergency response protocol: Upon detecting a potential overload, the technical team should execute the protocol, which includes steps to quickly increase server capacity and restore access.
    • Backup systems: In case of server failure, switch to backup servers to restore service quickly. Regularly back up all critical data to prevent loss.

By having a pre-defined crisis communication plan, both the technology provider and your institution are well prepared to handle unexpected challenges effectively and maintain trust and confidence among all users of the e-assessment platform.

Post-exam review and feedback: Conducting a thorough review after the launch to gather feedback from all stakeholders helps identify any areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments to enhance future exam experiences.

Post-Launch: Ongoing Support

As new features and updates are released, it’s important to keep those Super Users updated so that they can communicate and train your organisation’s staff. To ensure everyone is up-to-speed and confident in using the platform, a comprehensive ongoing training and support strategy is necessary.

Scheduled customer success sessions: There will be regularly scheduled support sessions to cover the latest updates, new features, and any changes to the platform. These sessions will be designed to ensure all users, from beginners to our Super Users, understand how to effectively use the system in their roles.

Support materials: Alongside our training sessions, there will be continuous updates and a range of support materials available. This includes detailed tutorials, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and user guides. These resources will be readily available to help everyone feel supported and empowered to use the platform efficiently.

Dedicated customer portal: A dedicated helpdesk will be available to promptly address any technical issues, system bugs, or user inquiries, ensuring minimal disruption to your assessment processes.

Regular updates and maintenance: To keep the platform secure and effective, regular updates and maintenance checks will be conducted. This ensures the software remains up-to-date with the latest technological advancements and security standards.

Feedback loop: Establishing a feedback mechanism is vital. We will regularly gather and analyse user feedback to understand experiences, identify areas for improvement, and integrate suggestions into future updates. This helps maintain a responsive and user-focused system.

Cirrus Top Tips and Best Practices

Before going live, it’s beneficial to conduct a simulated launch involving a select group of users. This dry run should mimic the actual exam conditions as closely as possible, allowing you to test all aspects of the platform under controlled conditions. This helps identify any unforeseen issues or bottlenecks that could affect performance on the actual launch day, ensuring a smoother transition when you go live.

During the launch, set up a real-time monitoring system to track the performance of the e-assessment platform. This includes monitoring system load, response time, and any error rates that could impact the user experience. Having IT support on standby during the launch can help address any technical issues as they arise.

Set up dedicated channels where users can report their experience, challenges, and any difficulties they face in real time, post first exams. This immediate feedback can be invaluable in making quick adjustments to the platform and improving the overall user experience.

Launching your e-assessment platform is an exciting, yet sensitive, step towards transforming how your organisation conducts exams. By following these best practices and continuously engaging with your users, you’re setting the stage for a successful and smooth transition. Remember, thorough preparation and proactive communication are your best tools for a launch that meets all expectations.

To ensure your launch goes smoothly, it’s crucial to have a solid plan and dedicated support. Our proven 3-step process—Discovery, Implementation, and Launch—has helped many organisations succeed. With a dedicated implementation project manager guiding you through each phase, you’ll have the expert support needed for a seamless transition.

For more insights and detailed strategies on e-assessment implementations, don’t forget to check out our upcoming ebook on the implementation process. We go in deep, with downloadable tools and resources that you can use to make switching to a new e-assessment platform easy.

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Cristina Gilbert
Copywriter and digital content enthusiast, Cristina is motivated by the fast-paced world of e-assessment and the opportunities online exams give students to thrive.
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