Despite lockdown restrictions being eased in many locations, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across a number of industries. The education sector, in particular, has faced difficult challenges in an attempt to ensure students have access to the support and materials they require.

While all students are feeling the strain of adjusting to online study and remote learning, those with important exams looming are feeling the brunt of the impact. Having undertaken GAMSAT preparation courses with organisations such as GradReady prior to the expected March 2020 sitting, thousands of hopeful medical students were left in limbo when the exam was cancelled.

Although the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) was quick to make adjustments to the GAMSAT examination protocol, the disruption has caused understandable anxiety for applicants. Now available online, students will be able to proceed with their medical school applications via remote testing and proctoring.

Of course, it isn’t only this year’s applicants who are likely to be affected by the changes. With thousands of students due to sit entry exams, such as the GAMSAT, GEMSAS and LSAT, over the next two years, millions of people are facing uncertainty regarding the format of future tests.

2021 Student Applications to be Managed Online

Even though some regions are easing lockdown restrictions, this doesn’t mean things will return to normal any time soon. For students on the brink of a graduate career, admissions tests are one of the most stressful aspects of their burgeoning career. With September’s GAMSAT exam already being changed to an online format, it’s likely that 2021’s university entrance exams could continue in this vein.

Despite the relatively sudden outbreak of coronavirus, educational institutions have been quick to respond to the changing situation and the needs of their students. The vast majority of schools and colleges have facilitated online learning, while teachers are working extra hard to provide support and guidance to students who require additional assistance.

Of course, online learning isn’t a new concept and many higher education institutions have been offering distance learning courses for quite some time. However, this approach is rarely used in mainstream educational environments. As today’s university applicants are still enrolled in public and private schools and colleges, there has been a rapid overhaul in an attempt to introduce effective online learning platforms within these parameters.

Has COVID-19 Changed the Education Sector Forever?

Although there have been some unavoidable disruptions as teachers and students adapt to new technology and learning methodologies, the modifications made thus far have been overwhelmingly successful.

Major exam providers, in particular, are likely to build on the lessons learned during this time as they consider how to enhance their enrolment and assessment procedures in the future. Prior to COVID-19, for example, the GAMSAT exam was held in key locations throughout the country. Students were, therefore, required to travel to their nearest appointed test centre and sit the exam in person.

While ACER did ensure test centres were relatively evenly distributed, the need for travel and in-person examinations was an extra strain for some students. Already paying $200 or more to sit the GAMSAT or LSAT, many students were paying additional costs in order to travel to the test centre location in advance to ensure early arrival.

In contrast, remote proctoring enables students to undertake crucial examinations in their own homes or in a chosen location. Without the need to travel potentially long distances, the anxiety associated with the exams can be somewhat reduced by making it available online. Similarly, students who find nerves affected their performance in standardised tests often perform better when they are able to sit their exam in a more familiar environment.

It’s clear, therefore, that there could be significant benefits associated with remote proctoring. While the impact of COVID-19 may require such exams to be sat remotely for the foreseeable future, there may come a time when both assessment bodies and students actively welcome this form of assessment.

Students Plan for Future Amid Uncertainty

The rapid spread of coronavirus and the lack of awareness regarding its effects and transmissions means the pandemic escalated with alarming speed. Today, scientists and researchers are still learning more about the novel virus in a bid to find an effective vaccine. Until then, however, students, workers and business owners remain uncertain of what the future holds.

Although the human suffering caused by the pandemic is, of course, the primary concern, the effect COVID-19 continues to have on economies, education and industries cannot be overlooked. While there’s no doubt that every aspect of society has been negatively affected by the situation, there remains hope that the ingenuity, creativity and determination shown in response will help us to create a better future.