Monday, 21 May 2012

Online Exam System : The Future of All Examinations and Tests

Importance of Education and Learning

Education of any kind is necessary for man to develop socially and intellectually.Everyday we learn something new. An education should be rooted to culture and committed to progress.
Each of us has a social personality that is different from everyone else, we also have a learning personality that is different from everyone else. Our learning personality is the combination of natural talent, personal interest, current opportunity, social environment, character, motivation and how the brain processes information.

In today’s world this learning capability is judged by means of examinations. Examinations are every important in judging one’s personality. Thus, the need of exams today in universities, schools, colleges and even companies for recruitment purposes.The general paper-pen tests/exams are now slowly being replaced by the online internet based testing system.



Examinations are part of the learning process

          – An element in assessment         
          – Stimulus to order thoughts         
          – Helps to think under pressure         
          – Satisfaction of knowing that studies are done         
          – Helps in judging one’s capabilities for career options in future  

What are Online Examinations?

Online examinations, sometimes referred as e-examinations, are the examinations conducted through the internet or in an intranet (if within the Organization) for a remote candidate (s). Most of the examinations issue results as the candidate finish the examination, when there is an answer processing module also included with the system. Candidate is given a limited time to answer the questions and after the time expiry the answer paper is disabled automatically and answers sent to the examiner. The examiner will evaluate answers, either through automated process or manually and the results will be sent to the candidate through email or made available in the web site.

Today many organizations are conducting online examinations world wide successfully and issue results online.

There are advantages and disadvantages in online examinations. The main advantage is that it can be conducted for remote candidates and evaluation of answers can be fully automated for MCQ questions and other essay type questions can be evaluated manually or through automated system, depending on the nature of the questions and the requirements. Also online examinations can be conducted at any time and does not incur higher cost as traditional exam scenario as there is no paper work involved(eg:printing exam papers, prepare paper admissions etc) , there are no invigilators, also no need of arrangement of exam centers. When comparing with traditional exam scenario the cost for an online examination will be almost zero.
The disadvantage of the e-examination is the inability of invigilating. There are methodologies used in these examinations, when registering candidates and presentation of questions, so that to test candidates knowledge and skills. However with a limited time, candidate cannot be completely tested with his skill-test.

The system

This solution will provide assistance in creating, conducting and evaluating examinations. Large organizations will be able to have a centralized database ofquestions, from which the tests will be prepared. Internet will be used as a media for disseminating and conducting tests, thus maintaining a uniform pattern for all the examinees throughout the organization.
The task of maintaining the record of scores and the tests for which a particular candidate has appeared will be done by the portal. The progress reports can be printed at any point of time by just providing the necessary details of a candidate.The solution can also be used by faculty members to create question papers. They can provide a question bank consisting of questions of varied difficulty levels. Numerous sets of distinct question papers can then be printed, consisting of all type of questions in equal proportion. The same can be put to use in corporate organizations and universities or colleges.

For schools, colleges, universities managing the examination have never been easy. Now school teachers and college/university professors can manage question papers very easily.

This system aims to be a powerful tool for eLearning and online education. You can create quiz, question bank, certification examination questions in any language. Useful for school, college, university, teachers and professors for managing question papers and examinations. Recruiting agencies, companies can use it for candidates skills evaluation by conducting online test. It is very useful for parents in the academic development of kids to improve their educational skills.

The system is consisting of a web server with a database facility. This server is configured with proper security measures. Clients (candidates) can connect through the internet with a web browser (eg: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox etc) to the server and take the exam. Examiners too can connect to the server through the internet or through the intranet for settng up papers and to do other related tasks.

       

   

• NEED: Theory about examinations and why the need for online exams:

The traditional approach to measuring a persons level of knowledge in a topic has been the examination. These days there is often more emphasis on "internal" assessments,which may consist of assignments and projects given out by the teacher and then marked or assessed by the same teacher. Examinations have the advantages of:  

• Confidence that a large number of students are all being assessed equally.  
• Reduced opportunity for cheating.  
• Less marking work, where an entire year’s assessment can be made based on the output of students over a 2 or 3 hour period.

This solution will provide assistance in creating, conducting and evaluating examinations. Large organizations will be able to have a centralized database of questions, from which the tests will be prepared. Internet will be used as a media for disseminating and conducting tests, thus maintaining a uniform pattern for all the examinees throughout the organization.

The task of maintaining the record of scores and the tests for which a particular candidate has appeared will be done by the portal. The progress reports can be printed at any point of time by just providing the necessary details of a candidate.The solution can also be used by faculty members to create question papers. They can provide a question bank consisting of questions of varied difficulty levels. Numerous sets of distinct question papers can then be printed, consisting of all type of questions in equal proportion. The same can be put to use in corporate organizations and universities or colleges.

The Internet creates opportunities for making examinations both more reliable and cheaper than they are already. To see why, we need to look at what the components of an examination process are. Ignoring the efforts of the examinees, there are three major components of effort required to administer an examination:  

1. Create the examination, and keep the contents secure until the examination starts.  

2. Supervise the examination – supervise the entry of students into the examination environment, identify them if necessary, ensure that they do not have prohibited materials or communication devices, make sure they do not communicate with each other, and collect the examination papers at the end of the examination period.  

3. Conduct the examinations.

Using computer technology, it should be possible to streamline these three phases, and also disconnect them from each other.

Also, online examination system offers the following features that throws light on its need today:                  

A) Reliability - An examination result is only useful if it can be trusted. If a potential employer judges a potential employee on the basis of an examination result, the employer needs to trust the creation process, the supervision process and the marking process. Where these are separated from each other, the examination result must explicitly show the parties responsible for each component of the process, i.e. who created the examination, who supervised it and who marked it (or, if it was marked automatically,what algorithm was used to mark it). Anyone judging the reliability of a result must take into account all identified responsible parties.                  

B) User details - The software maintains the details for each student as well as provides a facility for editing the student details if required. There is Password based access for Individual Answer Sheet, General Mark Lists and Trends Graphs.

Functioning of the Online Examination System:

The system is consisting of a web server with a database facility. This server is configured with proper security measures. Clients (candidates) can connect through the internet with a web browser (eg: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox etc) to the server and take the exam. Examiners too can connect to the server through the internet or through the intranet for setting up papers and to do other related tasks. There are two options available to have a web server facility

  • Option 1 -Having an in-house web server



In this system the web server and database management system is installed for management of databases, these databases could be Candidates database, Questions database and if the automated evaluation is carried out a separate database for evaluation purposes. The web server can be on windows platform which uses Microsoft Windows Server with Internet Information System (IIS) as the web server software.

  • Option 2 - Obtain web hosting facility with server side programming and database facility from a web hosting service provider



Under this setup the developers upload locally developed server scripts to the webserver through internet and set up the databases remotely with the obtained serverf acility and there is no system administration involved.

2. The Overall Description

2.1 Product Perspective

The Online Examination System is a web based application. The system can be modified and customized to suit the need of any Educational Institutions, Primary and Secondary Schools, Colleges, Professional and Vocational Institutes, Universities or Training Academies. This software is particularly suited to conduct competitive exams like recruitment exams and Common Entrance Tests (CET) of various states as it will save valuable time spent on assessing the answer books and the results can be obtained immediately. This system software offers the following:

• Fully automated web based examination software  
• Register students online  
• Automated test creation / randomized questions  
• Centralized administrator controls  
• All the features are customizable

How the software (system) works: The software maintains the details for each student as well as provides a facility for editing the student details if required. There is Password based access for Individual Answer Sheet, General Mark Lists and Trends Graphs. Authentication is provided Via Sessions and the password is stored in encrypted form (MD5 hash) in the database.

A brief description of how the system works:



  • Applicants (Candidates) apply for the exam online or through other medium
  • After evaluating the applications admissions are sent to the accepted candidates
  • Candidates register and take the exam and submit the answers.
  • After evaluating answers examiner issues result.       
The product (system) aims at reducing costs associated with conducting exams over a period of time and achieving total automation of examination system- related tasks like registration, publication of results, which leads to a very high degree of system efficiency.

2.2 Product Features

Some basic facilities provided by the system are listed below. They will be discussed further in greater detail. 

Few of them are:  

1. In built Question database for exam questions  
2. Access anywhere, anytime Application  
3. Exam Format intuitive and easy to navigate.  
4. Administrators load the questions into the database  
5. Examinations are generated automatically as per student selections  
6. Exams and questions can be edited, deleted, and re-used anytime
7. Faculty can also upload required study material and references for test takers.
8. Communities or groups can be formed for specific organizations.
9. The results can be viewed online and printed.  
10. A variety of analysis options based on different parameters or combinations of different parameters for faculty/examiners conducting the test.

2.3 User Characteristics

The users of this system are precisely students and teachers. Students need to to know how to access internet and make their profiles with the system. Teachers need to possess a good skill of certain languages that have to be used while uploading of questions etc. overall users of this system do not need to have a very high technical know-how. The teachers also need to identify the need to upload study material and practise tests. The assessment which can be done in various forms reqiures understanding of basic mathematical functions and graphs. This system is user-friendly.

2.4 Operating Environment

The software will be a web-based application, meaning it runs from a browser. Theproduct should be able to be run from a remote client machine with an Internetconnection. This decision is made depending on where the data file is stored. If it isstored locally, then the program will run on the local machine. The external interfacewith be through the browser, through ASP.Net version 3.5 HTML and VC#, Ajax alongwith some JavaScript.The hardware running the software will be Pentium 4 2.4 GHz, running Windows Vistaor later using SQL Server 2008 Express Edition as the Database system and the development environment will be Visual Studio 2008. Along with this the inbuiltMicrosoft IIS server will be used in the process.

2.5 Design and Implementation Constraints

   • The system will not contain any audio component to enable the visually impaired to use the product.
   • The medium of instruction will be English only.
   • The internet connection used by the organization should have a speed of 1 Gbps or higher as the navigation between questions would be done in acceptable time limits.2.6

User Documentation
An online product guide and sitemap will be embedded in the product website.

2.7 Assumptions and Dependencies

All the software and hardware products mentioned are assumed to be available with the developers. To fulfill server space constraints any freely available format converters could be used.

3. System Features

3.1 Basic Features

   • Type of Questions:
Questions can be multiple choice, true/false, short answer (fill in the blank), multipleanswer (checkboxes), and essay.

   • Exams can be timed or untimed.
                i. Exams can be turned on or off and have a date range for each exam.
               ii. The system can automatically create exams by randomly choosing questions from your exam question database.
               iii. The system will randomly order the questions for each student.

   • The total number of questions can vary from paper to paper.

Answers processed and marks awarded Instantly. Results can be viewed immediatelyupon Submission. Generation of Individual Answer Sheets, General Mark Lists Summary(Total marks Obtained) as well as Detailed (Topic Wise marks Obtained).

   • The topics in the detailed General Mark List can be specified by you along with the minimum pass marks for the subject.
   • Can include pictures, graphics files in the questions of the Online examination.
   • The computerized examination system has a facility to Add students details, View Student List as well as Edit student details. The Student details that you wish to store in the database can be specified by you.
   • The Customized Online examination system has a password based authentication system for students as well as System Administrator. The passwords are encrypted and stored in SQL Server database.
   • The System Administrator as well the Student can change their own passwords. In addition the administrator can edit all details of the student.  
• Practice Tests -  You'll have the option of simply providing a large bank of practice test questions that users can practice with, or to provide a tutorial area as well, making your product a full test prep "course" as opposed to a bank of practice questions.
 • Results: Students and instructors get instant results. Results can also be printed as soon as the test finishes.  

3.2 Advanced Features

   • The examiner who uploads the questions gets an option of specifying whether the questions can be used for practice tests or not. • The candidate should be able to register online for the examination online after accepting the application(Optional) • The system should be capable of issuing online-admission cards(index numbers/ or passwords) for exam entry.(Optional)


4. Requirements

4.1 User Interface

The external user interface forms are designed using standard tools available in Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition. Some interfaces may also contain Macromedia Flash components. Error messages will be displayed in message boxes.

4.2 Hardware Requirements  

Hardware requirements for the system to work are:     
• CPU : Any CPU which can be in the form of external (CPU for PC) or internal (for laptops)     
• Monitor: any monitor which is capable of displaying the signals sent by the computer     
• Keyboard: A standard QWERTY keyboard for data entering.     
• Mouse: Any standard mouse     
• Printer: Any printer it could be Laser printer, Inkjet Printer or even a Dot- matrix printer will work fine for the software

4.3 Software Requirments

Software requirements for the system to work are:      
• Microsoft Windows (95, 98, ME, NT, XP or Vista): The software will work on any of the Microsoft Windows OS.      
• ASP.Net

4.4 Communications Requirments

Communication Requirements for the system to work are:  
• Web Browsers: Internet Explorer (7, 8), Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera.  
• LAN Connection

5. Non-Functional Requirements:

5.1. Performance Requirements 

• Should be capable of giving access to concurrent users without degrading the system performance and accept answers. 
• Sessions of each candidate should be synchronized with server and duration calculations should be done according to the server time.

5.2. Safety Requirements

• The system should be designed in as a secured system applying safety measures 
• Special exception handling mechanism should be in place to avoid system errors. 
• In case of scenarios where data integrity can be compromised, measures should be taken to ensure that all changes are made before system is shut down.

5.3. Security Requirements

• Only registered students are able to access a test. 
• The test can be made available on specific dates. 
• The test can be made available at specific times. 
• The number of times students access tests can be set. 
• The login time per student is available. 
• Logoff time per student is available. 
• The system should be synchronized with the server time and should be capable of disable answer sheet automatically after time out.
                                                                                
5.4. Software Quality Attributes Availability:

The system should be available 24/7.It should always provide real time information.  

Reliability: The system should be robust enough to have a high degree of fault tolerance. The system should not crash and should identify the invalid input and produce a suitable error message. It should be able to recover from hardware failures, power failures and other natural catastrophes and rollback the databases to their most recent valid state. Usability: The system should provide an easy-to-use graphical interface similar so that the users do not have to learn a new style of interaction. The web interface should be intuitive and easily navigable Users should be able to understand the menu and options provided by the system. Any notification or error messages generated, should be clear, succinct, polite and free of jargon. Integrity: Only system administrator has the right to change system parameters, such as pricing policy etc. The system should be secure and must use encryption to protect the databases. Users need to be authenticated before having access to any personal data.

EXISTING SYSTEMS - There are many online examination systems available in the market today. In this part of the discussionwe will briefly describe the existing systems and undermine the features ofthe proposed system. These features are the improvements or advantages of ourproposed system over the existing systems. Onlinetestplus, Sify-itest, Exam-Pro Software, Exam 9 products, iSummation Technologies and manymore are the widely used online examination soft wares today.


References


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8 comments:

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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