Open LMS + SMOWL: A Perfect Match to Create Secure and Effective Assessments

Manuel Rivera
05/10/20
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Santiago de Chile, Chile 

Iplacex is a higher education institution that offers technical and professional training to students who live throughout Chile. Iplacex’s distance education program reaches approximately 17,000 students through its Open LMS-hosted digital learning environment, allowing the institution to complete its academic training and reach its full professional potential.

Because about 85% of its students are online, Iplacex has had to be flexible in its approach to education. This has allowed it to continue its normal operation during the global health crisis unleashed by COVID-19. This flexibility is strengthened by the robust digital learning ecosystem Iplacex has built by integrating various types of technologies such as SMOWL, an e-proctoring tool that allows for the verification of any learning process, as well as monitoring and authentication of student identities.

How to drive evaluations effectively and online

Pre-COVID, because of strict regulations, Iplacex had to conform with conducting exams in-person while managing two additional complicating factors: 

1. Recognition exams (RAPS): Known within the institution as “previous learning recognition exams”, these exams are given to students who apply to Iplacex so they can bypass courses where they have prior knowledge or work experience. Normally, the student would take the exam in front of a computer and with a password. Iplacex could then certify the evaluation.

This situation changed after the pilot test that Iplacex carried out with SMOWL in October 2018 and which affirmed its importance a year later, when due to protests in Santiago de Chile, the institution had to close its headquarters. Due to this, the COVID-19 crisis did not take Iplacex by surprise, when, supported by its distance education team, it ensured the continuity of the RAPS.

For students, the online modality has actually improved their experience, since even students living in the Chilean Antarctic have been able to benefit from not having to travel to one of the venues. 

The response of the students to the SMOWL solution has been very positive, as they understand that it is a solution that helps us comply with our regulations, replacing the face-to-face exams,” said Cristian Jaramillo, Director of the Iplacex Distance Education Campus.

2. Final exams of the subject: Unlike RAPS, these final exams could be completed remotely by integrating its video conferencing tool, Blackboard Collaborate, into Open LMS, and thereby monitor the students. However, given the need to validate the students’ identities, Iplacex found that SMOWL solved this challenge with no problem.

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Why SMOWL?

According to Hermán Vargas, platform administrator at Iplacex, SMOWL was selected as an eProctoring tool for the following reasons:

  • Availability in Spanish 
  • Artificial intelligence component to identify suspicious behavior 
  • Monitoring of student navigation 
  • Ability to recognize objects (such as cell phones) or third parties 
  • Issuance of reports that specify conflicts or critical cases 
  • Monitoring keyboard, shortcut, and copy and paste usage
  • Simple pilot procedure offered by SMOWL

 

Although SMOWL is a very powerful monitoring tool, it is important to prevent students from feeling that their privacy is invaded,, and to let students understand the reasons why the use of the tool is essential. That’s why the institution felt transparent communication is very important. In the case of Iplacex, it was driven by regulations and academic integrity.

“Making the decision to use SMOWL was the right one, as it is a tool that can be integrated with our digital learning environment (Open LMS), and it is very flexible, which has allowed us to grow together,” said Jaramillo.

During January and February of 2020, Iplacex has supervised about 5,300 exams, with indication it might supervise more than 25,000 by the end of the year.

Having to adapt to a “new normal” is surely one of the hot topics in 2020. Education is one of the sectors that will have to reinvent itself the fastest to continue fulfilling its mission. Fortunately, today, digital learning environments are so robust and offer so many possibilities that the limit will depend on how much an institution wants to innovate in its teaching and learning processes.

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Photos: 

AFP Pablo Vera Lisperguer

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