Like death and taxes, tests and assessments are a part of life. But a part of life under COVID-19? Not so much. When assessment centers worldwide closed last spring due to the global pandemic, learners and job seekers faced a major disruption in their ability to take standardized tests such as the GCSE (General Certificates of Secondary Education), the AS (the pre-A-level) and the A (Advanced) levels, as well as other vocational and technical qualifications. These assessments have always been held in secure venues to protect their integrity. The abrupt closure of testing centers halted learners’ plans while posing an existential threat to the assessment boards.
With the pandemic surging and no end to the closures in sight, one of the largest and oldest global exam boards asked us to pivot away from our ongoing work shaping its digital strategy to the more immediate issue of protecting its revenue stream.
Strategic partnership to shape a student-focused digital future
We had worked with the assessment board since 2019 to execute its digital roadmap, which we helped shape and define. At the time, the engagement sought to enable:
- Staff and partners to work seamlessly across a global organization.
- Students, learners and candidates to interact with existing products in a more digital way — increased self-service, online payments, exam booking and ability to download content.
- The assessment board’s future value proposition with new digital products and services.
- All products, services and customer journeys to be supported by systems and data that through deeper analysis and reporting drive continuous improvement.
We helped define and prioritize the board’s initiatives and articulated a sequence of waves to deliver value to its learners, beginning with the delivery of foundations across key domains as enablers of new digital products and services:
- Enterprise architecture: Defining the future blueprint, decommissioning legacy systems, and designing a new cloud-based digital enablement platform.
- Data foundations: Designing and embedding data ownership and a culture that recognizes data as the key to enhanced products and services, an improved learner experience and further opportunities to monetize insights.
- Security foundations: Implementing standards, policies and guidelines; also supporting the recruitment of roles such as chief information security officer (CISO).
- E-commerce: Defining a pan-organizational solution to satisfy requirements from across the business and markets.
Mission: Rapid response
With the pandemic surging in spring 2020, we set to work helping protect the assessment board’s revenues. Our specialists transitioned overnight into tactical roles supporting this critical work. Working with the client, we shaped a series of projects with the aim of developing several interim, end-to-end capabilities to help the board recoup and safeguard some revenue during the emergency, including:
- The ability to recruit a larger pool of internationally based examiners, focusing on a diploma music panel in East Asia and Southern Europe.
- The ability to deliver exams to centers using Zoom videoconferencing technology.
- Development of a new, low-stakes test, submitted by uploading recordings of conversations taking place with a local interlocutor, and assessed by our clients’ examiners.
- Expansion of tests to include the growing wave of digital teachers supported by associated digital-training programs.
- Certifications for arts, submitted by uploading a video recording of the pieces that a candidate prepared for a graded exam.
- Development of a set of activities for young people to remotely continue to grow skills and entertain.