Pros and Cons of Online or Offline Forms
The pandemic has prompted the rise of online learning. Tech companies have started creating online educational platforms to cater to the needs of both students and faculty. As a rule, the aim of such platforms is to administer training programs and track students’ progress. A good example would be LMS by Diversido.
However, one of the biggest challenges of adapting to the new learning system is the necessity of passing examinations online. So, what are the pros and cons of online exams?
Online Exams — Is the New Format Better?
Cons: Cheating — a primary concern among educators
Almost every online exam is an open-book exam. Here, we do not talk about specialized tests like the GMAT that take place in centers with a controlled environment. We are talking about exams that students pass from the comfort of their homes. At home, once a student has received the list of questions, using learning materials to answer them seems like a possibility. There are many ways for educators to battle this form of cheating.
- Introducing rigid time limits.
As a rule, exams have certain time limits. For online exams, those limits tend to be stricter. There is significantly more time involved in searching for an answer, than simply filling out the answer form. If a student only has time for the latter, the chances of cheating dramatically drop. The downside to this is the added stress that students experience under the pressure of such deadlines.
- Testing the understanding, not knowledge.
When composing the list of questions, many educators focus on measuring the level of awareness about a subject. They create hypothetical situations that require solutions based on critical thinking and analysis. These answers cannot be copied from a textbook. But creating such questions requires a lot more time and mental strength. Under current circumstances, many educators might understandably lack both.
Cons/Pros: The environment — a blessing or a curse?
Those who are able to take exams in a peaceful and quiet environment are lucky. But many are not. With the nationwide lockdowns, three or even four generations all gather under one roof. The lack of space and privacy leads to stress, chaos, and general frustration. Finding a quiet place at home to take an exam might be a real challenge.
On the other hand, for those whose home environment is conducive to learning, online exams might be a blessing. Think about it — exams are stressful as students fear the possibility of failure. The environment can make a huge difference in this case. Our home is our sanctum sanctorum. This is the place where many people feel relaxed and calm. If a student feels at ease they can perform better during exams.
With most types of online exams, there is no need to wait for someone to check the student’s test. Students can see their grades as soon as they press that final send button. But, this might not always be true for written assignments. Still, AI and automation offer new solutions to the issue.
For example, written GMAT assignments are checked by human raters and a machine algorithm. This drastically reduces the number of raters needed to do the same amount of work. Contrary to what one might think, accuracy doesn’t suffer. If there is a disparity of more than one point between the rater’s and the algorithm’s assessment, the assignment is checked by another human rater.
Pros: Less commuting — less emission
Lots of paper is spent each year for educational purposes, in particular, for exams. Taking an exam online is a better choice for the environment.
Offline Exams — Is the Traditional form Outdated?
Pros: Classroom — your home away from home
Exams are an experience — good or bad — that students can share with each other. This can make them feel closer to their peers, as well as deal with disappointments easier. A classroom is a whole new world where students can communicate, socialize and, of course, learn.
Also, if students study in a classroom, it is easier to ask for support and personal attention from an educator. It can be during the exam when appropriate, before and after.
Cons: Physical presence
The biggest disadvantage of offline examinations is obvious. Both students and educators have to attend them in person. This entails lots of difficulties — from commuting to added stress to the possibility of getting infected in times of pandemic.
Cons: Classroom distractions
Does anyone in the classroom have a habit of loudly biting their nails? What if the sound of a pencil, writing on paper, is annoying for some participants? Does anyone wear a stuffy cologne? There can be a myriad of reasons why someone sensitive to sounds or odors can find the experience of taking offline exams unpleasant.
Both online and offline modes of taking examinations have their merits and shortcomings. Perhaps in the future, we will be able to combine both effectively. For now, at least until the pandemic is over, online education is here to stay. Some people praise it, others treat it as a necessary evil. Either way, we are able to try and make the online experience for students better. Voicing our concerns to each other is the first step in the right direction.