Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops service is central to new digital exam solution from Axians
Planning and running digitally enabled examinations is an important and complex task in the modern education industry. Teachers are often expected to take on the role in addition to their main work. They typically have no special training, may not be IT specialists and, since the role can be re-delegated year-on-year, processes have to be continually re-designed. IT integrator business Axians is a specialist in digital transformation and believed that a better system could be devised.
“The process is very hard,” says Axians Netherlands Innovation Manager, Stefan Collet. “They have to do a lot of planning work with IT, figuring out when the exam can be taken, who is responsible for scheduling and if there is one little change in a setting or the timing, everything can fall apart and have to be done again.
“Other problems surround compliance and security. The authorities want to know that the exams are being taken in a proper way with no cheating or mistakes in the process so you need to make sure you are compliant with regulations and can prove this to auditors.”
Part of France’s second largest group, VINCI Energies, Axians has 10,000 employees across Europe, 1,400 of which are located at its division in the Netherlands. It is here that Axians collaborated with educational institutions to develop eXam Workplace a dynamic exam platform where test applications can land safely and each exam is closely monitored and recorded. It was created to help educational institutions design, implement, and manage reliable and safe exam processes and is offered on an as-a-service basis with a standard price point for every exam and a single monthly fee.
The project resulted in Axians being named Digital Workplace Innovator of the Year in the Dutch IT-Channel Awards and was the result of a unique collaboration with three major players. Students securely log in and complete their exam on Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops service; eXam Workplace runs through a self-service portal which is technically supported by Ivanti Identity Director and the workspace is set up based on Ivanti Workspace Control. The entire process is fully automated and Microsoft Azure was chosen as the cloud platform. The Azure Virtual Desktop building blocks of eXam Workplace are the basis for the design of the workstations in Microsoft Azure.
“One of main reasons why we chose Citrix was that it was flexible enough to change its normal model to fit our requirements,” added Collet. “Also from a technical perspective, we wanted to record every exam and this was something that Citrix could offer out of the box. We needed the extra functionality that Citrix offered. For example, it can be challenging to integrate the camera on your physical machine with a virtual desktop, but with Citrix it is no problem at all.”
Lecturers create an exam environment in a self-service portal via a selection menu and exams are easy to personalize and enrich with digital applications. All settings are stored centrally and in profiles, so an educational institution automatically builds its own library of exam environments.
During the test, monitoring, recordings, and checks take place to prevent fraud. After completion of the test, the exam recording is automatically saved. The recordings are stored in a different, cost effective location. In this way, all data remains available for a possible complaints procedure, audits, or analysis of results.
In addition to certificated exams, recordings are also useful for assessment exams where tutors can use them to point students in the right direction.
“One of the biggest benefits that Citrix brought to the project is that it gives us a virtual desktop, which was just not possible in the past because most of the exams had media content running in them,” says Collet. “Providing a physical machine for every exam would be a high cost and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops makes it possible to have more examinations all running together than was possible before.”
eXam Workplace is currently only used on school premises and, although the project began before the COVID-19 pandemic, it helped organizers establish social distancing during exams. As Axians finalizes the security functionality, it is now focusing on how it can help education by leveraging home or off-site examinations.
“Customers say the flexibility of the system is very important to them. Also, the automation part of things which makes it much easier to put everything in place for the digital examination. Everything we are doing is stable. We use the same process over and over again because it is automated which brings a lot of structure and means we can focus more on how we can make the examination process better at a functional level,” concludes Collet.
One of main reasons why we chose Citrix was that it was flexible enough to change its normal model to fit our requirements. Also from a technical perspective, we wanted to record every exam and this was something that Citrix could offer out of the box.
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Providing a physical machine for every exam would be a high cost and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops makes it possible to have more examinations all running together than was possible before.