Exam Preparation is one of the key educational activities in student life. This also makes it a lucrative business to provide them with necessary assistance. This assistance is usually done through tutoring, content, testing & benchmarking.
Conventional Benchmarking: Pros & Cons
Exams and particularly entrance exams act as a sieve through which only a student who manages to perform above a certain performance threshold emerges successful. This threshold level unlike qualifying exams is actually determined by the capabilities of the population appearing for the test. Hence benchmarking oneself against his peers is a key indicator of success probability. Since these tests are becoming a national exercise, any worthwhile benchmarking has to be at national level.
Until over a decade ago the market, which catered to the need of these students, was highly fragmented with small city centric players scattered throughout the country. These centers catered to numerous categories of exams. Any benchmarking, if done was at most at the city level, which really didn’t give a clear picture in National or State Level Exams. Things began to change when National chains of institutes started emerging. They brought in their own national benchmarking tests. Though these tests were held at a national level, they lacked statistical significance. The population of these students was majorly composed of students of the chain only; hence any statistical comparison was not representative of the actual population of competitors.
Internet brings Analytics; the rules of the game are rewritten
Analytics have the potential to transform the way test prep is done in the world. The advent and subsequent mass adoption of internet in the country led to various disruptions in many sectors. We saw the norms changing in many traditional core sectors like banking, ticketing, shopping, matrimonial services etc and these innovations are threatening to wipe off the companies running these businesses conventionally.
In education, animated and interactive content was widely believed to be the biggest disruptors whereas the next big thing is not solely the content but mainly what happens around that content. The ever-growing volume of data around high quality content gives way to the concept that every new user on the website adds value for the next user and makes benchmarking more scientific and relevant.
Analytics have started solving many of the problems that traditional benchmarking had. The sample is random, representative of the entire nation, permanently captured and continuously growing.
Analytics offer benchmarking at two levels
Benchmarking with self: A test taker would like to know if he is improving with each subsequent test. These analytics would cover speed, accuracy and error analysis to continuously improve on any subject area, stream or competitive exam area.
Benchmarking with peers: In this, a user has the flexibility to benchmark against any student sitting in any corner of the country. The benchmarking can be done at various levels; starting from city, state or national level. He can also benchmark himself against any group preparing for any competitive exam and has the flexibility to go up to any subgroup level. For example, you may benchmark yourself against male engineers preparing for FMS from NCR.
Much more than a regular benchmarking tool
The analytics engine even takes you one-step forward. It can not only select the most appropriate tests for subsequent practice based on your test history but can also take you to the relevant video tutorial where your conceptual foundations can be strengthened.
Therefore, this tool has started taking millions of students from a shotgun strategy of preparation where they fire all around and hope that a shot would hit the target to a rifle strategy where one feels empowered to take a careful aim to reach target at the first shot. This keeps a student away from inefficient learning practices thereby manufacturing time for other creative pursuits.
Analytics is an Indispensable tool for all stakeholders in education
All these unique features propel analytics to the status of becoming an indispensible tool in exam preparation for any student, teacher or institute. Teachers and institutes not using analytics would be depriving the student a chance of effective test preparation in a scientific manner.
The data comprises threads of discussions that unwind around questions, giving students valuable insights into problem solving techniques contributed by those who attempted these questions; something no traditional classroom training can offer. Peer to peer learning is also promoted through the interaction of students undergoing similar academic pursuits in groups. The most interesting thing is that it is the analytics engine that recommends and adds new members to the groups. The learners collaborate in this environment to take their preparation to the next level.
However, such an internet based platform is not without challenges. Thousands of tests are developed by hundreds of authors, so it becomes a real challenge to manage the quality of these tests. It took us hundreds of authors to write around 450,000 tagged questions and enroll 1 million students to capture approximately 23 million Analytics ( read question attempts ) before we can say that we can provide decent benchmarking . Another rating based system for content and authors ensures that inferior quality tests are chucked out of the system automatically.
Fulfills the aspirations of teachers to deliver the best
Another interesting side of the story is the ‘game change’ in traditional publishing. There is a big problem of the traditional Industry that such system is addressing. Volumes are written usually by one or two authors. If we have a book, which contains 20 chapters, we cannot assume that the author is equally good on all the 20 chapters to be dealt with. Therefore, we usually have textbooks, which cover some areas perfectly, but some areas are left not so perfect. So how do we get our perfect book?
There are thousands of authors who want to publish their work, but they are proficient in only a set of topics. Traditional publishing houses are hence out of their reach. Such online platforms have the unique capacities to put together thousands of authors in the long tail to write on the subjects that they know best and would have the perfect compilation on them.
There are many exams also in the long tail that are held at a limited level and hence are not financially viable for quality publishers to cover. Therefore, there is always a dearth of quality material for the students who prepare for these exams. Such online platforms that give flexibility to students to generate their own tests are a big boon.
All this is just the tip of the iceberg. Such rich data of a candidate at various stages of his student and working life can disrupt some other sectors too. May be it calls for another long article…..