Ok Google, how long left on my exam? Why we need people in technology-driven test environments.

I spend the best part of my working week managing the delivery of international high-stakes examinations with the members of our global network who are based in Europe and Africa.  Getting the right people in the right place at the right time to ensure the job gets done.  Properly.  Flawlessly.

So how did a conversation with one of my team members leave me sweaty-palmed and wondering if there is even a place for people in the future of exam management?

Where it began

I recently caught up with one of our longest-standing Victvs team members, Sheila Crowe, who has been leading the way in exam management for 27 years.  I initially wanted to find out more about how the exam industry has changed over the years and moved with the times.

“When I first started, there were very simple rules and regulations.  My husband took me on the first test after spending the previous evening taking copious notes, including what to put on the board and what to say to the candidates.  I had this piece of paper for months until it disintegrated.  There was no maximum number of candidates – often the room size dictated the numbers – and candidates were able to get results from invigilators.”

Sheila went on to tell me what has since changed.

“Set procedures for invigilating examinations have been introduced, bringing consistency.  Auditing and immediate marking was introduced.  The wider use of mobile phones and technology made communication more immediate, especially in the winter of 2010, when the A90 in Scotland became a car park because of bad weather and I was stuck for 2 hours on the way to an exam!”

The rise of the exam-bots!

It was inspiring to hear about Sheila’s experiences and anecdotes on exam management over the last three decades.  But it got me thinking.  What lies ahead of us? The global workplace is moving fast, and new, forward-thinking technologies are shaping the future for all of us.  In the education sector alone, we have seen a shift toward digital tutors, automatic grading, and eye and fingerprint recognition software to check candidate identification.  Technology is becoming ever more prominent.  In turn, examinations are becoming ever more efficient.

I began to wonder how much room there is for technology in exam management, and how many human processes could be replaced by technology.  Will we get to a point where invigilators and exam managers are no longer needed in the exam room?

Customer service and the candidates’ needs

Then I remembered something Sheila said.

“A nervous individual often needs reassurance.  It is very rewarding when a room full of candidates pass an assessment and you know that you played a minuscule part in that by attempting to give them a stress-free environment for them to show what they know.”

The reassurance felt from being in the company of another, is something that we can all relate to.  Much like compassion and empathy, a reassuring presence in the form of the exam staff is essential to a positive exam experience.  The same goes for judgement, initiative and, instinct.  These traits allow every candidate to be treated fairly and to have the best possible experience.  These traits simply can’t be replicated by our digital counterparts.

We will always need people managing examinations for these reasons.  More than that, we need great people whose lives are underpinned by strong values and character.  We need people like Sheila.

Don’t get me wrong, new innovations and technology should play a part in our future and the future of exam management and they will undoubtedly enhance the assessment experience for candidates, course providers and exam managers alike.  But we are a long way from being in a position where machines can replace humans as a source of compassion in an exam environment.

Sheila ended our conversation by saying: “I am in my 27th year as an invigilator and loved every minute.  Even the early morning starts in the cold and dark of winter.”

Here’s to the next 27 years of exam management with our awesome Global Network.

You can read more about our Global Network and our values here: https://www.victvs.co.uk/a-global-network-with-a-shared-identity-victvs/

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