While the pandemic wreaked unimaginable havoc globally, it also became a breeding ground for innovative SaaS startups. Launched in 2021, MonitorExam was an inventive response to challenges during this period. Manu Gupta, a working mother with over 20 years of software industry experience, wanted to build a ‘calm’ proctoring platform as a solution to the stressful online invigilation experience.
“The idea for MonitorExam originated from the challenges that became more apparent during COVID. I saw a major trust deficit between the teacher and the student, given the challenges of remote and live proctoring of online exams. This became the base from which I started my preliminary investigation for developing a remote, online proctoring platform,” says Manu.
This trust gap amplified stress both for students and teachers. The teachers were anxious about the veracity of the results, and overwhelmed by invigilating so many students simultaneously. Students were stressed with existing platforms that were constraining, intrusive and assumed that students were prone to cheating.
Manu found these lacunae even while pursuing her two executive online programs at IIM Calcutta and BITS Pilani. Since proctoring wasn’t satisfactory, there was a lack of credibility in the certification even after spending a lot of money and effort on the programs.
Where other proctoring programs fail
While there was no dearth of technology or people trying to address this problem, no one was providing a calm, non-intrusive, flexible and reliable examination environment.
For example, certain software limit the time spent per question. In a physical exam, where a student can go back to a question later, time-limiting softwares don’t give this leeway. At times, students are asked to provide a 360-degree scan of their room, which not everyone is comfortable with. Notifications are sent for minor actions like looking away even to think. As a result, students lose out on time and concentration, and all this adds to their stress levels.
Manu’s experience with mental health startups had given her many valuable insights. She understood that constantly staring to monitor students was very draining for the teachers.
The MonitorExam solution
MonitorExam solved these gaps with its calm and unobtrusive solution. It alerts the invigilator of any wrongdoing on part of the student. The Student Attention Level Monitor tool monitors the level of student distraction and sends alerts to students whenever wavering attention is detected.
The Auto Proctoring feature ensures teachers do not have to stare at the (at times 30 or more) students during the entire span of the exam. Proctoring is automated and at the end of the exam a credibility score or Cred score is given to each student based on various factors like how many times they have been away.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) based ‘face detection tools’ minimize the mistrust factor, enable the invigilators to easily focus on the deviant minority and ensure that exam starts and stops at the stipulated time. The students therefore got a chance to become more focused and make their behavior more exam-appropriate.
At present MonitorExam is a web application that doesn’t require any installation. However, on request from students facing high-stake exams or looking for strict proctoring, a deep monitoring app using limited data can be made available.
Who is MonitorExam selling to?
Post-COVID, the ideal customer persona (ICP) has evolved from schools to higher education institutions like universities, colleges, and executive education programs providing online learning degrees. In the US, most universities and colleges use online proctoring web applications integrated with their LMS (Learning Management System).
For MonitorExam, the target market is a mix of mid-market and big professional universities (enterprise market) with as many as 40,000 students. Given the nature of the Indian market which prefers in-person examinations and direct, manual proctoring, Manu feels that the US market is a better fit because it is aggressively adopting online exams and proctoring even when the students and teachers are present in-person.
“Other markets, including Europe and India are also gradually warming up to the idea of online examination and proctoring, testified by use of the platform by multiple scholastic examination conducting companies. People are seeking us out for other use cases as well, like remote new employee/fresher examinations conducted by large corporates,” says Manu.
Some notable high points on the journey:
- Successful conduction of exam in the initial months, post launch.
- Among the top 14 teams of the Fido developer challenge
- A 40% upper-hand over the second-largest Olympiad provider in India.
- Affiliation with Intel.
- Becoming part of Nvidia Inception program.
- Getting selected in Microsoft for start-ups.
- Being part of the NASSCOM Tech.we program for women entrepreneurs
“The journey so far has been a roller-coaster ride. Despite the challenges of building a platform under multiple constraints, including being a single founder, I am driven by the growing market-need and urge to build the trust & credibility of the online exams untethering the conducting of the exams from location, time, weather, environment and quality of invigilation,” says Manu.
What’s keeping Manu busy these days? Building the right team, improving the team effectiveness and getting the sales engine running. She says joining Upekkha has helped her understand the inbound and outbound sales mechanism better and has given her insight into how a startup should work and grow. “Coming from a research and development background, I was incognizant of the sales challenges and working. But now I have understood how to convert leads through effective customer conversations and translating these into the right platform,” she says.
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