Why you should have an online examination strategy

Niklas Vernersson
Niklas Vernersson

This topic has been on many institutions' agendas for a while now, whilst others are still examining how and if this would work as a long-term strategy that could benefit the institution and its students.


The exam, its importance and role

Zooming out a bit, looking at different processes and events at a University and thinking about their importance, most of us can probably sign off on the fact that exams are one of the most prestigious and important processes from both an institution and student perspective. This is a historic process for institutions to understand and evaluate a student's knowledge. For students, it is where their knowledge is truly tested and they are given the chance to prove that they have understood the topic.


Pandemic shed light on a broken and outdated exam process

A historic process has advantages, such as that all stakeholders know what is expected from them, which can give a feeling of smooth sailing and comfortability. However, what some institutions started to realize almost a decade ago is that processes get outdated and need to be updated at some point. They need to be updated in order to provide more value and even improve the quality.

The pandemic has meant many things, primarily negative impacts on both society and individuals. However, in hindsight and on a positive note, some areas and old processes have been challenged due to outdated processes, the pen and paper exams included. Forcing institutions within the educational sector to rethink when and where the exams would take place and at the same time raising questions about how to maintain exam integrity and quality assurance when old processes don’t work anymore.


An updated and modern approach to exams 

During the pandemic, institutions were forced to try different solutions to solve their direct needs in assessing students and keep the business going as usual. For the last two and a half years, we have seen many come to the insight that online exams do not have to be binary as in “if we do online exams, we need to do all exams remotely”. Online exams, with the right vendor and technology, can be a tactic where institutions can cherry-pick the best things from a historic process and at the same time ensure operational efficiency, student experience, and that other key factors are improved.

Improved how?

  • Operational efficiency: online exams can remove manual tasks and decrease turnaround time for administrators, professors and teachers, meaning that they can spend more time educating students. Furthermore, since gradings and assignments are saved online, with a tool that can integrate into these systems for exams, institutions get one source of truth without manually moving information around or even worse, losing information. It also gets easier to read and grade, instead of interpreting handwritings and it also can increase collaboration between colleagues when grading

  • Student experience: we live in a digital world where most students expect education to be modern. This is obviously bigger than just exams, it has to do with most interactions both on and off-campus. However, looking at assignments and other tasks, most students write their assignments digitally. Why should exams not be conducted digitally? Providing more equalness among students where they can write anonymously and furthermore where students with special needs get a more fair chance when writing exams. We see that the institution's digital strategy will have a great impact on how relevant the institution will be when students are choosing their educational path.

  • Sustainability: just imagine how resource-heavy pen and paper exams are. The papers, color cartridges, and logistics are massive for an individual institution, not to think of on a national or global level. Going digital would not remove all footprints, but significantly improve it.


Read how Aalen University went from 0-20 000 online exams in just one year with an online examination strategy in place. 


What to think about regarding an online examination strategy?  

Three questions to bear in mind that will push your institution forward:  

  • How important is student success and how much impact does the exam process have on that objective? 

  • Is the institution moving away from the traditional ways of testing knowledge? Or is the institution convinced in making an already existing process much more effective with increased quality and better results?

  • What impact does a BYOD approach vs managed environment have on your strategy?  

Connect it to the university’s most important KPIs

For our customers, high-stakes exams are very important, and therefore having a strategy for improving this process and making it future-proof is crucial. An online examination strategy needs to be connected to the university's most important KPIs and objectives such as:

  • student enrollment
  • student retention
  • success rates
  • employee recruitment
  • satisfaction rates 

A modern and effective exam process is definitely supporting all these examples of high-level objectives for the university, making online examination a very relevant topic when setting the strategies for both now and the future. It is also important to understand how technology interacts, i.e. making sure that adding technology to your institution's tech stack adds value to stakeholders' output and does not create more tasks than before.


Academic integrity, technology, data protection and adoption 

Everyone knows that academic integrity is crucial. That is why looking at the underlying technology at vendors offering exam platforms is critical. Is the vendor using open or closed source code and what impact does this have on security, reliability, and compatibility to ensure the highest standard of academic integrity? Is the vendor using many different sub-processors or very few? This could be crucial when securing a partnership with a focus on data protection compatibility to standards.

Furthermore, how can the institution ensure that the adoption of the new platform is on par with expectations? I.e. How easy is the platform to implement and use for all stakeholders involved (administrators, professors, teachers, students, etc.)?


On an ending note

From a more general perspective, we are also seeing, as research shows, that student enrollments have been declining for years. The experiences during the pandemic and the long-term effects in combination with the already ongoing change of expectations of the learning experience - are obviously even more challenging for institutions that lack a digital strategy.

The result is that universities today really need to think about how to align with set strategies, be on track with the objectives, stay relevant and attract students - having an online examination strategy is a smart move considering these challenges.

Obviously, there is a lot more to discuss on this topic, interested in doing so? Please reach out and our experts would be happy to share our insights gathered during the last decade.