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We Are Headed Towards Online Exams, But are Our Schools Equipped?

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By Ashford Gikunda, Diana Ross, Sam Okoth & Hassan Arale.

The COVID-19 Pandemic is quickly fast-tracking many sectors. The possibility of sitting for exams virtually is soon dawning in Kenya.

Were it not for the pandemic, we would have taken longer to imagine of online examinations. However, the truth of the proverb: ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ is unfolding right in front of our eyes, thanks to the virus that is currently ravaging the world. In a way, the scourge is bringing out both the worst and the best in us.

Google defines testing as: ‘revealing a person’s capabilities by putting them under strain.’ It further goes on to expound it thus: ‘In general, testing is finding out how well something works.

In terms of human beings, testing tells what level of knowledge or skill has been acquired.’ Testing, therefore is part of learning. With the current situation, there is no telling when the situation will normalize. Schools need to begin a conversation on online testing. This being the first of.

Learners at different levels will need to be evaluated so as to pass a judgment on the skills acquired. This will be through administering a test.

Traditionally, in Kenya, students sit for examinations in a classroom or lecture hall. Owing to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 scourge, this may not be very possible. Either way, students need to be evaluated. The question is how.

Institutions of learning are exploring the option of online testing. The University of Nairobi’s senate has approved online exams.   

The pandemic has disrupted learning across the globe. Learning in third world countries is bearing the brunt of the pandemic more because of lack of integration of digital literacy in schools.

The global scourge is stretching all spheres of life. Traditional learning and teaching methodologies have been greatly shaken. Learning is now virtual. The effectiveness of learning is measured through testing. Owing to technological challenges virtual learning has not been maximized in the country. 

The Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) candidates are at a loss.

Not only have they not covered the syllabus but they are also unsure of when and how they will sit their national exams.

The international Cambridge IGCSE curriculum administers online exams to its students across the entire globe. It does this with military precision and accuracy. Cambridge exams are above board in terms of credibility. The local curriculum can borrow a leaf from IGCSE.

Currently, we seem not to have options now but to embrace the only option which is digital learning and testing.

What do we and don’t have? Internet connectivity is paramount to undertake digital learning. Not many areas of Kenya have stable internet connectivity and this might be our undoing.

Some parts of the country are remote and wouldn’t access the same levels of internet stability as others.

Is our power reliable? Who knew we would wake up one Saturday morning to a national black out that would last for more than eight hours.

Suppose you had your virtual test on this day, then woe unto you. Do we have the required gadgets to access online learning?

The answer would be yes for very few of us, yes but a no for the majority.

Phone penetration is wide but still many are not smart. How dedicated are we to commit time to online learning and testing?

A majority of us work at our optimum best when we are under maximum supervision.

This will be our back fall when digital learning is embraced. How secure are our systems? Not very I must say.

If hackers can hack into the electoral system it is easy to think that compromising our learning systems will be a walk in the park for them.

A lot of infrastructures both hard and soft has to be put in place if this dream has to be realized. It is a pipe dream but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The path is uncharted.

There was mixed reaction on the reception of online exams for most of the students who are used to the traditional sit-in exams.

A prevalent opinion amongst most students was with no physical supervision they will be able to do exams well since the confidence level will be high and less anxiety when approaching the exams.

Quite on the contrary, in Kenya, academic dishonesty is a critical dilemma and menace for the Education regulatory authorities and universities have also struggled to curb cheating for the longest time possible.

While some students were concerned with Internet Network in some parts of the country where the Telcom network is not available especially in the rural areas and they are looking forward to how they will be cushioned.

Some students were not optimistic about the success of the online examination following the glitches encountered during the online classes.

As we wait for our schools to establish proper infrastructure for online examination, they must look beyond the exams and look at the tools at the disposal of the students such as laptops, tablets, and internet that will be able to facilitate smooth online exams.

Online testing has its share of pros and cons. To begin with, its flexibility of makes it enviable for future changes and amendment to either incorporate other aspects of intelligence or to be designed for any other school, age or class.

It also reminds us to be environment enthusiasts, going green means no cutting trees and ensuring green energy is preserved and online examinations needs no paper.  I mean if no tree is cut to process papers used for examinations, why would one still want to sit in a classroom when it can be done at the comfort of your home? 

Someone on twitter made a meme that said “those of you crying for schools to resume. If they do social distance inside the exam hall, will you even graduate?” These words are enough to tell us that online exams are more secure than class exams as students will not be able to cheat from others as each person might receive random set of questions.

Another advantage is that it saves money for institutions and students as well. Sometimes, results are also displayed at the end of the exams and it lessens the fear of students that they were marked down in examination.

Even though many people say that online testing is the future, it has some limitations like the level of digital literacy for a student.  If one does not well versed, they may shy away from programs that have this option especially because of typing speed and competing with people who are tech-savvy.  

Internet access is another inhibition specially in this part of the world.  Most remote areas have poor connections and this might mean that people will have to travel or only the ones within a specific area will be able to do it.

Needless to say, online exams can also be a victim of fraud as the internet has too many hackers, so the institutions have to be very careful with the platforms they decide to use.

The authors are MA students in Project Planning & Management at the University of Nairobi –  January 2019 Cohort.

See Also>>> Economist Building E-Learning Solutions

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BT Reporterhttp://www.businesstoday.co.ke
editor [at] businesstoday.co.ke


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