"In terms of testing, we have come a long way from pen and paper tests to computer-based testing at dedicated test centres and even online proctored tests from the comfort of one’s home," says Divyalok Sharma.

Computer-Based Testing and Online Learning, a Winning Combination in Today’s Busy Learning Schedule

Pearson VUE is no stranger to the world of computer-based testing and assessment. The well-known testing and assessment company is trusted by over 450 credential owners globally for developing, managing, and growing their testing programs.

Courseware World talks with Mr. Divyalok Sharma, Senior Director for Client Development (India & SAARC), Pearson VUE. The interaction touches many salient points vis-à-vis swiftly growing e-learning industry in India including emerging computer-based testing programs, online proctoring, security of the testing environment, and changing learners’ preferences.

Excerpts:

Courseware World: Mr. Sharma, in your long association with Pearson VUE, you may have witnessed a transition from print to online-based learning and testing. Can you please share with us your experiences and views on adopting the current learning scenario by the education industry?

Divyalok Sharma: The world of learning is changing in leaps and bounds. At the moment, we’re seeing a real shift in the global assessments industry around the way that people study for exams and pursue new certifications.

Our industry has evolved with increased access to technology at all stages of people’s learning development. Digital platforms have gained a lot of attention among the current generation of learners. In most cases, textbooks are being replaced by digital courses.

With online learning and testing, there is significant opportunity; more than half of our population is under the age of 25 and the number of internet users has increased to 600 million (as per Kantar IMRB report).

There’s a growing number of smartphone users and young people are now using their personal devices for everything from streaming short YouTube videos to purchasing goods at the click of a button. Similarly, they also want bite-sized learning, reflecting the changes in their lifestyle, which is always on the go.

In terms of testing, we have come a long way from pen and paper tests to computer-based testing at dedicated test centers and even online proctored tests from the comfort of one’s home.


Learners want greater choice and flexibility around the way they get certified in a new skill or even a new career.


CWW*: What would you like to say about the changing learner preferences? Do today’s young learners prefer to learn with the help of technology, or do they still wish to rely on traditional face-to-face interaction with a teacher?

DS**: While face-to-face interactions are the preferred method for a lot of people still, technology is gaining traction with a younger demographic and a working population with increasingly busy lifestyles.

Also, there is currently a shortage of skilled workers and technology-based educational courses are the ideal supplement to formal education in India.

Measuring skills through educational assessments has a long tradition in India and new ways of learning such as online certification courses are becoming increasingly popular.

Learners want greater choice and flexibility around the way they get certified in a new skill or even a new career; so our industry is responding with modular testing and micro-credentials.


Students will also have more options to study for multiple courses at the same time and that’s where online learning and certification will have the edge over traditional teaching methods.


CWW: With the emergence of a number of e-learning platforms, students now have the choice of either classroom learning or online learning. In your opinion, what changes would it bring in the way education is imparted to the learners?

DS: We see students turning to online learning since they have the flexibility and convenience to start the courses anytime they want to, and they have more choice in opting for the right courses.

Online learning is often the gateway for people to go on to explore taking a computer-based test to gain a new certification and they often continue to embrace reskilling as a key part of their career growth.

E-learning will at some point in time replace physical classroom learning to some extent, if not fully. Students will also have more options to study for multiple courses at the same time and that’s where online learning and certification will have the edge over traditional teaching methods.


CWW: Assessment and evaluation of learning is an important factor in deciding the quality of education. Can you throw some light on how online learning platforms can ensure fair and accurate assessment for students?

DS: With traditional pen and paper tests conducted in India, there are risks involved around test papers being leaked in the process of them being physically printed and transported to exam halls. But with a computer-based test, the paper is uploaded onto the computer on the day of the exam and is encrypted, meeting the highest levels of security.

Computer-based testing reduces human error or bias in marking answers and online learning platforms help test takers to practice for their exams through online practice questions; so, it’s a winning combination.


Computer-based testing reduces human error or bias in marking answers and online learning platforms help test takers to practice for their exams through online practice questions; so, it’s a winning combination.


CWW: The conventional examination system still hasn’t succeeded in completely eliminating the use of unfair means and practices. Do you think the latest AI-enabled online proctoring can help in overcoming the malpractices associated with exams? How?

DS: The way exams in India are designed, scheduled, and evaluated is set to change. Computer-based testing is much more than just transferring a paper-based exam onto a computer screen.

Several measures are applied to tackle any malpractice such as encrypting question papers, installation of CCTVs in test centres, carrying out stringent checks before candidates enter the exam hall, etc.

To give you an example, OnVUE is our online proctoring platform that provides organisations and credential owners with a range of secure delivery options. Self-check-in is a key feature — candidates check themselves in and run through ID authentication protocols using artificial intelligence.

Candidates are then monitored by a VUE-certified proctor via webcam and microphone during their test and the exam is terminated immediately if any prohibited behavior is detected. Not only does this technology protect the integrity of the exam itself, it upholds the security requirements of credentialing organisations.


The way exams in India are designed, scheduled, and evaluated is set to change. Computer-based testing is much more than just transferring a paper-based exam onto a computer screen.


CWW: According to one view, flawed examination systems have contributed to perpetuating the negative elements in education like impetus on rote memory and confinement to a fixed curriculum. This has somewhat killed creativity and lateral thinking among learners. How do you think the examination structure can be revamped with the help of the latest technology and pedagogical principles so as to be on par with the global standards of exam practices?

DS: We completely agree that rote memorisation has completely killed creativity among the current generation. Exams such as LSAC’s LSAT—India that we conduct for law entrance admissions, does not focus on rote memorisation or subjective questions but more on the candidate’s aptitude and reasoning skills. With this exam programme, it’s imperative that candidates who want to take up a law course have basic skillsets such as aptitude, reasoning, reading comprehension and analytical skills that are the most desirable traits when choosing law as a career path.

So, it’s not just the technology itself that’s the focus, but also the way the exam content needs to be revamped for the examination to assess the students in the right way. As a global organisation with 25 years’ experience in the assessments industry, we have always supported collaboration around best practice when it comes to the integration of new technology, exam content, and the way students need to be evaluated and assessed.   


CWW: With the formation of a national body, the ‘National Testing Agency’ (NTA) for conducting online exams for all national level examinations, the GOI has shown its receptivity for the adoption of better and improved means of examination. Recently, MHRD has also invited AI-enabled online platforms to collaborate for its educational initiatives. Do you think this is a positive step towards public-private partnership for a quality education?

DS: The National Testing Agency has definitely improved the way examinations are conducted and we’re pleased to see that the government recently launched the National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT) to bring learning technologies and government initiatives under one umbrella. It’s a positive step towards encouraging the participation of private companies in improving the overall quality of education and increasing the accessibility of education services to students in India.


India’s assessments market is projected to increase to USD750 million by 2021. Large market players like Pearson VUE, are responding to new opportunities to shape the future of education in India.


CWW: How do you see the role of computer-based testing in the growth of the EdTech industry in India? How do you see the overall e-learning industry growing in India? Amid this growth, what would be the market size of computer-based tests in India 3-5 years from now?

DS: According to a report by global management consultancy, TechSci Research, India’s assessments market is projected to increase to USD750 million by 2021. Large market players like Pearson VUE, are responding to new opportunities to shape the future of education in India.

Major new computer-based testing programmes will be launched over the next few years, forming the backbone of the future ‘EdTech’ sector and raising standards around learning and certification. 

As computer-based testing becomes more widespread across India, we’re excited to develop, deliver, manage and grow our clients’ assessment programs and to provide opportunities for young people to gain new certifications and grow professionally.


Coureware World = CWW *|Divyalok Sharma = DS**