This question was asked on Quora. This is an extremely important question. This is also the one question that is ignored by education administrators and parents/students.
So why is online assessment more than moving offline tests to computers? First, is it even possible to move offline tests to computers? To answer this question, let us see the wide variety of questions that are asked in exams.
(1) There are the objective type questions like MCQ, True/False, Fill in the Blanks, and match the column type. All these very easy to implement in an online system like Google Forms.
(2) The problem starts with all other questions. How will a student answer questions that require writing long answers like essay-type answers? Typing speed is certainly not as much as writing speed. Then again, are computer software systems intelligent enough to mark the long answer (essay type) answers? There doesnot seem to be any robust and reliable system so far. While spelling mistakes and grammatical errors can be handled by software, context is much more complicated.
(3) What about questions that require a critique of a book, a passage, etc? This seems even more difficult as these answers are more subjective.
(4) For many subjects like physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, life sciences, etc, an essential part of an answer is a diagram. How is a student expected to draw diagrams on a computer – certainly not expecting every student to be proficient in Adobe packages!
(5) What about subjects which are mathematical in nature? Even if a student were to manage to write the math equations, automatic correction of these would be extremely complicated. Just think about the Greek alphabets used and how they will be recognized by automated systems. How will the computer software handle subscripts and superscripts, vector sign, matrices and determinants, and tensors, to name just a few. It seems difficult. At least today.
(6) The option could be that the student writes the answers on paper and then uploads a scanned image of the answer paper – I think this only complicate the situation further – the only option appears to be that the uploaded scanned answer paper is assessed by an examiner on the computer screen.
(7) I am assuming that all students are going to follow the principles of academic honesty and that no one will cheat and so one layer of complexity in conducting online exams is being reduced. I hope this is a fair assumption!
While online education can be useful to reach to students in remote areas, or bring quality education from across the world, examination assessment may still have to be done in traditional ways.
I hope this has answered some of your questions. I shall be happier if this has raised some more new questions, because that is the only way we can progress – by questioning, by disagreeing, on logic, and politely. Please share your opinion and ideas.