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Online Digital Assessment: An Answer to Professional Institutes’ Mission-Critical Issues

Professional institutes around the world need quick and efficient ways to solve mission-critical issues.

Posted 11 October 2021

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Those involved in the professional institutes’ sector face such mission-critical issues as how do we:

  • Establish a clear value proposition – to ensure people want to join, and stay with, our institute?
  • Attract and support a younger demographic in terms of membership?
  • Establish a strong infrastructure and - in today’s technology-dependent business world - effective online processes?
  • Collect meaningful data and manage that data effectively – online – to help our members be more productive and advance their careers?
  • Help our board members understand the tension between the institute’s goal of disseminating knowledge and the need to ensure the institute’s future viability?

These issues – and effective ways of solving them – are interconnected. The younger people whom institutes are keen to attract into membership will, increasingly, want information and other career support – notably qualification information and assessment – delivered online. In addition, the application of technology makes easier the collection, monitoring and management of members’ professional activities, in terms of continuous professional development (CPD) and qualifications.

Thankfully, online assessment of people’s knowledge, skills and capabilities is one area taking giant technological strides – and, increasingly, many professional institutes around the world are recognising the many benefits this can bring, both for themselves and their members. Online or eAssessments can:

  • Improve the assessment process and streamline internal operations
  • Be applied in all areas where competency needs to be demonstrated
  • Provide a faster and highly cost-effective solution, compared with paper-based systems
  • Reduce the time and administration burden involved in the qualifications process – saving the institute time and money
  • Track and report on the wide range of information required for compliance auditing, producing secure data and real-time definitive evidence to show members’ competency in particular subject areas – enabling the institute to target recommendations to support members to enable them to improve their competency via CPD

Linda Steedman, Chair of eCom Learning Solutions, a leading provider of online training and assessment and which, over the last 25 years, has been building an enviable worldwide reputation for its solutions’ quality and reliability, explained,“eAssessment – a term which, in our view, is synonymous with such terms as Online Assessment and Technology-Enhanced Assessment - offers organisations many advantages over a traditional paper-based approach to assessment. These include cost savings, convenience, ease of marking and speeding up the process of the qualifications being awarded as the result of the assessments.”

One such institutional eAssessment user is the International Well Control Forum (IWCF) - the only independent body focused on oil and gas well control planning and accreditation. Focusing on improving competency throughout the industry while stressing the core values of quality, safety and integrity, the IWCF has introduced eAssessment in conjunction with eCom Learning Solutions to manage the assessment and certification of candidates worldwide through its global network of training centres. The assessments, which include both knowledge and practical elements, are presented in 17 languages.

“The IWCF wanted to make the training and assessment process more accessible, responsive and user-friendly for candidates, training providers, assessors as well as IWCF staff – hence the move to eAssessment,” explained Linda.

“The solution – known as FORUM and delivered via eCom’s assessment management platform, eNetAssess - allows invigilators to monitor student progress, automatically mark online tests, record practical assessments, manage and verify certificates, as well as deal with question authoring and multiple translation versions. Not only does FORUM enable candidates to register, update their details, locate a centre and participate in assessments, it provides IWCF administrators, centres, assessors and invigilators with a single platform for reviewing candidate details - and enables external users to authenticate and check the validity of a certificate.”

Powered by eNetBadges, FORUM issues successful candidates with electronic certification (eCerts) - significantly reducing waiting times for candidates to get their qualifications. eCom has also developed a mobile app to allow candidates to prove their qualifications to employers.

To help centres with internet connectivity issues offer the same eAssessment experience, eCom developed FORUM HUB. This pioneering solution allows those centres to use a pre-programmed Raspberry Pi device to download and upload assessments from a secure online link. Assessments are then marked automatically, with results issued to candidates once the scripts are uploaded into the appropriate centre’s FORUM database.

Now that they receive eCerts instead of paper certificates, candidates also receive instant awards which can be displayed on their social media profiles. The mobile app also makes it straightforward for candidates to demonstrate the qualifications they hold.

“The eCom team supported us through all stages of the project lifecycle, while offering expert eLearning advice to ensure our system is innovative and scalable to meet the current and future demands of our customers,” said Antony Quin, IWCF’s Chief Executive Officer. “We’ve found that eCerts offer several benefits including providing an extra level of security via a unique code held in the eCert; increasing awareness of qualification validation for the industry, and reducing our carbon footprint, via cutting our printing and shipping costs.”

“Our experience – particularly with professional institutions - shows that eAssessment offers cost savings, greater convenience and ease of marking compared with traditional paper-based assessments,” said Linda Steedman. “Moreover, in addition to speeding up the qualification-awarding process, eAssessment can be less open to manipulation - making it more reliable and trustworthy in terms of regulatory and compliance issues.

“Using eAssessment is far more eco-friendly – in terms of reducing candidates’ carbon footprints in travelling to and from traditional assessment centres – and eAssessments can accommodate those candidates with accessibility issues,” added Linda. “For example, the assessment platform can be programmed to allocate extra time to specific candidates, if required. Tools such as navigation features and screen readers can be used to aid understanding along with other tools, such as voice recognition, that help with question answering. Not limited to the assessment stage, these tools can be applied to the digital learning materials made available before the eAssessment is taken. These changes in tutor practice and IT infrastructure can enhance - and transform - the way a person learns.”

Along with other technology-enabled processes, eAssessment is now helping professional institutes enhance their value to the industries they serve as well as enhancing their value to their members. The results of this are being seen not only in improved institute membership but also in these institutes increasing their public profile and prestige.