The use of online examination software and assessment tools has brought about many benefits. However, with its many benefits come its attendant challenges. If the online examination system is to be effective, then, it is important that these challenges be addressed.
Some of these challenges are now highlighted below:
The first and perhaps most obvious challenge facing online exam systems is the availability of computers and other hardware for students to use when taking these online assessments, especially in developing countries. In considering this issue, a number of technical and perhaps financial questions will need to be considered.
Some of the main questions include:
Without an effective authentication system, it is possible to compromise the identity management capabilities of online testing software. When extensive penetration tests are not conducted, it is possible to exploit certain weaknesses or bugs within the system source code. This thereby allows users to impersonate a candidate. This would probably pass through the system as there will likely be no physical authentication of candidates in the examination center.
One of the advantages of the online exam software is the fact that exams can be taken in remote locations regardless of what time zone the candidate lies. If adequate arrangements are not made, then it is possible that such impersonation occurs. All it takes is collusion between the candidate and a mercenary who, after obtaining passwords and authentication details simply walks into the center and logs in to take the exam. Since no physical scrutiny is in place, the impersonation may go undetected.
This challenge arises in the case of sudden disruption of exams due to network failure or power outage. In such a case, if the system is not designed with that in view, it becomes a problem for continuity of the exam. On the other hand, where a candidate finds the questions too difficult, he/she can decide to somehow shut down the PC and then feign ignorance of what happened. Now, since it is widely established that literacy is a challenge in IT, there may be very little that can be done if the system has no way of picking up from where the candidate left off. The online test creator may be forced to administer a fresh exam or have the exam taken on another day.
As mentioned above, this could pose a serious challenge. Some exam systems are not created in a user friendly manner. Some also require extensive practice to make the user become familiar with the interface. The main exam interface of the exam software should be plainly laid out and very simple so that it is immediately obvious what needs to be done. A user reads out the instructions or questions on the screen and responds accordingly. In a system where elaborate designs have been made to the interface, it may mean that the user will become confused and not know what to do. This, in turn, will lead to lots of complaints and perhaps an opportunity for fraudulent exploitation of the system.
An exam system should have the capacity for proper encryption of exam questions. Where encryption levels are not adequate, unauthorized access to the exam system could lead to compromise of exam standards. Unauthorized access could also result in leakages of exams and fraudulent manipulations of exam reports and data. It could also result in loss of examination data.
Every institution and schools have their own standards of allocating and analyzing grades and other examination coefficients. Unfortunately, most exam systems are off the shelf and are not tailor made to suit institutions. Therefore, there exists the challenge of integration of such systems into the institutions. A lot of changes will have to be made to either the system itself or the organizational structure of the institution. Another alternative will be investing huge sums of capital into getting a tailor made system that will sit in the existing structure of the organization. Even with this option changes, there will still be a need for web based exam software to be made available to the system as it may not be possible to replicate an exact physical system of organization into an online examination system.
Preparing for online assessment: challenges and opportunities Massachusetts Educational Technology Advisory Council (June 2011)
Research on Online Examination System - Indu Sharma, Anjali Singhal, (pdf)
Challenges of Online Exam, Performances and problems for Online University Exam – (pdf)