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Tech Solutions that enhance efficiency

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Live Ink Character Recognition (Orion LICR) solution from Orion India Systems Pvt Ltd is a mark digitization technology that enables faster publication of examination results, which helped the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) publish the results of ICSE and ISC examinations much ahead of the traditional schedule.

NARENDRA_KUMAR

NARENDRA KUMAR
Director, Orion India Systems Pvt Ltd

Today, education industry is rife with complex governance processes and dwindling budgets. Improving operational efficiency and streamlining outdated processes are emerging as a panacea for the long-term sustainability of school boards and universities alike. To this mission, Orion India Systems has reinvented the operational model for education industry with its “award winning” innovative educational solutions. While OLICR (Orion Live Ink Character Recognition) has successfully streamlined examination evaluation process for CISCE, one of India’s premier education boards, CAREEVS (modular automation solution) has spelt significant benefits for a wide range of educational institutions in terms of improving operational efficiency and service delivery. By virtue of OLICR solution, Orion has enabled boards and universities to publish results in almost real time. Devised with automation at the core, Orion works closely with educators and helps develop innovative solutions that help them become more nimble and respond to industry changes swiftly

he Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) created history on May 6, 2016 by publishing the results of the ICSE and ISC Examinations full two weeks ahead of what had been its own standard practice, and way ahead of the CBSE and other state examination boards. What helped the council achieve this remarkable feat was its decision to go with the new “Orion LICR” technology developed by Orion India Systems Pvt Ltd (www.orioninc.com) for the first time in the world.

Orion’s Live Ink Character Recognition (Orion LICR) solution is a patent-pending marks digitization technology that enables faster publication of examination results. The front-end of the solution consists of a repurposed digital pen, an accompanying tablet, and specially printed top sheets of answer booklets. Examiners use the pen to transcribe marks from the inner sheets (of the answer script) to the top sheet. The pen captures and digitises the marks in real time, and displays the data on the tablet. Examiners can view the marks in their own handwriting as well as the digitised version on the tablet at the same time, and validate each mark. Immediately the system applies question paper rubrics automatically and displays the total marks on the screen of the tab. A “submit button” on the tablet encrypts the data and transfers it instantly to the council’s cloud-based servers. This significantly reduces the time taken for compilation of results.

Effective communication
Running at the backend is a robust system called “Orion LICR Enterprise Web” that crunches massive amounts of data coming from various evaluation centers. It provides drilled down views on each evaluation center, right down to individual examiners and individual answer scripts. Live data synchronization with the evaluation centers enables council’s staff to have a real-time view of the progress of evaluation at various centers. An end-to-end logistics management tool takes care of device distribution planning, dispatch, and tracking based on when evaluation starts and ends at various centers. Another back-office tool which is integral to the enterprise web, remotely monitors the devices out in the evaluation centers and checks parameters such as signal strength, battery charge, and synchronization with the cloud based servers. A well-defined communication system triggers alerts to examiners and support staff via email and SMS.

The council used “Orion LICR Solution” to evaluate more than 2.25 million answer scripts of the 2016 batch of ICSE and ISC students. The exercise saw 10,327 examiners spread over 907 evaluation centers across the length and breadth of India, using 3,236 digital pen and tablet sets to complete the evaluation in record time.

In a press release a week prior to publication of the results, Gerry Arathoon, the council’s Chief Executive & Secretary said, “The council is the first examination board in the world to introduce this system. We are extremely happy with the outcome, because our students will now be able to have their results in hand much earlier. This will give them a head start while seeking admission to institutions for higher studies.”

Tracking evaluation
Apart from expediting publication of results, the solution brings several other benefits. It effectively masks student information, ensuring absolute impartiality in the evaluation process. By incorporating automatic totaling of marks and automatic application of question paper rubrics, it ensures accuracy of the marks awarded. It captures the attendance of examiners at various evaluation centers, making calculation and payment of remuneration to examiners easy. It enables the council to track the progress of evaluation at various centers and to take corrective action where necessary. By allowing examiners to continue with the pen and paper method of evaluation that they are famil-iar with, it eliminates the need for them to learn new skills and minimizes resistance to adoption. Examiners can overwrite if a mistake was made while transcribing the marks to the top sheet. There is no limit to the number of times they can over-write. The system reflects the last overwrite, while maintaining an audit trail of all previous overwrites.

The LICR solution is more efficient than evaluation methods like On Screen Marking (OSM). The latter envisages scanning of all the pages of an answer script using high speed industrial scanners and presenting examiners with the scanned images for evaluation. While industrial scanners are capable of scanning hundreds of pages per minute, the solution suffers from some inherent drawbacks. About half-an-inch has to be guillotined off the left edge of the answer booklets and the additional sheets attached to them, prior to feeding into the scanner. This is to separate the individual sheets to enable simultaneous scanning of both sides. After scanning, the booklets have to be stitched back together. This is a labour-intensive procedure that slows down the scanning process significantly; not to mention the possibility of wrong-stitching by jumbling up pages from different answer scripts. The scanning and re-stitching process can also compromise security.

Challenges
In “OSM Technology”, the storage of the scanned images is another problem that has to be addressed. For a large university or school education board, storing the scanned images for the mandatory retention period will require tens of terabytes of server space.

In OSM technology, the evaluation centers will have to be equipped with computers and other necessary infrastructure for viewing the answer scripts. If the scanned images of the answer scripts are stored in a centralized location, evaluators will have to download the images for evaluation. At an evaluation camp where there can be a hundred or more evaluators working at a time, the internet bandwidth requirements will be huge. Dedicated power inverters or generators will have to be provided at the evaluation centers for the long duration power shedding which is common in summer.

Over the long term, the cost involved while using LICR will be signifi cantly lower than when using OSM. There is no dependency on high-bandwidth internet connection. There are no hassles associated with computers/laptops such as booting issues, virus attacks, hacking problems and power backup requirements. Since no scanning is involved, there is no additional manpower required.

The LICR concept started to evolve in June 2014 when architects and engineers at Orion began thinking of streamlining the evaluation process and reducing the gestation period prior to publication of results. Supported by founder of Orion and visionary Sunil Mehta, Narendra Kumar who is the Director of Orion (India operations) and solutions architect Govind Rajulu with their team built this world class product.

By November 2014, the company had a working prototype, which they presented at the 10th ‘e-India Innovation Summit’ held at Kovalam, Kerala, winning the National Award for Innovation in the Testing and Assessment category.

In April 2015, Orion successfully convinced CISCE and conducted a pilot run using the solution to evaluate the Biology paper of the 2015 ISC batch and the Computer Applications paper of the 2015 ICSE batch at the evaluation centers at La Martiniere School for Girls, Kolkata. In July 2015, Orion signed a fi ve year contract with the council for pan-India roll out of the solution for evaluation of the ICSE and ISC answer scripts from 2016 onwards.

Feedback to the solution has been extremely overwhelming from the examiners both young and old. It is the simplicity and usability of the solution from the end-user perspective that has won the appreciation of the examiners.

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