13 Apr 10 Exams and technology_What do students think

ValueNotes recently completed a study (in association with EDGE Forum) focusing on trends in adoption of exam technology by Indian exam authorities. As part of this initiative by MeritTrac, ValueNotes interviewed 75 key decision makers, including vice chancellors, controllers of exam, registrars and exam board directors. The study also comprised a nationwide survey of another key stakeholder in the education system – the student. This was primarily because the exercise of taking exams online will yield many benefits to the student population.

Vice chancellors we spoke to mentioned that there was a certain amount of reservation expressed by students and therefore adoption was slow. To bridge the perception gap of these university officials and students, we spoke with 400 students from across Tier I, Tier II and Tier III cities, studying mostly at graduate and postgraduate levels, with a few inputs from junior college and PhD students. The aim was to capture the students’ awareness, readiness and experiences with online examinations. Even as efforts are under way to make ICT an inherent part of our education system, are the students really ready? We share some of our findings here.

Online exams: Student awareness not an issue
The survey revealed that an overwhelming majority of students (95%) are aware of online assessments. Also, the majority of students (69%) felt that these universities are more technically advanced, though students originating from Tier III cities are far more impressed.


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Source: ValueNotes Research

Vast majority of students originating from Tier III cities (~80%) claimed universities that conduct online tests are more technically advanced. This is in contrast to Tier I (56%) and Tier II students (61%). In contrast, more students from Tier I and Tier II cities feel universities that conduct online tests are similar to others. This could be attributed to greater exposure to technology enabled environs.

Student perceptions: Exposure a differentiator
A significant percentage of university students (46%) consider the online process to be more secure, compared to traditional methods. However, there is also a significant percentage (23%) which considers online security and credibility to be less than traditional exams. Almost 40% of students who have given both entrance and university exams online believe there is no difference in the security and credibility of process. This establishes that students who have limited experience with online exams are more speculative of security infrastructure, given recent issues with national level competitive online exams. In terms of experience, more than half the students (55%) interviewed had never given online exams, at the university or entrance level. Comparatively, students in Tier I cities have more experience with online university exams. Further, younger students have not given too many online exams; universities are experimenting with more online PG entrance exams. Vast majority of students (71%) who have given both entrance and university exams online are studying in Tier I cities, along with the majority of students (60%) who have given university exams online. 40% of respondents who have never given an online exam are studying in Tier III cities. Tier III students instead have more experience with competitive exams.

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Source: ValueNotes Research

It was also found that the accuracy and authenticity of online exams is thought to be far higher, by majority of students (68%). There was a strong correlation drawn between these students being more likely to join a university which conducts online exams. Students thus see great benefits with being able to give exams online.
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Source: ValueNotes Research

Among other aspects, the study found that the transparency of processes is seen as the major benefit, followed by greater efficiency. The convenience in online application/registration is perceived to be greater by 32% for competitive exams. However, the system is not without its challenges, and students are greatly concerned about the difficulty of usage of online exams, and lack of support from exam authorities.

Keeping in mind the benefits and drawbacks, the majority of students did have an idea of the type of exams they would prefer taking online. The consensus was on the following:

  • Objective tests of any kind
  • Class tests and mid-terms (in-course exams)
  • Entrance exams, especially for MBA, engineering, UPSC and IAS
  • Exams in different locations, such as foreign university exams
  • Exams for professional certificate courses (such as Java)
  • Non-academic exams (driver’s license, passport, etc.)

Online exams: Students give it a thumbs up
It was evident that students from all university levels and steams are positively inclined towards online assessments for various kinds of exams. They are definitely aware and resolutely ready, despite the limited exposure to the medium. It is now the responsibility of university and exam board officials, policy makers, and exam technology providers to collaborate and innovate. It is only then the inherent benefits of the system will be introduced down to the student level. 

ValueNotes Research
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