I strongly believe that online examinations have played a major revolutionary role in the educational system. Since my days of childhood I have been giving such competitive exams and thus have completely witnessed the transition that has taken place.
First and foremost I would like to state the benefits which the students get due to this new examination format:
1) In case of objective exams the student had to cautiously fill the bubbles in order to mark the correct answer which is way more time consuming than a single click of mouse. One can state that it hardly takes a few microseconds in excess but while attempting over 100 questions these microseconds add up to a few minutes which otherwise would have been used to solve a few questions more.
2) In reference to the above mentioned point, anyone who has ever attended such offline objective examination would recollect that there exists the requirement of a particular type of pen without which the OMR sheet checker does not accept the answers. So many a times it does add to the last minute troubles. Online exam has no such issues, all one needs is a valid ID proof.
3) Such OMR sheets have one complete page consisting of candidate details, now there exist a list of problems which often arise due to that page. Firstly it's important to mention that one student is entitled to only one OMR sheet which has already been marked against his/her name directly from the organization conducting the examination. So a small mistake which can happen anytime especially due to the exam tension effects a lot, above all it increases the tension, next the invigilators at times don't have complete knowledge regarding the required procedure and take away the OMR to ask their senior officials which efficiently kills a considerable amount of time. All this would still be avoided if the invigilator gives the paper 10 in advance for such data filling procedures but as the process is manual in many exams I witnessed the fact that this extra time wasn't given and the entire filling procedure was included in the exam duration though clearly mentioned otherwise on the paper. These two problems are gracefully solved by the online procedure as there is no such data filling option since the application directly fetches the information from the database all one needs to do is login and the time is also fixed so no manual manipulation can take place.
4) It has been mentioned above that all examinees might not be tech savvy, the truth is that they need not be due to a few reasons. A complete guide on how to attempt the paper is provided beforehand and to make the situation easier online mock tests are also provided so that the user can try his/her hand at the online examination format. It's like one does not use a phone because he is tech savvy but because it is essential.
5) Chances of cheating are reduced in many cases though not all. One thing that I can vouch by is that no one has ever come across an offline test where there were no incidences of cheating, even strangers become friends when it comes to cheating. Even though examiners came up with the concept of paper sets the students are equally smart and easily find out those having the similar set. This is not possible if the exam is conducted in a computer lab, this is particularly evident by the seating arrangement in computer labs where it is actually hard to locate similar set.
6) One more thing that was mentioned above is that the student is unable to access the complete paper at once, I take this opportunity to mention that this is a feature of adaptive tests which work on such an algorithm where the questions become easier or tougher based on the previous response of the student. Though it has been mentioned by many in the above threads that this is a negative, it is to be realized that adaptive tests are absolutely a new dimension added for some particular tests and was possible only because of online examination format. It is used by most of the IT companies since it helps them understand the character trait of the examinee apart from just his knowledge and that is much essential one would easily understand. In case the exam is not an adaptive one then the complete paper can be accessed at once since its simply a click away where all the questions are properly organized against their question number just as one gets in an offline paper.
7) Another fact which I came across in some of the above threads was that people believe its harder to track the questions that have not been attended. Rather its a lot more easier, firstly there can't be a situation when one mistakenly fills two bubbles for the same question as might happen in an OMR sheet. There exist 4 different colors to show which questions have been attempted, which not, which haven't been seen yet and where the student has a doubt. This panel is clearly mentioned on the right side of the screen with the descriptions mentioned above and even showing the same while hovering over some particular question number in that panel. What's more, the application even allows the user to see the status of the questions in different sections, even as per the marks division at times. Last but not the least it even asks for confirmation from the student if they are done with the paper, by showing the examinee the final status of their question paper.
8) We all remember those days when after an objective exam we used to frantically search through books to check the total marks we would acquire. It was an absolute mess when the question paper was not given to the student to be carried home so instead they carried the over the tension till the results were announced. Thanks to the efficient applications which instantly give out the number of correct and incorrect answers. There also exist some applications which send an auto generated email to the student within a day or two giving the question paper, right answer and the chosen answer. This thus gives the student the right to approach the organization in case some discrepancies even before the result is released thus saving a lot of confusion and trouble.
9) Till now the benefits mentioned above are with respect to objective questions. Coming to subjective questions, I haven't personally come across any such paper yet but I believe it would be equally efficient because with changing times more and more people are getting used to computers for writing textual matters. Furthermore no organization would ask its examinee to attend an online exam without prior preparation, hence the things would be dealt with. One benefit that would obviously exist is that there would exist an uniformity in the font of all texts so no issues would arise to problem in interpretation by the checker.
10) Another thing that I came across was the mention of the need to copy the diagram in case of online exam, which otherwise can be avoided in offline papers. It needs to be stated that even if it's an offline paper one has to redraw the diagram in the rough work section since its clearly mentioned in instructions that one CANNOT mark any answer or write anything in the question area. If the diagram can be mentally interpreted to get the answer, the situation remains same.
11) While solving offline question paper students often face a problem of shortage of rough work area due to which one has to continuously flip through pages to get data and solve the problem in some other paper, this turns out to be the main reason for errors in many cases. Such situations are completely avoided in online exam since ample sheets are provided and the question remains on the screen.
12) Offline exams have even generated problems where the images or some text is not properly printed and no one has the idea what the actual thing is. In online exam, one can separately view the diagrams which are absolutely clear since no printing involved, still if the student has problems, hard copies are also provided on demand.
Now I would mention the benefits that the organization reaps from such online examinations:
1) The marks are easy to calculate since the result is automatically generated by the application.
2) The results are released earlier, giving both the parties enough time to go through the following procedure.
3) No fear of losing some papers since there exist a technical back up to each and every submitted solution.
4) Transportation charges to send so many papers are also reduced as they just need to send one official and the rest is directly accessed from the database.
5) Chances of any other discrepancies are also greatly reduced which otherwise would have taken place due to human negligence.
Nature is also greatly benefited due to the increase in online examination. No one ever wondered how many trees are chopped down to produce those thousands of papers and surely they were not produced from bagasse because we all know that such papers are costlier and also of entirely different quality from what we get for our papers.
Coming to an end I would approach one of the most debated points for online examination and that is server failure of poor internet connection. That is something that we are coping with, efficient applications, better internet are the main keys to success. Every answer gets saved to the database as the student clicks save and next, so once there is a breakdown one can get back to the same with no loss and I say so since I myself faced that. Internet connections have greatly improved and we are still moving forward. It's not that this is the optimum level, but yes, online examination is the true success formula. It's an absolute nightmare for cheaters but rewards those who actually deserve.