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Assessment Blog

4th January 2023 | Candidate experience

Is digital transformation really worth it for professional qualifications?

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As an awarding organisation and professional qualification provider, how can you know if digital assessment is right for you? Let’s weigh up the challenges and opportunities ahead.

We live in a digital age, and yet for many candidates, the professional qualification (PQ) experience remains firmly entrenched in analogue tradition. And for PQ providers, that’s both a challenge and an opportunity.

In every other aspect of life, we’ve grown used to a personalised, digital-first experience. We bank online; TV is on-demand; even meetings can happen at home with an online link. So, you can understand how travelling to a test centre on a fixed date, to answer questions with pencil and paper, might seem out of place – and that breaking this trend could give a competitive advantage.

What’s more, traditional assessments rarely resemble the experiences a candidate is likely to have in real-life working scenarios – such in accountancy, where much work is done in spreadsheets. But going digital isn’t always easy, which is why it’s so important to understand whether it’s right for you, and if it is, how to make it happen.

Let’s explore the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Understanding the need for transformation in professional qualifications

Many of today’s candidates want to access PQ assessments when and where it makes sense, and they want to use familiar tools that accurately reflect working scenarios. And once the evaluation is complete, they expect results to be turned around quickly so they can progress in their career or to the next stage of their qualification.

As more PQ providers digitally transform to meet these expectations, the more pressure there will be to keep pace. And when reducing costs, improving accessibility, and delivering flexible experiences can help drive long-term growth, overcoming physical limitations associated with traditional PQ assessments is an ideal way to meet these objectives.

Enabling remote digital assessments and e-Marking can also remove many of the costs associated with traditional assessments. For example, you’ll no longer need to cover travel and hotel costs for invigilators and examiners, hire a hosting location, or ship papers worldwide for marking. Plus, digital flexibility can help you deliver more exam sessions, giving candidates more opportunities to accelerate their careers and your staff the flexibility to work more often – and on their terms.

But let’s not forget about security. More than ever, test security is under intense scrutiny from regulation bodies. And should papers go missing in transit, the fallout is undue stress on candidates to retake the test, further costs to hold the test for the unfortunate individuals, and a hit to your integrity.

With that said, digital transformation can carry connotations of new and unknown threats, so it’s only natural that you may see sticking with pencil and paper as a secure, low-risk option. While true that exam malpractice can be an issue in digital assessment, there are new approaches – such as data-driven collusion detection – to help you author and deliver tests securely.

That’s why many PQ providers are looking to digital to enhance operational efficiency and attract the best candidates, invigilators, and subject matter experts. But it’s not a journey we recommend taking alone.

Finding the right digital assessment provider

We understand that not every PQ provider will be ready to transform and deliver end-to-end digital candidate experiences immediately – and that’s fine.

In many regions, the network infrastructure isn’t there to accommodate live video streaming and other multimedia applications. Or there may be internal push-back from assessors who remain loyal to ink and papercuts.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t start thinking about the short-term changes you can make and the long-term implications delaying transformation may incur.

With the right assessment partner who understands the social and technical needs of delivering realistic assessments, you can begin a phased approach to digital transformation based on your existing strengths and opportunities.

This might be leading with the introduction of a full end-to-end eAssessment platform, starting with a secure and collaborative authoring tool, or commencing the transition by introducing the on-screen marking of scanned exam scripts.

Here’s how we can help.

Managing PQ transformation for a digital future

At RM, we’re committed to helping you solve your efficiency, security, flexibility, digitisation, and competitive challenges – wherever you are on your digital journey.

This means we can work closely with you to understand the profession and skills you’re testing for, the technology you currently use, and how you operate. And rather than take a brute force approach to digitalisation, we only pursue opportunities that make contextual sense for everyone involved.

For example, instead of translating your existing exam papers into a digital format as-is, we’ll consider how it’ll look on-screen, how the candidate is expected to engage with it, how you’ll report and mark it, and whether you can broaden the assessment.

This also means looking at different kinds of digital assessment, and which simple item types can help you assess candidate skills more accurately and realistically. This may include text & extended response, open response (short & long), multiple choice (single & multi-select), drag & drop/matching pairs, and more complex item types like spreadsheets.

Of course, you’re not testing candidates on their ability to use a computer, so we will only ever implement the most intuitive and accessible technologies. The same goes for your teams, too, such as the remote invigilators who can assess candidates via video stream.

The RM digital assessment journey

For many PQ providers, we recommend starting with smaller, low-risk digitalisation use cases that can demonstrate immediate value – such as introducing e-marking so your assessors can mark tests anywhere, anytime.

Once you’re ready, we can begin to discuss further steps on your digital assessment journey at a pace that makes sense for your organisation regarding budget, location, and the skills you assess.

To discuss your digital assessment ambitions, get in touch with one of our experts today.

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