As increasing number of students opt for online learning from different sources, The writer looks at the scope and benefits of online assessments
Information Technology and the education sector in India may have grown leaps and bounds however, a synergy between the two has not quite progressed at the same rate. An increasing number of students of this generation are spend a considerable amount of time using technology for various purposes. Learning through digital platforms may leave a trace in the form of online submissions, answers etc. A few organisations have started looking at methods to analyse this data from learners on virtual platforms and helping the efficacy of the education process.
Embibe is one such online assessment platform which provides customised tests to students preparing for engineering and medical entrance exams. “In colleges or coaching classes, if one student falls behind in a particular topic for some reason, the chance of a faculty member knowing is unlikely. That’s where we come in,” says Aditi Avasthi, founder, Embibe. According to Avasthi, data from each student in each test can be studied in different ways including which questions the student could answer, not answer, how much time was taken to answer, how much time before he gave up and moved to the next question etc. “This way we can keep informing a student what they good at, what they need to work on. We can also tell how much time a student should have spent on a particular section,” she says.
Students are keen to get this extra help. Oamkaar Sadarangani for instance, found this whole concept of online assessment helpful while preparing for his engineering Joint Entrance Exams (JEE). “I was unable to maintain concentration during the test. So I wasted a significant amount of time and often had to leave questions,” he says. Avasthi recognised this pattern and asked him to give three tests every day without taking breaks. As a result, Oamkaar’s score showed immediate improvement of around 20 marks.
An advantage of using data analytics over traditional assessment is that it is practically impossible for teachers to manually study the test data of each student with the kind of detail that an algorithm can. According to Hussain Tambawala, co-founder, MelonPrep, this technology can be best utilised by teachers. “Suppose the teacher conducts an exam in class. Analytics can be used to determine which students were able to answer the difficult questions and what was the average time taken to answer them. Conversely it can be used to find out which are the questions most students struggled with,” Tambawala explains.
These online portals can also be used to study the effectiveness of different teaching methods. “Teachers often use innovative ways to teach certain concepts. An analysis of student performances will tell us if the method used has made a difference,” informs Tambawala.
In addition to students and teachers, data analytics can be used to benefit different stakeholders in the education sector including administrators and parents. “An administrator will be interested in gauging the performance of teachers while parents will focus more on how to improve their child’s knowledge and understanding,” says Saurabh Mundra, co-founder, MelonPrep.
So if these tools are so useful, why aren’t more and more schools using it? “Most of them don’t realise they need it before they see the results. Another problem is that internet access for all students may not always be possible,” says Tambawala. Also prerequisite for this kind of platform to work seamlessly, which is not always available, is the need of intelligent and capable educators. “These technologies are not meant to replace teachers but to equip them. After getting the analysed data, it is up to them to interpret it in the best way possible,” adds Mundra.
To summarize, this new way of objective assessments connects test takers and test givers in an elaborate and useful way. According to Arpit Badjatya, CEO, Serosoft who operate Test Master, an online assessment portal, the tests can be randomised, sequential or time bound to suite the needs of the customer. Their model is different in the sense that they do not deal directly with students or teachers. Instead, they build a customised assessment platform for educational institutions, train them how to use it and help at regular intervals for maintence. “These platforms will soon become a critical spoke in the wheel for quality education as different stakeholders realise the different benefits of using them,” signs off Badjatya.