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A group of UOC researchers acted in an advisory capacity in the organization of the EPO's online qualifying examination taken by almost 4,000 candidates in 38 different countries

  advisory capacity

Photo: Christin Hume / Unsplash

The UOC experts consider the project to mark "a before and after in terms of trust and viability in secure online testing"

The European Patent Office (EPO) successfully held its European Qualifying Examination (EQE) online from 1 to 5 March. In 2020 it was suspended due to the pandemic. "It is probably the most complex and extensive online exam ever held anywhere in the world", said UOC Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications member Josep Prieto, who is one of the experts who participated in the project. To meet this gargantuan challenge, the EPO received the help of the UOC, which offered its advice to ensure that the examinations could be held online. For the first time, candidates were able to sit the exam online from anywhere in the world. The EQE is one of Europe's most anticipated public examinations. 

The figures of the 2021 assessment process show the scope of the challenge: 3,733 candidates in 38 countries, 5 papers split over 11 parts, on 5 consecutive days. In total, the process took 25 hours and the candidates had a choice of 3 different languages at all times. Audio and image supervision was conducted in a locked environment with 80 remote invigilators. The preparation of the exam, which comprised 150 pages of documentation for each candidate, involved up to 400 people.

The UOC acted as an advisor to the EPO in this major assessment milestone within the framework of a European Commission project led by the UOC, Adaptive Trust-based e-assessment System for Learning (TeSLA), especially with regard to authorship and authentication tools for online examinations, proctoring suppliers and viability. The UOC created a working group made up of Xavier Bar, Anna Guerrero and Josep Prieto, who are all specialists in the analysis and implementation of virtual assessment technologies, methodologies and systems. The group's objective was to submit a proposal for a new assessment model for the European Qualifying Examination (EQE), fully or as far as possible eliminating the need for candidates to be physically present through the use of e-learning technologies and methodologies. The organization of the virtual exams has allowed the EPO to continue qualifying European patent professionals in spite of the pandemic without adversely affecting its quality and security standards.


The advantages of the digitization of public examinations

Digitization has made it possible for candidates to type their answers on a computer, digitally search documents and save time by not having to travel. For the EPO, the experience has allowed it to modernize and simplify its procedures. Another advantage lies in the environmental scope, generating savings by causing less travel and greatly reduced paper consumption. Bringing the exam online also makes it more accessible to even more potential candidates in the future from all corners of Europe. "Without a shadow of a doubt, this challenge represents a before and after in terms of trust and viability in secure online testing", said UOC Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications member Josep Prieto.

The TeSLA project led by the UOC is an initiative that ended in 2019 and entailed the three-year development and testing of a system to validate the identity of students in online learning activities. The project, which involved a consortium made up of 18 institutions headed up by the UOC, has, among other achievements, resulted in the establishment of a European quality framework for online assessment.


Photograph of Josep Prieto Blzquez

Josep Prieto Blzquez

Expert in: Virtual laboratories; IT security.

Knowledge area: Computer networks, operating systems and computer architecture.

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