How to choose the right examination platform for your needs

Niklas Vernersson
Niklas Vernersson

Online examinations have become a reality for most educational institutions around the world. The pandemic shed light on an obsolete and inaccessible process, pen and paper exams, and has fast-tracked the adoption of remote learning and online examination platforms and tools. However, far from everyone was prepared for it.

The institutions had to quickly adapt and shift to online alternatives to avoid cancellation or postponement of regular examinations. To move to the online setting, many institutions had to find an examination software for the first time that could fit their examination requirements. Unfortunately, due to the time-sensitive situation, many relied on investments in quick-fix solutions that resulted in real frustration for everyone involved — teachers and students alike:

  • dysfunctional IT-systems
  • gaps in data privacy, security, and reliability
  • confusing user flows, failed usability, or accessibility 

With experiences and feedback gathered, we urge you to sit down and take your time to re-evaluate your current examination platform (if you have one). We are certain you will be able to find a new better solution that fits your institution's needs even better.

Six things to consider when choosing your examination platform

There are numerous reasons why a digital exam project can fail ─ one of the most prevalent being a lack of knowledge. A poll conducted by EDUCAUSE during the pandemic revealed that 33% of the respondents using proctoring did not know what to look for in a proctoring solution

The selection process needs to be carefully laid out and considered from all perspectives. To get you started, here are six things you need to consider to find the best examination platform for your needs:

  • Figure out the WHY: Ask yourself why you need a digital examination platform. What opportunities do you see, and what existing problems do you want or need to solve? Answering these questions lays the foundation for your search, providing a clear direction for the type of examination solutions and the features you need to be on the lookout for. 

  • Key objectives and expected results: Knowing the WHY and gathering the information necessary from the market, will help you understand how the vendor and its platform can solve your problems and meet your needs. Ultimately, you need to understand what results you should expect from this investment and how it will align with your objectives and KPIs. This goes for both overarching objectives and your own ones. If this digital transformation process is to be successful, the decision-makers also need to understand what results they can expect. Today most organizations have come very far in their experience of enrolling in digital platforms for various reasons - you could potentially say that over the last couple of years, we have seen an inflation in digital projects, platform implementations, and investments.

    By the end of the day, what separates the good investments from the bad ones? Of course, there are several parameters to look at - but what if we focus on the most important ones? The results and expected outcome. How will this investment improve quality? How can it help us reach our goals? When should we expect to see results? What benefits do we see for the students? How will it help us enroll more students? Will this strategic move improve results? Can it help us retain our staff and maybe even give our recruitment operations a boost?

    As all of your strategic initiatives should improve your organization and give you great outcomes, the choice of examination platform should be expected to have a great impact as well - otherwise, you shouldn’t get one in the first place. Therefore, it is crucial to integrate your strategic business planning work as early as possible in this process, to communicate expectations around business objectives and their KPIs.
  • The Crucial, the Important, and the Nice: To narrow down your list of potential platforms, you have to find out what you NEED and what you WANT. Divide features and services into three distinct categories: crucial things you need to operate as normal, important things that aren’t necessary to operate but nonetheless useful to your institution, and nice things that could be useful but are in no way, shape, or form necessary. Work your way down the list to quickly disqualify and identify potential platforms.
  • Knowledge is power: The procurement process starts before it actually starts. Information is key, and of course, you should always take the opportunity to prepare and gain experience by talking to vendors, collecting information, and requesting to test the solutions you are interested in. Schedule meetings with all relevant vendors and talk to them!
  • Ask for references before buying: Reading customer cases and talking with current and previous customers of the vendor is a great way to gain a good understanding of how the platform works, what strengths and weaknesses it has, what to expect from it, and what to consider. This step is usually part of the procurement process at a late stage, which does not make sense. Why would you not want to have as much information as possible and listen to others and their experiences at the earliest possible stage?
  • Ask for a trial, intro, or demo: Always, and we can’t stress this enough, ALWAYS ask for a trial, intro, or demo before making a final decision. Nothing gives you a better insight into an examination platform than actually seeing it in action and trying it for yourself. 

Conclusion

Many educational institutions were not fully prepared for the shift to a digital and even remote setting when the pandemic hit. They were new to digital examination platforms. Maybe they even lacked a digital strategy because the need wasn't really there. Remote online exams were definitely something new to implement in volumes and perhaps the institutions hadn't really started to offer digital exams on campus anyway. This is of course the circumstances that caused these organizations to not fully understand the effects of quick fixes and what they should have looked for in these technologies.

This article aims to rectify this issue and help you find the best possible examination platform for your institution’s needs.

All of the above pointers are undoubtedly a must part of the selection process when procuring an examination platform. If you want some extra pointers, give us a call. If and when you find your preferred platform, check out our guide on how to implement an examination platform.