In recent years, a significant digital transformation has occurred in education and assessment. Resulting in a proliferation of technology-driven solutions for delivering educational programs and conducting examinations online.
As a result, we increasingly face the question: ‘What is the difference between your exam management software and a learning management system (LMS) or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for delivering exams?’
VLEs and LMSs, are collectively known as online learning platforms or online education platforms. They can play a vital role in the educational landscape. If institutions already use one, it’s reasonable to question whether it’s possible to extend its use to deliver high-stakes exams online.
While both systems have their merits, they serve different purposes and cater to distinct educational needs. In this blog, we’ll explore their differences to help you make an informed choice about what is best for your needs.
Both VLEs and LMSs share the common objective of leveraging technology to enhance the educational experience. They do this by providing online platforms for course delivery and promoting interactions among students and educators.
The primary distinction between a VLE and a LMS lies in their scope and functionality. VLEs historically focus on course delivery and interaction, while LMSs typically encompass a wider range of administrative and tracking features in addition to content management.
It’s worth noting that people frequently use these terms interchangeably, often with significant crossover between the two. It’s not uncommon for both to include features such as discussion boards, chat and video conferencing, plus content management tools and progress tracking.
However, one thing is clear; these online learning platforms are versatile tools with a multitude of uses in education.
The simple answer is yes, they can. Many institutions use them successfully for creating and administering quizzes and knowledge-checking tests or homework assignments.
They offer various question types, automatic marking and often the ability to provide immediate feedback to students. Therefore, they can be useful for formative testing.
However, if we ask, ‘Are they best suited for delivering high-stakes online exams?’ then our answer is NO.
Although they have the basic capability, these platforms weren’t specifically designed for the sole purpose of exam delivery. They have a broader remit and often lack the comprehensive and specialised tools that dedicated exam management software offers.
Exam management systems like the eSystem are purposely developed to address the unique challenges and demands of assessments. They have many features that online education platforms do not, such as sophisticated question banks, blueprinting capability, scalability and detailed exam analytics.
Furthermore, online learning platforms are likely to offer a more limited range of question types. Whereas the eSystem has many question styles, including multiple choice, hot spot, short written answer, essay and more. Moreover, it supports OSCE questions – a practical examination common in medical education.
So, whilst online learning platforms can handle tests they do not provide the same level of depth and precision that a dedicated exam management software does.
With our innovative eSystem exam management software, you can create, administer, analyse and report on your exams in one easy-to-use integrated assessment platform.
At the heart of the eSystem is a sophisticated question banking system that allows you to create, organise and analyse questions. You can have as many banks with as many groups or sub-groups as you need, for example, curriculum areas or learning outcomes. Furthermore, with the granular user permissions, it’s possible to restrict users to only see questions in a single bank.
Online learning platforms often do not offer this level of flexibility. Access to banks is generally managed at a course level. So, users access all banks associated with a particular course and it’s not possible to restrict access to only specified banks within that course.
Additionally, the eSystem’s workflow feature encourages collaboration within teams. It’s easy to see the status of an item or exam. To promote efficiency, team members receive e-mail notifications alerting them to any changes or outstanding actions.
This is where exam management software comes into its own. Unlike online learning platforms which typically lack this tool, the blueprinting feature within the eSystem provides a visual check of assessment content. It quickly highlights any gaps. For instance, you can blueprint curriculum areas with learning outcomes to ensure that the exam covers all aspects of the syllabus at the appropriate level of difficulty. Used in the same way, it’s also a useful tool to check question bank content.
Dedicated exam management software is designed to handle a large number of concurrent users, ensuring that high-stakes exams can be conducted efficiently and with minimal technical issues. Online education platforms typically do not offer this capability.
Built for reliability, they can scale to accommodate the needs of institutions with diverse student populations. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the eSystem facilitated Aga Khan University Medical College’s admissions exams. Meaning they were able to seamlessly deliver exams to over 300 candidates in 15 different countries simultaneously.
While online education platforms do offer reporting and analytics, exam management software often provides more extensive and specialised reporting features for in-depth analysis of exam and student performance.
With an online education platform, you might expect basic statistical information such as average scores and question performance. However, specialised exam management software is likely the only option to obtain more detailed item analysis, including metrics like difficulty index, question discrimination, and point biserial correlation. Plus, assessors can gain valuable insights through absentee and exam reports. Along with longitudinal reports that allow scrutiny of data trends over time.
In conclusion, dedicated exam management software and educational learning platforms are both valuable tools in education. However, they cater to different aspects of the learning and assessment process.
Choosing the most suitable depends on your specific educational objectives. If the primary requirement is for a robust solution to conduct secure high-stakes assessments, then the eSystem exam software is the way to go especially if you intend to run paper exams alongside online exams.
On the other hand, if you aim to provide a comprehensive online learning experience, including content delivery, collaboration and communication, then an online learning platform may be more suitable.
Ultimately, the decision should align with your institution’s educational goals and strategies.