India’s continuously rising population and the rising Gross Enrollment Ratio has led to examinations increasing in scale by the year. The volume and the high stakes lead to the examination machinery, despite the use of high-end technologies, coming under ‘attack’, thus resulting in inconvenience to students and often hitting the reputation of the boards conducting the examinations.
With the process of examinations leveraging technologies to the hilt, robust technologies, coupled with sound processes, are required to ensure security for the examinations.
One such system is the Online Question Paper delivery that combines the examination process and technology to plug all the bugs in the delivery of the question papers.
The Flawed System
Question paper leaks have become a recurrent phenomenon and is a sign of a growing malaise in the education sector.The education system has been criticized time and again for being ancient in the way it functions.
The most significant flaw in the examination system is the circuitous route through which the question paper reaches the student, and is subjected to the nuances of corruption.
What can be done?
Technology has a great influence in our lives transforming every industry radically. With technology advancement affecting the quality and efficiency of work in every sector, why not leverage the same for education?
Technology in the delivery of question papers have been in the system for quite some time now. It is designed to ring fence the examinations from the vulnerabilities arising at the various stages while preparing a Question Paper.
The process goes on right from printing the question papers, to transporting and storing them, and till it reaches the hands of the candidate taking the test. This technology also ensures that the final Question Paper is decided randomly from a set of questions based on certain predefined rules or a set of Question Papers.
The final Question Paper is selected and provided at the examination center in an encrypted format, barely hours before the examination. Authorized personnel alone will decrypt the Question Paper and get it printed securely by authorized representatives in a secure zone at the test centre.
This ensures that the final question paper is available, even to the authorized personnel, just minutes before the examination for distribution by the Invigilators who then distribute it to test takers.
Technology backed question paper delivery is cost effective too. The major cost of an examination often is that of the printing infrastructure at the test center or the various hubs chosen by the examination board. There is the additional cost of connectivity and ensuring physical security at the test centers.
These solutions being technology heavy, it is not only high-tech in the process of setting up the question paper, but so also in security. This requires high speed Internet connectivity at each test center, the installation and management of CCTV cameras and also information security systems.
Though the use of such technology saves on logistics and on the cost of storing question papers, a typical implementation of this kind of a solution will appear costlier than the conventional mode of the question paper delivery.
Despite all these checks and balances, it will take only one breach for all the arguments of cost advantages over the conventional question paper management model to be shredded by its critics.
When any breach happens, the need for re-examination will only inflate the cost for the examination body in its attempt to complete the examination. To add to this, the reputation will take a hit which is invaluable and in fact, can have long- impact.
Delivering the examination
A very fast Internet is a critical component to an Online Question Paper delivery solution.The viability of this solution for a school board can be ascertained only after studying the infrastructure at each test center.
The lack of power, a curse across many parts of the country, can be managed with the installation of power generators / inverters that can run the technology infrastructure when the question papers are being printed. Ensuring redundancy of network with the use of multiple data cards / Internet Service Providers can help address the need for Internet in many of the test centers.
In such cases where Internet connectivity is slow, it becomes important to re-architect the solution before deployment.
A major advantage of Online Question paper delivery is that it is possible for any number of students to take the examination. The solution will be effective only when there is adequate infrastructure to be able to print as many question papers as required, within a very short time.
Even as technology is being leveraged by fraudsters to breach security systems of some of the examinations, it is important that the agencies administering the examinations are aware of the bugs, and then refine the processes to address them and leverage technology to secure the question papers.
These agencies could take the help of specialist service providers with experience in technology-based delivery of question papers in high stake examinations.
Mr. Gopal Devanahalli is the CEO of MeritTrac, which is a premier pure-play Testing & Assessment services company, which provides innovative services to leading Educational Institutions, Government Organisations and Corporate entities for 17 years now. The firm has garnered significant expertise in Test Research and has successfully associated with over 400 organizations like NCERT, RAS (Rajasthan Administrative Services) and RGUHS (Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Science) and has delivered over 40 million assessments.