Switch to Remote Exams Required ‘All Hands on Deck’ for Exam Delivery Team
By Heather Hopkins, ABR Communications Coordinator
With the shift from in-person to remote exams this year, the duties of the ABR exam delivery team changed significantly. Exam delivery is responsible for the following:
- Setting up annual exam dates
- Scheduling examiners to cover oral exam sessions
- Rescheduling due to candidate and examiner conflicts
- Taking care of candidate accommodations
- Conducting computer-based exam content review
- Handling exam-day logistics
- Releasing exam results
In the past, they were also involved with travel arrangements and staffing exam centers; now, they schedule orientation webinars and oral exam software training for candidates and examiners, as well as help make sure everyone has the right computer equipment for a successful remote exam experience.
Traditionally, the exam delivery team has included three people. In March 2020, Elena Luevano transitioned from multimedia processing specialist to exam delivery, joining Kira Donovan and Stacey Martinez, and theoretically replacing Meckenzie Fussell, who was slated to move to administration. However, as with most plans in the spring of 2020, COVID threw a monkey wrench into the works. Meckenzie ended up staying half-time in exam delivery to help with the transition to remote exams, and everyone had to learn new processes.
“This was such a huge ABR lift,” Meckenzie said. “IT did such phenomenal work in building us a base to work from. We had to learn new systems, brainstorm new processes, and document as we went along. I think everyone’s dedication to getting it done made it possible. It was totally all hands on deck and it had to be, given the short time everyone had to make it happen.”
One of the most challenging aspects of switching from in-person to remote exams for the exam delivery team was figuring out what new communications had to be sent to oral examiners.
“With the new oral exam software, there is more information to convey and more webinars to schedule. It’s a challenge to keep all the examiners up to date, while at the same time not overwhelming them with too much correspondence,” Stacey said.
There have been some surprises along the way.
“With new processes and systems, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know,” Meckenzie said. “You can only anticipate so many things, so there was a lot of ‘oh yeah, we need this, too’ or ‘oh, it shouldn’t do that’ – just things we hadn’t thought of. For some things, we could find a work-around but others had to be fixed, which can be challenging when you’re trying to work as fast as everyone was trying to work.”
Changing so many processes in such a short period of time required good organization and communication within the department as well as with other departments.
“We make it a priority to maintain an attitude of flexibility, have open communication with other teams, and critically analyze processes with the intention of improving exam experiences,” Stacey said.
Exam delivery could not be successful in the administration of remote exams without the help of the CSD and SysOps teams, who staff the Help Desk on exam days starting at 6 am. Candidates call the Help Desk during their exam to notify us of any issues they are experiencing. This could range from an inability to connect their side-view camera to a disconnect that caused exam questions to become locked. The Help Desk creates tickets that the exam delivery team processes.
“We work very closely with every department to make sure that the delivery of the exams is as smooth as possible,” Elena said.
The ABR associate executive directors (AEDs) and trustees have always been the directing guides for exam delivery, and with the new remote platform, exam delivery relied on them even more. They worked together on examiner selection, exam scheduling, and examiner webinars and trainings.
“We are in constant communication with the AEDs regarding the exams,” Meckenzie said.
Exam delivery staff sees many benefits in the switch to the remote platform. For candidates, there is more flexibility in where they can take their exams, and the burden of spending time and money on traveling to an exam center has been removed. For exam delivery, it helped prioritize updates to their tools to make what they do more efficient.
“We strive to create organizational processes that are efficient and effective in the successful delivery of all ABR exams,” Elena said. “We are eternally grateful to the IT department and software developers who worked so hard with our team to provide us the tools we needed to prepare for the new remote exams.”
Meckenzie has now moved on to be the navigator manager. In this role, she is still closely tied to exam delivery, since the navigators are currently an integral part of oral exams. Meckenzie and her team will be helping exam delivery in the upcoming Diagnostic Radiology and Interventional Radiology/Diagnostic Radiology Certifying Exam, the largest one-day remote event that we will have administered so far, with approximately 1280 candidates logging in over the course of one hour.