Online exams are now a norm in education. The pandemic pushed the entire world to adapt to a new form of learning and living. The enforcement of nationwide lockdowns led to the closure of many establishments, including educational institutions. Lessons went from the physical classrooms to the virtual screen. Because of the pandemic, a new mass examination system was also introduced in the form of online exams. There are many debates around the validity of this form of an exam.
In this article, let’s go through some of the pros and cons of online exams vs offline exams.
First, let us discuss the limitations of online exams:
- Technological limitations: Many technical issues come with taking online examinations. First, there is the possibility that students may not have the technology and gadgets required to attend online classes/exams. Second, the technical issues also include internet connectivity issues. Even if students have all the devices they need, they cannot attend online classes/exams without internet connectivity.
- Lack of internet connectivity: Online exams take place on online platforms. And for something to be online, it needs internet connectivity. However, a strong and stable internet connection is not a guaranteed facility for many students. The internet is still a luxury to thousands of people all around the world. A strong and steady internet connection is expensive, posing constraints for students in taking online exams.
- Issues with the mode of answering: Typing is a skill that one hones through practice. Not all the students appearing for online exams have good typing abilities. In the case of subjective questions, the candidates need to type long answers. This is not a practical method since those weak in typing will have problems with time management and answering in general. The overall performance of the student would be negatively affected. Thus, online exams are not well-suited to subjective answers. The best option would be objective answers, which do not require as much typing. In the case of answers written on paper, a host of other problems arise, particularly in terms of security.
- Security in Online Examination: An important topic of debate when it comes to taking online exams is the issue of security. To what extent can online exams ensure fair and equitable testing for all students? Problems such as cheating, fraud, plagiarism, and impersonation are among the many issues that take place in offline exams. These problems worsen with the online exam mode. Unless the educational institution goes the extra mile to use applications and procedures to ensure these problems do not take place, it is bound to happen in the online mode.
However, online exams are not all bad. Following are some of the benefits of online exams:
- Cost-effective: Many people have argued that online exams are more cost-effective than offline exams. Is this true? Let us go over the facts. Online exams require less paper and physical resources. Situations and contexts differ. But assuming students have access to the internet and necessary devices, the online mode is much more cost-effective. Students can save from paying for transport, food, and other expenses beyond their own household needs. It also helps in saving paper, which is used for written exams.
- Comfort: The online mode is easier for both students and teachers in many ways. With an online setup, the students can give their tests from the comfort of their homes. This reduces stress and saves time. Online exams also benefit teachers since they save time from preparing piles of exam sheets.
- Security: This is both a pro and con for online exams. While it may give rise to fraudulent practices, at the same time, it provides more security. If proper CCTV and webcam facilities are in place, there is no chance for students to get away with cheating. Further, there is also the option of recording the online exams, which may come in handy in cases of fraudulence that require re-evaluation.
- Instant results: In most cases, online exams give instant results. Since the answers are generated online, the computer system does the checking for the teachers. Beyond that, some online sites and applications can grade and evaluate papers. After the assessment is done, the grading of the papers is mostly done automatically. There are also scoring apps that help evaluate longer answer types. Online examinations have improved the assessment process and made it accessible, easy, and uncomplicated.
- Examination-specific websites: As technology advances, so is education. There are now online resources such as online examination platforms, which provide facilities to carry out the entire examination procedure, from development to delivery. Online exams allow instructors to diversify question types and monitor the assessment process. They are also able to use online learning analytics to modify learning methods to increase the quality of output.
- Scalability: Online exams can cater to a bigger group of students. While offline exams have limited seating, online exams can accommodate a lot more people. This makes it easier for institutions to schedule their examination routines.
Offline exams have been monumental in developing modern assessment models that are more effective. There are undoubtedly several advantages of traditional exams. Coming to the offline mode, the list of disadvantages is listed below:
- High financial cost: The main issue with offline examinations is the high financial expenditure. Offline exams require considerable administration and management. For offline exams to function effectively, a lot of money goes into the exam format. Beyond that, the setup also requires a lot of time and energy.
- Time-wasting: The entire process of offline exams wastes a lot of precious time for all the parties involved. Students and faculty waste time travelling and going through all the procedures for offline exams.
- Time-consuming evaluation process: The arrangement of question papers and answer sheets is a time-consuming practice. Teachers waste much time compiling the questions and correcting each and every answer sheet.
- Risk of unfair means: The chance of cheating or using unfair means is a persistent problem in offline exams. The process of invigilation is not foolproof, and there are many instances where cheating has taken place in offline exams.
- Slow results – The wait time for offline exam results is considerably long. This is because teachers need to take their time to properly go through each answer sheet and correct the answers fairly. Even after that, the process of recording and documenting answers before declaring results is also a hassle. After doing so, the process of re-evaluation is another issue that takes much time and effort.
The advantages of the offline mode of exams are listed below:
- Little to no technical issues: Unlike online examinations, offline examinations have little to no cases of technical problems. The students are not required to have gadgets, devices, or a stable internet connection for appearing their exams offline. This is beneficial for the students as they can write without worry of technical glitches that may hinder their performance. In the classroom, apart from the occasional slide presentations or video screenings, there is hardly any use for technology in teaching.
- Practical learning: It is suggested that theoretical knowledge is of no use without actual practical experience. In the online mode, the chances of practical learning are greatly diminished since most of the education takes place online. This case is particularly true for subjects like chemistry, physics, biology, art and sports. These subjects require students to be physically present to participate in live experiments for evaluations. Many of these subjects have practical exams, which are challenging through the online mode.
- Affordability: While the cost of conducting exams may be high, offline exams are more affordable for most students. In terms of resources, since a pen and paper are all that students will need for the exam, offline exams are more practical.
- Student-teacher interaction: The impact of interpersonal interaction between students and teachers in the offline mode should be something to consider. During the pandemic, numerous teachers lacked responses from students through online classes. In offline exams, having a teacher look over the student is invaluable.
Differences between online and offline modes of exams
Before that, here is an overview of the main differences between the online and offline modes of exams/classes:
|Description||Online Exam||Offline Exam|
|Method||Digital tools and methods||Traditional tools and methods|
|Place||Virtual screens||Physical classrooms|
|Feasibility||Cost-effective and saves time||High financial cost and time consuming|
|Flexibility||Online classes have a flexible schedule||Offline classes have a fixed and strict schedule|
|Approach||Facilitated, asynchronous approach||Instructional, synchronous approach|
|Pace of Learning||Student-determined||Teacher-determined|
|Level of Commitment||Students are less serious and committed to their studies||Students are more serious and committed to their studies|
All in all, it cannot be denied that the online schooling system has sustained education in a time of dire needs. Both these options of offline and online exams have their own upsides and downsides. But overall, it has undoubtedly opened new ways for education to be accessible to more people. As the pandemic gradually comes to a slow end, the lessons learned through a forced adaptation to online teaching and learning will hopefully benefit the system in the long run.
FAQs about Online vs. Offline exams
1. What is the difference between an online exam and an offline exam?
An online exam takes place virtually on an online platform. These kinds of exams require a steady and strong internet connection. The online exam mode requires devices such as a screen/monitor, keyboard, speakers, camera, microphones, etc. Offline exams are the traditional form of appearing exams, and they are either paper-based or computer-based. However, offline exams require the physical presence of candidates to appear for the exam. Most offline exams require only basic stationery and do not require internet services or devices.
2. Which is better - online or offline exams?
Both online and offline exams have pros and cons. In recent times, most students have voiced their preference for the online mode of exams. However, some prefer the traditional method of evaluation. Online exams are less time-consuming and cheaper than offline exams. However, the resources required for online exams may not be available for everyone. Offline exams are costly in terms of setup and organization. But, they are more accessible for many students in rural areas. There is less likelihood of technical glitches in offline exams, unlike online exams.
3. Is online mode a cheaper alternative to offline mode?
Offline classes can be expensive when all the expenses are considered. Items such as books, uniforms, and transportation sum up to huge amounts, which is taxing for most parents.
In Online mode, however, there are no extra expenses other than a good laptop and a good internet connection. This, when compared to offline mode, is way cheaper and pocket friendly.
Therefore, the online mode is a cheaper alternative but at the cost of better student-teacher interaction, competition, social skills, etc.
4. Does cheating take place more in online or offline mode?
Cheating and other use of unfair means to pass exams are not uncommon on any platform. The traditional offline mode of exams has seen a lot of cases where people used unjust methods to cheat in exams.
However, students find ways to cheat even during online exams. The difference between the offline and online mode lies in the steps and precautions taken to prevent it from happening. In the offline mode, the security measures include checking, strict rules, invigilators, and CCTV cameras.
In the online mode, the methods are cameras, recording facilities, and monitoring facilities, along with invigilators. The option of cheating is easier in the online mode, but with good measures in place, there are very little to no chances of that happening.