By Doreen Inyo
The higher education institutions (HEIs) play a major role in the development of the nation’s human capital and information dissemination. The institutions also ensure the education delivery is of high quality to satisfy their multiple stakeholders. However, for decades, the quality of education has continued to deteriorate as employers and other stakeholders continue to raise concerns on the graduate capabilities and work-readiness. Generally, one of the threats facing the education system revolves around how the examination process is managed.
Over the years, there have been recurrent cases of students cheating in the examinations. The common forms of exam malpractices include impersonation, cheating, bribery, fraud, fabrication, plagiarism, misuse of intellectual property, and sabotage. Today, with the rapid expansion of technologies, incidences of exam irregularities have scaled up to become a global pandemic. In HEIs, student assessment is the main criteria used to examine the ability of learners to apply the knowledge and skills attained into practice. Thus, the examination process is a precise reflection of the integrity of educational institutions that cannot be over-emphasized.
In August 2019, a Pan-African Global Summit on examination delivery, integrity, and security management was held at Cape Town, South Africa. The discussions centred on how universities can build integrity, manage security, promote ethics, and utilize robust technologies in the management of examination systems. The principal objective of the summit was that examination boards, regulators, universities, quality assurance, and other bodies must guarantee that examinations are conducted in a transparent and accountable manner. In general, a compromised examination system reflects negatively on an institution and may affect the credibility of its qualifications and accreditation. Similarly, it is only when the institutional examination system is factual and justifiable that its graduate dependability can be assured. Hence, there must be measures put in place to combat and detect loopholes in the examination process.
The key questions to ask is how can an institution develop a risk-focused strategy for examination management to improve compliance, prevent deception, monitor risk, and update future policy reviews? What are the analysis and prevention measures that can be applied in the educational institutions? The best answers to these questions require an integrated security plan to promote the integrity of examination systems.
Here are six ways to curb this ugly trend in the HEIs:
Develop and Implement Examination Procedures and Guidelines
There should be clear procedures and guidelines on how to set and administer examinations for lecturers irrespective of whether the tests are conducted in the physical classroom or online. Also, the invigilators and students should access procedures and guidelines on examination misconduct and its consequences. Some institutions assume that students and staff are aware of the existing exam procedures, which may not be the case, and this can lead to ignorant errors. Similarly, education institutions should benchmark with global best practices in the management of examinations.
Develop and Implement Examination Security Mechanisms
Policies on the administration and management of examinations such as examinations, academic integrity, and quality assurance should be developed and operationalized to safeguard the credibility of the examination process. The policies should highlight the preventive actions to mitigate any unforeseeable risks and future occurrences to the examination integrity. Also, legal issues relevant to the education sanctions such as how to handle students involved in exam malpractices should be made accessible to the faculty, administrative and/or technical staff, and students. Today, the use of online management systems for student assessment is allegedly becoming appropriate since the systems are more secure, consistent, credible, and free from human errors.
Develop and Implement Examination State-of-the-art Technologies
The emerging trends in the information and communication technologies have heightened the development of ground-breaking technological tools that can be applied to enhance examination management. Currently, the world is focusing on the development of industry 4.0 that comes with a wide range of tools and mechanisms for e-testing, e-assessment, and/or e-examination. For instance, the use of biometric technology, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and remote invigilation systems can be used to record behaviour and monitor online activities. However, the main challenge facing education institutions is how to apply these new technologies and manage its negative impacts. However, constant training and keeping abreast with the emerging trends in the world of technology can enable institutions to enhance learning experiences.
Develop and Implement an Interactive Examination Management System
An interactive examination management system (iEMS) is a web-based management software for handling student assessments. The system is critical, especially when administering online examination due to its outstanding architectural designs, user-friendly, flexible and other exceptional features. Also, the system supports a wide range of tests such as multiple-choice, essays, fill-in questions, and much more. Besides, the iEMS is known for its automatic calculation of grades and marks scores for students thus giving prompt feedback and credibility. Besides, the use of graphic interfaces and other interactive features of iEMS enable learners to obtain instant feedbacks and hence allowing more tests to be conducted within a short period. As many educational institutions focus on transitioning to digital classrooms, the iEMS is essential in managing instructor-learner and learner-learner interactions for long-lasting online learning.
Develop and Implement Examination Monitoring and Evaluation Tools
Accurate measures should be put in place to monitor the examination process to investigate and mitigate irregularities such as exam paper leakages and lecturer, exam official, or student-related corruptions. Also, quality assurance tools should be used to evaluate the applicability of the examination system and improve where necessary. Monitoring and evaluation tools are used to evaluate the performance of the examination process to improve its outcomes and impact. While the process for monitoring is a continuous assessment of the progress, evaluation is conducted periodically either monthly or annually. However, the credibility of the reports from monitoring and evaluation depends largely on the manner in which the exercise is conducted.
Cheating has become the norm in educational institutions. Though every education institution believes that the academic dishonesty will vanish on its own, cases of unethical behaviours such as exam cheating and plagiarism continue to escalate. These challenges are influenced by the predominant laxity of examination invigilation and supervision. Though no one is to blame, the course instructors and examination officers have a major role to play in changing the mindset of students on the impacts of the examination malpractices. For instance, constant reminders to students, instructors, and invigilators on the effects of their misconduct through seminars and training can transform a culture of academic integrity in the future.