A guide to help you select an efficient Exam Evaluation Technology

Apr 25, 2017

Rashmi is a 17 year old confident student who knows she has performed well in her twelfth examination and is waiting impatiently for her results. She wants to join medical stream. Her results are expected in May and she is to submit the marks sheets and apply for common entrance examination registration in the college by June. May month comes and goes and the result has been delayed. Disheartened, Rashmi loses her confidence and had to opt for an unknown dental college in the interiors.

college-students

Delay in results publication affects credibility of a university and college. It also affects the future of bright students like Rashmi who has to make do with whichever college will have them instead of being able to choose the cream of colleges in the country. Who is to blame for their loss and thousands of others like them?

In spite of all encompassing reach of technology in everyday life and prevalence of savvy smart phone, internet and Wi-Fi users around the country, when it comes to examination conduction and evaluation, most Universities and School Education Boards in India continue to opt for manual method of conducting examinations, evaluating answer scripts, and publishing results.

Manual process is man power intensive and time consuming due to which there could be delay and more chances of human error creeping in. Students’—whose academic road depends on timely submission of marks certificate to attend competitive examinations or apply to a higher and technical education institutions/vocational training institutes—future are literally on the line. Students will be able to apply to institutions of their choice for higher studies instead of making do with second best. It also gives them time to request for re-evaluation if required, before seeking admission for higher studies. On time results also means students could apply for jobs sooner.

Ability to publish marks well on time is the responsibility of a Council or Board which also affects its credibility. In response to changing times, many Education Boards and Councils in India have started using new examination and evaluation management technologies.

Automation and the use of technology in examination management could save universities and exam boards around 20-50% of their overall costs, depending on the level of implementation. Given the huge size of the market and the clear cost and efficiency benefits, technology penetration is slated to increase dramatically over the coming years. Considering the rising administrative expenditure and dwindling budget allocations that most Universities and School Education Boards are beset with, the clear cost and efficiency benefits that technology offers, will ensure wider adoption of innovative IT enabled solutions by the Indian higher education sector in the years to come.

Some of the technologies that is currently being used in the education sector are as follows:

Optical Mark Reader (OMR)

OMR is a scanning technology used to digitise marks by detecting the presence or absence of dots filled in by a user. Special top sheets are used which would contain small circles, referred to as bubbles, that are filled in by a student. OMR software interprets the output from the scanner, and translates it into the desired ASCII output. OMR reads marks written by pencil or ballpoint pen in the pre-defined positions on the questionnaire sheet and a mark has to be positioned correctly on the questionnaire.

Pros

  • This technology is ideal for grading objective type question papers or capturing data from questionnaire surveys where a particular answer is marked out of several choices available.
  • This is a cost effective implementation.
  • This technology could be used with wide range of scanners.

Cons

  • The application does not work on damaged sheets that are stained or wet or has degraded due to improper handling.
  • To be properly detected by a scanner, the marks has to be positioned correctly on the questionnaire.
  • The technology does not recognise shapes.

 

On Screen Marking (OSM)

OSM is a process of scanning answer scripts and examiners will evaluate these scanned pages in a computer. A high speed industrial scanners simultaneously scans both sides of a page. All the pages of each answer script are scanned and the images stored. Evaluators are presented with scanned images of these answer scripts instead of the hard copy. Evaluators would evaluate and mark the papers online in a computer.

Pros

  • This method increases quality of marking and facilitates continual monitoring of marking quality
  • There is less risk related to transporting answer scripts between examination centres and evaluation centres
  • Examiner in and out time along with number of answer scripts evaluated could be effectively tracked.
  • Due to effective audit trail, each examiner could evaluate only given set of answer scripts
  • This technology is suitable for grading objective and subjective type questions as both are captured in the scan. Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) used the OSM method to evaluate major subjects of class X Examination in 2014.

Cons

  • Not cost effective – To separate individual sheets to enable simultaneous scanning of both sides— about an inch is guillotined off the left edge of each answer booklets and additional sheets attached to them, before feeding the lot into the scanner. Post scanning, the answer scripts are stitched back together. This is a labour-intensive procedure that slows down the scanning process. Not cost effective as high speed industrial scanners are expensive
  • Usually scanning and physical work of cutting off answer script booklet edges work is contracted to a third party leading to more expense in terms of cost per page.
  • Scanned images of answer sheets after an examination has to be retained for a mandatory retention period. Tens of terabytes of server space is required which adds to overall cost.
  • If the scanned images of the answer scripts are stored in a centralized location, evaluators will have to download the images for evaluation. At an evaluation camp where there are teams of evaluators working at a time, the internet bandwidth requirements will be huge, which will further escalate costs.
  • More chances of human errors such as mismatched answer scripts leading to scanning in improper order, bad quality of scanning
  • Scanned answer scripts needs to be stored which means investment in storage areas.
  • Outsourcing leads to more chances of compromising security
  • Evaluation centres has to be equipped with computers and other necessary infrastructure for viewing the answer scripts.
  • Examiners needs to be computer proficient increasing performance anxiety of many older generation examiners affecting their productivity.
  • As per reports carried in newspapers in 2014, the output per evaluators of CBSE Board actually went down from 30-35 answer scripts per day, to 20-25 using this method.

 

Orion Live Ink Character Recognition (OLICR)

OLICR is a marks digitization technology that uses a re-purposed digital pen paired with a data enabled tablet to capture handwritten marks in real time and make it available in digital format for instant download. Evaluators follow the traditional pen and paper method of evaluation, and then use a digital pen to transcribe marks to the top sheet. The pen digitizes the marks and transfers the data in real time to the accompanying tablet. The evaluator compares data and confirms it. This digitized data is encrypted and transferred online to a secure cloud based server.

Pros

  • Cost effective and ideal for grading subjective and objective type question papers. Council for the Indian School of Certificate Examinations (CISCE) used the OLICR solution to evaluate major subjects of class X and XII Examination in 2016 and was able to publish results 2 weeks in advance.
  • Weaves a mix of technology and traditional process work cycle which increases productivity and improves marks capture accuracy
  • The solution leaves no residual data, either in the pen or the tablet making it completely secure.
  • The digital pen captures the identity of evaluator and records date and time of evaluation allowing effective tracking of evaluator productivity.
  • Application of question paper rubrics, max-marks validation and totalling of marks are carried out on-the-fly, ruling out possibilities for human error.
  • Compilation and publication of results can be accomplished in a matter of days since the marks data is transferred instantly to the central servers
  • The solution was presented at the e-India Summit held at Kovalam (Kerala) in mid-November 2014, where it won the National Award for the Most Innovative Product in the Testing & Assessment Category.

– Orion Team

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