New application allows digital test taking experience


Emerald Exam was created by Penn students to meet challenges of hand-written tests


bluebook

Wharton and Engineering senior Pulak Mittal and Wharton and Engineering sophomore Lauren Reeder built Emerald Exam as an alternative to the blue booklets commonly used for exam answers.

Photo by Michele Ozer


The familiar hand cramp from writing an exam may soon become a thing of the past.

Three Penn students have developed a desktop application to allow students to type their exams on their laptops.

Emerald Exam was created to address the many issues that arise with hand-written examinations, including poor handwriting and a slow grading process. It saves all work on a Google database and allows professors to include time parameters and grade how they see fit.

The application is designed to prevent cheating. “The way the app is built makes it impossible to access other things on your computer. Professors don’t have to worry about academic integrity,” Wharton and Engineering senior Pulak Mittal, who cofounded the company with 2013 Wharton graduate Alex Rattray, said.

While it cannot guard against physical cheat sheets, the application software was made specifically for in-class usage, thereby diminishing the possibility of using textbooks or notes from home. “It’s the cornerstone of the product,” Wharton and Engineering sophomore Lauren Reeder said. Reeder joined the team in April 2013 after competing in the spring PennApps hackathon and has since been helping the team with software development and further construction of the product.

The application’s website also ensures that the software has several layers of security to prevent it from being hacked.

Emerald Exam could become the Canvas or Blackboard of exam software.

The founders are currently talking with professors and administrators at multiple institutions about making the application available to their students. “Things are looking pretty likely that we’ll get schools to sign on board beyond the free trial,” Mittal said. “We’ve even talked with some Penn administration about working towards a contract although they are still evaluating other options.”

The project, which was supported by the student-run venture capital firm Dorm Room Fund, has already been tested in over 10 Penn classes. Currently, there are 10 schools — including high schools and universities — that have used Emerald in some capacity. The team plans to reach anywhere between 20-100 customers by the beginning of the fall 2014 semester.

Emerald isn’t the first of its kind, but its founders aren’t too worried about the competition. “There are similar technologies out there, especially in the Law School, but we have an advantage because they’re mostly outdated,” Reeder said.

The company does face some obstacles, however. Navigating administrative bureaucracies at universities and finding the right people to approach with their product pitch has been difficult for Emerald Exam, according to Mittal.

Furthermore, breaking into the educational technology industry is challenging for new companies. As Emerald grows, the company founders will face a pivotal decision about whether they should build partnerships with existing larger companies or if they want to continue navigating the market on their own.

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