We have recently taken the decision to postpone the release of our Examiner App. After taking many requests from clients for an app very seriously, in July 2014 we launched the first ideas and formed specs for our Examiner App. The specs were primarily aimed at make the lives of examiners easier, with the goal of assessing checklists or competency domains being simple and straightforward to select within a self-contained app. A second key spec requested by many was that in the case of an unreliable internet connection, the app should have offline capabilities. In this case, the capacity to store assessment data locally and synchronise with Qpercom’s cloud servers once an internet connection becomes available again.
After two years of development, we have a great looking Examiner App meeting the primary aim set but we are not releasing it. The reasons for not releasing it are clear to us and the first of them relates to the offline functionality. After much development and testing, we have found that we cannot trust local storage on both Android or iOS devices. Our team has not managed to get the synchronisation with the server to a reliable enough stage that we can guarantee zero data loss at the end of an examination.
From 8 years of first-hand exam experience, we know that electronic performance assessment is a dynamic process whereby examiners constantly tend to update item scores on their assessment forms as a station progresses. An app with offline capabilities would therefore need to be very dynamic in the synchronisation process. Furthermore, lots of data across all stations would require queuing of data when in offline mode.
However, during this time the exam team would have no idea what is happening with their exam data. It would not be known until the end of the examination whether all data is accounted for. The question then would be what to do at the end of the day if data went missing? At this stage it would be too late for any action, and these high stake examinations are too vulnerable to trust running them via an offline app fully, even after extensive testing.
The second reason is that an app with offline capabilities does not match with our philosophy of having instant insight of the assessment procedure. We believe OMIS is as successful as it is due to the data control aspects of it. During an examination, our clients have immediate insight into what is happening within all stations at all times. This offers peace of mind that all data is being collected as an exam is proceeding and also allows coordinators to check exam logistics such as examiner variability and are the data being submitted on time?
Currently through the OMIS web app, as soon as a student begins a station and his/her assessment form has been opened by an examiner, data flashes on the raw data view in OMIS (version 1.9+) signifying a live station. While the assessment is ongoing, the exam team has direct access to the data being processed and can see scores being adjusted accordingly all the way to form submission. In multi-site exams, this is essential in order to confirm that all data has been successfully captured at various sites at the conclusion of the exam.
Throughout this development process we have come to question whether we are willing to compromise on our unique selling point of direct data control and real time insight into proceedings. We are honest enough to say that we are not and we firmly believe that an app that runs online offers the best insight into practical skills exams. In the case of exam venues with poor internet, we have first-hand experience of boosting WiFi and extending networks at such venues in order to maintain real time data capture through OMIS.
The Qpercom development team is continuing to work hard on refining our Examiner App to run in conjunction with an available internet connection. This will offer examiners a great assessment experience while also ensuring all data is captured and accessible in real time. We look forward to releasing the Examiner App in both the Apple and Play stores in the near future and we will keep you posted on a release date.