The online Canadian citizenship test is not a silver bullet

Posted on September 19, 2020 at 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated November 16, 2020 at 4:01 p.m. EST

With citizenship tests suspended as part of Canada’s response to the coronavirus, tens of thousands of Canadian applicants cannot obtain passports and the right to vote.

About 85,000 people are waiting to take the citizenship test, according to data from the Immigration Department on September 7. Permanent residents must take the test to obtain Canadian citizenship, which gives them the same privileges as citizens born in Canada. Citizenship status is also a symbolic gesture for many immigrants, which means that they are now part of the Canadian family.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said it plans to offer citizenship tests and interviews online, but needs to think about how it will verify the identity of people taking the test and preserve program integrity. they did not provide CIC News with a timeline for when that will happen, but recently announced that some candidates will be called upon to retest in person.

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The integrity challenge with online testing

The pandemic has increased the need for online testing. Canadian post-secondary institutions offer a variety of solutions, such as modifying the curriculum to allow open book testing. They can use testing software that implements different measures that make it harder to cheat, such as placing time limits on tests or making it impossible to open another tab without locking the test. Some have also opted for artificial intelligence such as ProctorU, which was created to address the issue of online testing integrity.

The use of artificial intelligence as monitors was an idea in the works long before the pandemic. Duolingo, for example, has been developing its AI controller for about five years to allow candidates to complete their language tests from anywhere, anytime.

The Duolingo English test registers students during the test session. The video is then uploaded to artificial intelligence software that detects any suspicious behavior or broken rules. The information the AI ​​collects is then passed on to internal employees who review the videos to make sure the AI ​​hasn’t made any mistakes.

“We have two humans going through the entire video… Duolingo English Test International Engagement Manager,“ Human supervisors understand that, [it] were in fact only children going up the stairs.

Test results are acceptable for students to use for admission to some Canadian universities. Fleischmann said it took years to develop the AI ​​controller, and Duolingo is still working to improve the technology.

“Our mission is to make sure that testing is more accessible through assessment technology and that’s why we’ve spent so much time making sure this proprietary work is solid and good,” Fleischmann said. “It’s a big investment for universities or governments. “

Number of new citizens considerably reduced compared to 2019

IRCC canceled all citizenship tests, retests, interviews and ceremonies on March 14, in response to the COVID-19 situation. Virtual citizenship ceremonies have since resumed, however, the 2,500 to 3,000 citizenship oaths they are now per week are still down from 2019, when they processed about 4,700 citizenship oaths per week.

Andrew Griffith, political commentator and former CEO of Citizenship and Multiculturalism, calls the delay in testing “understandable” given the infrastructure required to make online testing available. But, he questions the low number of virtual ceremonies organized by IRCC since the start of the pandemic.

“I have less sympathy in terms of the number of virtual ceremonies because I think Australia has proven that it can be done on a larger scale,” Griffith said. CIC News.

Australia has hosted around 80,000 online ceremonies since March while Canada has hosted only around 7,000.

“By the time [citizenship applicants] getting to the ceremony is basically a dabbing exercise because all the security checks have been done, they do the test and then they can take the oath, ”Griffith said. “It’s a pretty streamlined process at this point.”

IRCC will begin offering some in-person services on September 21, including a new citizenship test in Vancouver. They will monitor the results to see if more services can be offered in person in the future.

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