Video Arts has created a bespoke e-learning course to help the British Council provide more consistent training for the 12,000 exam invigilators it employs in 110 countries.
The British Council administers more than two million exams for UK qualifications each year, including English language exams, international GCSEs and A-levels as well as higher education and professional qualifications.
“Our invigilators are our ambassadors because anyone who takes an exam in one of our overseas centres will ultimately judge us by their behaviour,” said Martin Lowder, the British Council’s Deputy Operations Manager for UK qualifications. “We used to run traditional, face-to-face training for invigilators but it was difficult to apply this consistently in different parts of the world. Also, it becomes expensive when you factor in the cost of the training and of hiring venues in 110 countries. We decided that an online course would enable us to standardise the training and save money. It also means that candidates can dip in and out of the content at their own time and pace, rather than having to go through all of the information in one sitting.”
Video Arts created a two-hour, modular e-learning course after a steering group of 15 exam managers had specified the required content. The course provides an overview of the British Council and highlights the role of an invigilator before, during and after an exam, including aspects such as checking the venue, setting up the room, welcoming candidates and confirming their identity, how to ‘walk the room’ and how to deal with suspected cheating.
“We knew about Video Arts and their reputation,” said Martin Lowder. “They impressed us with their understanding of learning management technology and with their ability to create effective learning content that appeals to different learning styles. Their design encompassed imaginative use of video, audio and imagery that made the learning engaging for the candidates, without the expense of high-tech gimmicks. The content could have been very dry but their design holds your attention.”
The course also features interactive exercises, invigilators talking about their role, 3D images of an exam room and a glossary of terms. Self tests allow users to check their progress at the end of each module.
“Our invigilators have to deal with a variety of candidates from very young learners to professionals,” said Martin Lowder. “The course therefore covers the whole customer experience. For example, because of the nature of the job, some invigilators feel they shouldn’t smile. The training addresses the required behaviour and it shows how they can be firm without appearing too severe.”
The British Council road-tested the course in 30 countries and is now ready to launch the final version. On completion of the course, invigilators will take a separate test of competence, with questions on each of the different modules. Only once they have passed the final test, will they be allowed to invigilate a real exam.
“The course has been extremely well received,” said Martin Lowder. “People like the content and the fact that they can go through it at their own convenience. We’re introducing it now for all of our invigilators and it will be a major asset for us as a training tool. It will also help us to reassure our exam boards that we have competent invigilators who have been consistently trained and who can adhere to their standards and regulations. In fact, the course has already attracted a good deal of positive attention from exam boards that train their own invigilators.”
The British Council employs a pool of invigilators, some of whom work every week. Others are employed seasonally to cover the peak exam periods in May/June and October/November.
“We can also use the new course as a filtering tool to help with the recruitment of extra invigilators for our busy periods,” said Martin Lowder. “Another benefit is that every six months we re-test our invigilators, so they don’t get stale. From now on they’ll be able to use the course to help them to prepare for these tests.”
Background notes: Video Arts has been the UK’s leading provider of video-based learning since 1972, when it was founded by John Cleese and Sir Antony Jay, who wrote the Yes, Minister TV series. The company has moved from 16mm films, VHS, DVD and CDROM to online video. Part of the Tinopolis group, it has won over 200 awards for its learning content.