Digiexam: freeing teachers’ time with automated assessment on Google Cloud Platform

About Digiexam

Founded by three people in 2012, Digiexam has rapidly expanded to become Sweden’s leading digital exam and assessment provider. Today more than 500 schools in 13 countries subscribe to the full platform while Digiexam’s free services are used by 2,500 schools in 80 countries worldwide. With its fastest growth in the Nordics, US and UK, Digiexam’s user base has doubled in size annually since 2014. Read more at www.digiexam.com

Industries: Education
Location: Sweden

Swedish exam and assessment company Digiexam makes automated marking affordable for schools with GCP’s great security, managed services, reliable scaling and economical cloud infrastructure.

Google Cloud Platform Results

  • Autoscales to match 5,000% increases in activity when 30,000 students sit national exams
  • Doubles users annually since 2014 thanks to minimal overheads with managed services
  • Improves customer retention with accessible insights through Google BigQuery

For many young digital natives, exam halls may be the only environments where they use pen and paper. Their teachers then spend a lot of time grading piles of handwritten papers, one by one. By providing a secure, reliable and intuitive examination platform, Swedish startup Digiexam is eradicating old school stresses and strains.

Thanks to GCP’s managed services and autoscaling, Digiexam has doubled its users annually since 2014

When the three founders of Digiexam created the company in 2012, they knew that prohibitive infrastructure costs had held back digital assessment technology. Schools looking to take advantage of automated marking would have to purchase and install expensive local servers, while the companies themselves struggled with maintenance and upkeep costs that could soon become unmanageable. That’s why Digiexam was developed as a cloud-based SaaS solution, ready to work straight out of the box with the minimum of maintenance from the customer or the company.

“When we started off, digital exam and assessment services were expensive and complex. Our competitors typically set up their own servers for each of their customers, so only schools that could cover prohibitive upfront infrastructure costs could take part. We decided to create a more cost-effective option that was Software as a Service, and we chose to do it on a platform that would scale.”

Robin Andersson, CTO, Digiexam

“The market roughly doubles in size every year, with our fastest growth in Sweden, the US and the UK. Long-term, the UK government is looking to digitalize all exams in all schools and already around 40% of year 9 to 12 students in Sweden use our system,” says Robin Andersson, CTO at Digiexam.

“For most schools it's not about replacing something, it's about going from zero to one. When they sign up with Digiexam, it's the first product of its kind that they use.”

Building a system that everyone can trust

Examinations are decisive moments with the potential to make or break people’s dreams for the future. For that reason, trust is fundamental to any successful digital assessment system, and because the Digiexam founders planned to create a scalable solution in the cloud, they knew they had to address several key concerns. In particular, their new system would have to be exceptionally reliable, provide excellent security, maintain high speed at all times, and scale instantly to cope with sudden peaks, such as when 30,000 Swedish students simultaneously begin annual national examinations.

Google Cloud Platform proved to be an ideal base. “We started off with Google App Engine hosting the platform code and Google Cloud Datastore storing the data,” says Robin. “We added new managed services as they were developed, including Google Cloud SQL, autoscaling with Google Container Engine, and Google Cloud Load Balancing.” Choosing Google helped bring in clients. “When we pitch we use Google to show customers that they don’t have to worry about infrastructure and that it’s easy to get started because we don’t have to set up servers or involve their internal IT staff.”

With two-step verification on administration accounts, excellent key management with Google Cloud KMS and data encryption at rest, GCP reassures security concerns, too. “Google has also been great at helping us out and answering our customers’ questions,” says Robin. “One customer asked for an internal Google document on cloud infrastructure security, and Google gave that customer access to it. That was a deal breaker in us signing a contract with that customer.”

“When 30,000 Swedish students start national exams in the same minute, we experience sudden peaks in demand of over 5,000%. Google App Engine handles that perfectly. It is really mission critical for us that scaling works,” says Robin. “If it didn’t, a lot of students would be unable to write their exams. If we hosted our own servers we would have to have servers to handle that maximum load that would stand idle for the rest of the time. This is much more cost effective and delivers infrastructure that can scale from a bare minimum to a high peak really, really fast. App Engine and the GCP tools do that instantly and automatically. It works perfectly.”

“Google Cloud Platform has been critical for our success. With its managed services, we've been able to allocate resources elsewhere than on running infrastructure, which helped both early on in our development and as we’ve grown. Google provides the ideal toolbox for any team looking to minimise maintenance.”

Robin Andersson, CTO, Digiexam

Supporting learning with Google BigQuery

As the Google Cloud Platform introduces new tools and possibilities, Digiexam has selected features to boost and improve its service. Now Digiexam exports all of its application data, events and logs to Google BigQuery to gain insights into the ways students and teachers use their platform. “Google BigQuery gives us a clear picture of how customers behave, what features they use and allows us to determine where we to focus our product development,” says Robin. Soon Digiexam plans to use Google BigQuery to give teachers insights on how students sit exams, so they can better understand areas of weakness and guide their teaching accordingly.

“We’ve made this amazing usage table by using Google BigQuery to aggregate usage statistics over time, then break them down to an organisational or user level,” says Robin. “That lets us see who has performed above or below average in their usage and how that’s changed over time, so we know where to intervene to keep clients happy. It really helps us retain customers and see that everyone is using the service properly.”

Putting the pieces in place for a new global norm

Thanks to GCP’s managed services and simplified administration, the Digiexam team of just 24 people has run a lean operation, keeping overheads low even as its user volume doubles year on year. Already the industry leader in Sweden, Digiexam uses simple scaling and easy deployment on Container Engine to serve teachers in another 80 countries worldwide.

“We’re always looking to improve what we do,” says Robin. “Right now we're redesigning the student experience on our platform, creating new integrations with Google Apps for Education and looking at how Google Cloud AI could empower teachers, such as analysing text to automate grading of textual answers. There are so many interesting areas to explore.”

About Digiexam

Founded by three people in 2012, Digiexam has rapidly expanded to become Sweden’s leading digital exam and assessment provider. Today more than 500 schools in 13 countries subscribe to the full platform while Digiexam’s free services are used by 2,500 schools in 80 countries worldwide. With its fastest growth in the Nordics, US and UK, Digiexam’s user base has doubled in size annually since 2014. Read more at www.digiexam.com

Industries: Education
Location: Sweden

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