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UK Online Exams demonstrated at Friedrichshafen

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by G4TUT, Jun 24, 2019.

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  1. G4TUT

    G4TUT Ham Member QRZ Page

    UK Online Exams demonstrated at Friedrichshafen
    RSGB President Dave Wilson M0OBW demonstrated the UK's new online exam system at the 44th international amateur radio show Ham Radio 2019 held in Friedrichshafen on June 21-23

    A report published by Sweden's national society the SSA says:

    In the UK, test arrangements are now being applied according to online exam systems. The experience is very good, as it provides several benefits for everyone involved in the process. No papers needed for questions and answers. This also eliminates the risk of typing errors and gives more time to concentration on the data. Questions can even be set in graphical form for handling the right answer. The correction is done automatically and the test result is reported directly with a message for each question.

    Dave Wilson M0OBW demonstrates UK Online Exams to Wille SA6BET - credit SSA

    Dave showed examples of this and other things when Wille SA6BET willingly put up at the demonstration, as a candidate for graduation. Online trial execution occurs in several countries and we would like to see it soon become reality in Sweden as well.

    Hans-Christian SM6ZEM

    Source SSA

  2. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    This is an interesting development for stream-lining the exam process, and can be considered a "sign of the times".
    It is also a sign of the good relationship between Ofcom and the RSGB through the RCF.

    Something that would be interesting to know is the actual distribution of costs between the stakeholders in the examination system.
    It appears that TestReach, one of the market-leading providers of on-line examinations, charges a per-exam fee.
    Then it is the provision of the actual question pool, which presumably comes from the RCF.
    The Ofcom part is then to process the exam results and to issue a licence and a call-sign.
    It appears that Ofcom does not receive any money for this.

    It is also stated in the On-line exam FAQ that the exam fee of £ 37.50 is unchanged between the on-line and the paper exams.
    Presumably, the fee charged by TestReach is intended to become offset by a corresponding elimination of the handling and grading
    costs for the paper-based exams.

    In theory this is a development that could make the licencing processes more stream-lined and adapted to modern practices,
    but it also opens for the opportunity of "doing business" on licences and callsigns.

    I am quite sure that Ofcom, like most other Administrations, is looking into means for reducing, and preferably eliminating,
    any costs connected to the handling of amateur radio. One such way is to "off-load" the whole administration of exams, licences and callsigns to a third party.

    The enthusiasm of the SSA for online exams shown in the news feature comes out of this.
    However, it appears that such a system in Sweden would be quite difficult to "sell" to the regulator for the following reasons:
    • Since about two decades, the regulator has already off-loaded the majority of amateur radio administration
    • It was intended that the exams and the question pools should be maintained by a joint body similar to the RCF
    • As the SSA did not get its will through in the cooperative body, it refused to carry out the assignments agreed for the work in
      the joint body, which caused the regulator to disband the group and finish its work by themselves
    • This cost a considerable investment in un-budgeted man-power, but eventually resulted in a computer-based system for
      administrating the question pools and generating exam papers on-line. An SSA exam administrator logs into the system and can generate a number of unique pdf files, one for each exam candidate. The regulator receives zero money for providing and maintaining the system and its database
    • To institute an on-line exam system, the regulator would have to export the question pool database content in formats suitable for use in an on-line exam system, without having any legal means for charging for this operation
    • Currently, a candidate is charged two initial fees; one for the time and expenses of the examinator and the invigilator and one for the actual generation of the exam papers and their grading. If successful, the callsign is issued for the same fee. The fees currently total the equivalent of about £ 50. The regulator still does not get any money
    • Should an on-line exam regime be instituted, there would be another fee payable to TestReach or a similar entity,
      but the amount of man-hours for administration and callsign issuing would not be less. The exam fee would then need to be increased, but the regulator would still have the un-paid responsibility for maintaining the pools and to issue updates to the exam-generating database at the testing entity. As the sole official currently performing this task on un-budgeted man-hours is retiring soon, it remains an open question how this will be done in the future
    • The current strained relations between the regulator and SSA are probably preventing any moves for changing the exam structure, especially in the light of the very low number of candidates (about 100) yearly.
    Time will tell...

    W4RAV likes this.
  3. W1YW

    W1YW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Good points Karl!

    Charging that amount of money for an on-line exam is outrageous. In the States, this --in itself-- would cause a marked decline in new hams.
    K0UO likes this.
  4. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    There is a general trend that the national societies are becoming more and more "business-oriented".

    With ageing and dwindling memberships, they grasp at any straws to keep their noses above the water and making ends meet.
    One such tempting move may be to take over the full administration of exams, licences and callsigns and try to charge both members
    and non-members for this.

    I do not believe for a second that for example the ARRL would be immune to this.

  5. K0UO

    K0UO Subscriber QRZ Page

    Sounds great, we should do this in the USA, Then I could pass my Technician by Open-BOOK!!!!!
  6. W1YW

    W1YW Ham Member QRZ Page

    The ARRL has a more than modest group of donors whose present interest is bringing in NEW US hams, and secondarily, more ARRL members. So I believe the need for funding is all present, but the mechanism for achieving it is different.

    Not likely as an enhanced expense in the test taking:)
  7. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    The ARRL has so much money that appears that it could get by quite a while even without members...
    But this is quite exceptional seen in international perspective.
    And, with an average age of 68 and a shrinking membership,
    it may be wise to look ahead.

    Are there any statistics about the average age of new amateurs and members, and of the attrition rates?

    There is an interesting case going on in our southern neighbour, Denmark.

    The Danish regulator wanted to off-load all its licence and callsign administration to the EDR, the national society.

    EDR became so confident that it registered an LLC, "Ham Radio Certificate Denmark ApS", for the purpose of running this business. Operating income was to come from billing both the Danish regulator and the membership for its services.

    The problem was just that the EDR became shaken by internal in-fighting that nearly resulted in the downfall of the society, and in a massive loss of members. Another consequence became that the Danish authorities lost their confidence in this arrangement and decided to continue running the certification and licencing handling on their own.

    A lesson learned from this is that it may be detrimental to create monopolies outside of public oversight for handling issues that rightly belong to official functions.
    What transparency does an LLC have?
    How should the fees that are charged by such a company be set?

  8. M0LXQ

    M0LXQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    There are no open book exams going on with this. The exam still has to take place at a pre-approved exam centre and has to be booked with two weeks notice. They are undertaken with the same examination conditions as paper exams.

    In addition, all exams - paper or electronic - are liable for inspection by the RSGB and any irregularities threaten the future of that exam centre. In fact, one of my exams was inspected by the RSGB to ensure it was being conducted correctly.
    K0UO likes this.
  9. K0UO

    K0UO Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hey don't get All Shook Up with my humors comment

    I actually started an online University for a number a Telcom and Safety training classes over 20 years ago and I know about all this stuff.

    I'm also an extra class Ham here in the United States, So I'm definitely not looking to take my technician test online LOL
  10. KD8LHR

    KD8LHR Ham Member QRZ Page

    i think the 3 VE's will be there

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