During a virtual knowledge sharing event for professional accountancy organizations on the race to online examinations during COVID-19, Simon Hann of the Chartered Accountants Australia + New Zealand (CA ANZ) said that the rapid move to online exams due to COVID-19 within a period six weeks required – in short – blood, sweat, and tears. In its report, Our rapid move to online exams and beyond, CA ANZ shares its journey.
CA ANZ’s move to online exams was originally planned as part of an ambitious project to redesign their Chartered Accountant (CA) Program to empower a new wave of Chartered Accountants with work-ready, future-focused skills. Project activity focused on procuring a single vendor that could offer a technology solution that would digitize assessment delivery and enable remote marking while providing in-person invigilation by hosting exams across a global network of test centers. With a timeline of 12 months to the first pilot, it was an ambitious target.
In March 2020, CA ANZ was preparing for 8,750 candidates to take the seated paper-based exam—exam centers were booked and marking weekends scheduled. Then, in mid-March, it became clear that online exams needed to be fast tracked. Having to pivot rapidly, CA ANZ decided to allow progression and maintain academic integrity by delivering online exams via their learning management system with remote invigilation. And recognizing that this would require them to go beyond their usual risk appetite, CA ANZ managed risk at pace for all key stakeholders from their board to regulators to employers and candidates.
The 8,750 candidates were given a choice to continue with an online remote invigilated exam. Ninety-six percent of the 8,008 who elected to do so accessed the exam without any problems. Sixty-two percent of the 2,416 candidates who responded to a survey rated their online exam experience as good or extremely good and 26% as average. Ninety-four percent of the 258 markers who responded to a survey rated their online marking experience as good or extremely good and 6% as average.
What is next? CA ANZ is continuing with online delivery of their exams, harnessing their learnings to enhance their offerings as they navigate the remainder of 2020.
They have also reviewed their approach and changed the scope of their project. The originally proposed seated computer-based exams will be replaced with remote invigilated exams that will:
- Provide a higher quality candidate experience by eliminating travel, removing the stress of the exam center, completing the assessment on a device that is familiar, and being better able to cater to special provision candidates.
- Provide a scalable exam and assessment solution to accommodate the growth of the CA Program and enable the future state digital design proposed by the redesign.
- Deliver a contemporary assessment experience in line with current developments.
Significant benefits are expected from engaging a single vendor, including minimal technology support for integrations, a unified candidate support model, and consistent user experience across technology platforms. Areas identified for improvement include candidate onboarding, academic integrity, access to permitted materials, support, and statistics reporting.
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