NCTJ exploring pioneering remote exam technology for journalism students and trainees

The National Council for the Training of Journalists is exploring the potential to offer its exams remotely from May using cutting-edge secure proctoring technology and alternative online platforms.

This remote invigilation technology would enable students and trainees to sit their exams from home while preserving the integrity of the NCTJ’s qualifications.

Announcing the initiative, Joanne Butcher, chief executive, said: “As we are delivering industry-standard competency-based qualifications, it isn’t appropriate for the NCTJ to follow the government’s decision to abandon exams for general qualifications this summer in favour of estimating and predicting results.

“Instead, we are determined to innovate and adapt the delivery of our exams so that there is no risk to the integrity and validity of our professional qualifications for journalists.

“Most important to us are our learners who are all training and studying remotely online. We have more than 1,000 trainee journalists, apprentices, and journalism students on accredited and distance learning courses who couldn’t sit exams which had to be postponed in April or are due to sit over the coming months.

“We recognise the uncertainty and anxiety they may be feeling. If they can sit their NCTJ exams securely online at home this would support their remote training and give them the opportunity to achieve their NCTJ qualifications without further delay.”

Like many awarding organisations, the NCTJ’s activities have been seriously disrupted by the pandemic and it is currently unable to run any exams.

The NCTJ is looking at ways to mitigate the impact a delay to exams could have on students and trainees. Those studying on one-year and fast-track courses that are due to complete this summer are a particular concern.

Most NCTJ exams are already run online with 16 exams using the Cirrus platform for two qualifications, the entry-level Diploma in Journalism and the National Qualification in Journalism which recognises senior status.

The NCTJ won an international e-assessment award for its online diploma assessments in 2017 and remains at the forefront of innovation.

The secure proctoring technology and other online platforms will be tested by the NCTJ over the next two weeks.

Rachel Manby, head of quality and assessment at the NCTJ, who is leading the project said: “I’m really excited to be working creatively with our accredited course providers and examiners to offer our exams securely and remotely.

“If the two-week testing phase is successful, we aim to run our first remote exam – in broadcast regulation – on 11 May.

“Sitting exams remotely will also have a long-term benefit for the National Qualification in Journalism and for our national exam sittings, allowing distance learners to sit NCTJ exams securely at home, in office, in the UK and internationally, without the need to rely on external invigilators.”

The NCTJ will continue to communicate any updates directly with centres, students and other affected stakeholders throughout the development process.