With rising pressure caused by the current pandemic, Cambridge amongst all those in the higher education sector were faced with the challenge of rapid adjustment to a secure, innovative and performant online assessment solution. The technical shift to online examinations began in 2020 and continually gathered momentum well into 2021. Universities are therefore developing extensive online assessments to support their student cohorts both at home and internationally who require a method to complete their summative assessments in a Covid secure manner. The move to digital online learning and assessment has been facilitated for a number of years but has been accelerated as a sure and future path.
As a result of the continued COVID-19 pandemic, the need to move to a scalable and stable platform for online examinations became more urgent. Furthermore the exam solution needed to be in a known, controlled and separate environment from their main internal Moodle LMS. The University decided to move from an on-premise system to a scalable, fully managed Catalyst hosted solution leveraging the benefits of cloud computing. This system was required to support 30,000 students taking multiple high stakes exams across a 10 week period with some sessions seeing over 1000 concurrent events taking place.
With the Examination platform provided by Catalyst, the University of Cambridge were able to carry out the examination design, configuration and preparation unhindered and entirely to their own designs and structure. These exams were a mixture of assignment based and multiple choice question based models as agreed by the central examinations office at the university and supported by the Teaching & Learning Services Team.
The responsibility of safeguarding the Cambridge university heritage, reputation and brand lay with the guaranteed success of a stable, robust e-assessment solution.
The stakes are very high for students taking online summative assessments and in particular those who are facing graduation. The university has to operate in multiple time-zones to globally support their students who are now learning from global locations in many cases.
For successful completion of the assessment programme, the solution needs to operate with no issues, or downtime. Learners and staff must remain confident and reassured by both the system performance and it’s end user experience. All of this must happen without compromising quality and security. To effectively support domestic and global students, the University has to maximise its focus and efforts on exam design and end user support providing flexibility, accessibility and inclusion for all.
How then did Cambridge take the assessment system online, in a fast response to Covid-19 lockdowns while maintaining standards and stability of the platform?