Wednesday, 25 May 2016

MeritTrac’s Technology Solutions to Plug Various Vulnerabilities in Education Sector

Bengaluru, May, 2016: The increasing population and Gross Enrolment Ratio has resulted in most examinations in India becoming large. The large volume and high stakes has brought examinations under constant threat resulting in inconvenience to students and dent to the examination body’s reputation. MeritTrac, India’s premier Testing and Assessments Company has introduced a suite of technology enabled solutions that are designed to mitigate the risks in examination. MeritTrac has launched “Just in Time - Question Papers” (JIT-QP) - a solution that aims to address the vulnerabilities in the traditional model and eliminate question paper leak in high stake examinations by applying innovative technology in the examination process.

JIT-QP is designed to secure examinations from vulnerabilities arising at Question Paper development, printing, logistics and storage before it reaches the test taker. JIT-QP ensures that the final Question Paper is decided randomly from a set of questions based on pre-defined rules or set of Question Papers. The final Question Paper is selected and made available at the exam centre in an encrypted mode just few hours before the exam. The authorized personnel will decrypt the Question Paper and get it securely printed by authorised representatives in a secure zone at the test centre. This ensures that the final question paper is available, even to the authorized personnel, only a few minutes before the examination for distribution to the Invigilators and then to the test takers.

1.       The questions are authored by Subject Matter Experts in a computer from a highly secure and monitored facility allocated by the examination body.
2.       The Question Bank manager then creates multiple sets of Question Papers based on the questions that have been authored. Alternatively, the Controller of Exams office may choose to upload multiple Question Papers in to the system directly.
3.       All the data uploaded in to the system are securely stored in a Data Centre with access available only for the Controller of Examinations or the authorized personnel.
4.       The Controller of Examination would then select the final Question Paper on the day of examination and create encrypted Question Packs which are sent to the pre-allocated computers in the test centres.
5.       The Controller of Examination would also send passwords to pre-registered mobile numbers of authorised representative (principals) at test centres an hour or two before the start of the exam.
6.       The authorised representatives can access the Question Pack with the password and these question papers are then printed according to the classroom and seat allocation.
7.       The printed papers are packed classroom wise and are available only at the time of examination.
8.       The access to question paper and its printing is done in a ‘strong room’ which is continuously under surveillance.

JIT-QP is one among the series of technology based exam reform solutions that MeritTrac has introduced. MeritTrac’s Question Bank management solution, AuthenTrac – a biometrics based candidate authentication solution and TracMARKS – its On-Screen Marking solution have been helping customers enhance quality and experience of examinations.

Question Bank Management solution allows examination bodies to create a bank of questions authored by Subject Matter Experts and randomly develop question papers on the fly. This helps the exam body to anonymize the final question paper till it is selected on the day of the examination.

Impersonation in high stake examinations is a perennial threat faced by exam bodies. AuthenTrac – a patent pending in-classroom biometric based candidate authentication solution prevents impersonation by ensuring that the biometric records are registered during the examination and verified during admissions. This solutions has been successfully used in prestigious examinations in the country.

Evaluation of descriptive answer scripts have been a challenge for examination bodies. Lack of sufficient number of evaluators, errors in evaluation, errors in totalling & posting, attempts to tamper answer books post examination, speed of evaluation and the need to respond to RTI queries on quality of evaluation has been posing reputational risks for examination bodies. TracMarks, MeritTrac’s On-Screen Marking (OSM) solution helps examination boards and Universities to apply technology in the process of evaluation. The process involves scanning of the answer scripts, storing digitized answer scripts in secure locations and utilising the evaluation software to digitally evaluate the answers. The quality assurance features in the solution ensures that evaluations are carried out without human errors. This includes scientific marking quality assurance methods like evaluator practice and readiness, seeding of scripts, forced annotations, automated totalling and tabulation of scores. 
Steps involved in On-Screen Marking include,
1.       Scanning of Answer Scripts at secure scanning centres
2.       Secure transfer of electronic scripts to data-centre and its storage
3.       Scripts made available to evaluators at centralised evaluation centres or at their home
4.       Evaluation of scripts on screen by evaluator
5.       Marked scripts converted in PDF form with annotations
6.       Result publishing followed by instant readiness for subsequent evaluations when needed
Speaking at the press conference, Nagendran Sundararajan, Executive Vice President of MeritTrac mentioned that the susceptibilities in the current model of conducting examination has been exposed in the recent years. “The traditional approach to examination and question paper management has multiple vulnerabilities that are typically exploited. Question paper leaks, delays and errors in result processing cause unrest and displeasure among all stake holders in examination. In today’s generation, it is important to leverage technology in the examination process that eliminates possibilities of such fraudulent activities. MeritTrac’s Just in Time Question Paper Management (JIT-QP) and TracMARKS – On-Screen Marking solution addresses this very specific requirement.” he added.
MeritTrac’s knowledge of the examination process coupled with its understanding of technology has helped in the development of innovative solutions that has enhanced security, quality and stakeholder experience of examinations.

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