Embracing Hybrid Subjective Online Exams at Leading University [Case Study]

Introduction: The Evolution of Student Assessment

In the ever-evolving landscape of higher education, the methods of assessing student knowledge are undergoing a significant transformation. 

Traditional pen-and-paper assessments are increasingly seen as insufficient for evaluating the practical aspects of knowledge acquired in modern curricula. 

This is particularly true in courses that heavily utilize applications like Excel, PowerPoint, coding environments, and various data science tools.

 To address this gap, leading universities are turning to technology-enhanced assessment methods, including online exams with descriptive answers and document upload capabilities. 

This article delves into how a prominent university has adopted a hybrid subjective online exam approach to more effectively assess students’ practical knowledge.

Limitations of Traditional Assessment

A leading university, with campuses across multiple cities in India, recognized the need for a new assessment approach that accommodates the use of specialized applications during online exams. 

Courses such as BE, B.Tech, BBA, and MBA often require the use of Excel, statistical programming, advanced CAD drawing, data analysis, and data science applications. 

The traditional examination approach falls short in assessing these subjects effectively.

To overcome these challenges, the university adopted a hybrid mode of conducting online assessments. This approach allowed for the integration of practical tasks using specialized software, followed by the submission of the completed work for evaluation.

Benefits of Hybrid Mode of Exams

The hybrid exam mode combines the flexibility of online assessments with the robustness of a controlled environment. Students connect to a central local server while attempting the exam, and all documents related to the subjective exam are uploaded to this server.

Safe Exam Browser: Secure Testing for Any Device

The university implemented the Safe Exam Browser (SEB), an open-source browser designed for secure online examinations. SEB offers several features:

  • Application Control: It allows specific applications to be used during the exam, blocking all others. This ensures students focus solely on the exam material.
  • URL Filtering: SEB provides granular control over website access, allowing only the necessary resources.
  • Screen Monitoring: The browser records screen activity, including screenshots and keystrokes, to monitor for cheating attempts.
  • Limited Functionality: Features like printing, copying, and pasting are disabled to prevent information sharing.
  • Offline Exams: SEB supports offline exams, ideal for secure testing in remote locations. 
  • The university enabled a specific list of applications through SEB, including MS Word, MS Excel, AutoCAD, Visual Studio, Code Block, VLC Media Player, Node JS, Basic Python, MySQL Workbench, Power BI, Tableau, Adobe Photoshop, Blender, and R Studio.
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Secure Question Paper Delivery to Local Exam Lab

The university established a secure and encrypted question paper delivery mechanism. Question papers, stored in an encrypted format on cloud servers, were delivered to local exam centers 30 minutes before the exam schedule.

Question Paper Setter are able to define question paper for the respective exam using advance question bank management tools.

The entire hassle of distribution of question papers to exam center with logistical activity was eliminated with the help of technology.

Hybrid Mode of Examination

During the online exam, students accessed questions on-screen and downloaded Excel templates for calculations for the respective questions. 

Safe Exam Browser ensures that the entire activity of the student is being made secure with access to allowed set of applications for doing calculations using sofwares like R Programming, coding environment, excel sheet etc.

After completing the tasks, they re-uploaded the files through an online exam upload facility. All files were saved on the local server in an encrypted format and later synced with the main cloud server for evaluation.

This approach made it easier to assess practical knowledge in various tools and technologies, such as R Programming and Power BI.

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Conclusion: Advantages of the Hybrid Examination Mode

The hybrid examination mode offered numerous benefits:

  • Reduced Dependency on Continuous Internet: Internet was only required for syncing exam results and uploaded documents.
  • Local LAN Environment: Subjective exams were conducted seamlessly in a local LAN environment.
  • Secure Exam Environment: The Safe Exam Browser ensured that students could only access specific applications and documents.
  • Practical Skills Assessment: Students were evaluated on their proficiency in practical applications like Power BI, AutoCAD, and Tableau.
  • Offline Mode Flexibility: The extensive document upload facility made conducting online descriptive exams in an offline mode feasible.

In summary, the university’s innovative approach to assessments reflects a broader trend in higher education towards more practical, technology-integrated evaluation methods. This hybrid model not only enhances the assessment process but also prepares students for the technological demands of the modern workplace.