CASE STUDY: Development | Digital Strategy

Digital transformation for global membership organisation

How we undertook a digital transformation project with The Institution of Structural Engineers to improve their offline examination marking process.


The Institution of Structural Engineers is the world’s largest membership organisation dedicated to the art and science of structural engineering, with over 27,000 members located in 105 countries across the globe. They offer several qualifications which results in several exam periods year on year. This process was fully manual, with paper scripts being scanned and sent to examiners who would then have to print and mark each paper individually. This resulted in a long and laborious process for IStructE, which proved difficult to manage.

The Brief

As such, IStructE approached Distinction with a clear brief; to create a web-based application that would allow them to distribute, mark, adjudicate and give feedback on candidates' exam papers with ease and efficiency. This would allow IStructE to reduce their costs and time spent on each exam paper, while also automating several complex processes such as adjudicating scripts and giving feedback to candidates who failed their exams, providing them with a strong ROI as we tailored their system to make sure we increased staff productivity throughout this traditionally labour intensive process.


Once we had explored and developed this idea conceptually, it became clear that in order for the team at IStructE to manage the large amount of data quickly and efficiently the system needed developing in four distinct parts:

  • Candidate Distribution and Management – A view which allowed an exam manager to distribute multiple candidates to examiners and then track and monitor their progress on a candidate by candidate basis, while also allowing them to resolve any issues the examiners may have raised with a script.
  • A PDF Script Viewer – This view would allow examiners to view a high resolution PDF of their allocated script and provide them with a system to mark and provide feedback on each question. It would also allow the examiner to notify the Exam Manager of any issues that may have arisen with the paper, or allow the Exam Manager to upload marks on behalf of examiners.
  • An Adjudication Application – This would allow the exam manager to distribute and manage any exam scripts which may need to be adjudicated. This system would significantly cut down on the administration time it took to adjudicate scripts within the current system.
  • A Feedback Application – This area would allow the Exam Manager to provide feedback and marks breakdown to each candidate who requests feedback. This application would need to provide an area for the Exam Manager to load in the Examiners comments and marks, then save, preview and send a feedback email directly to the candidate from the web application.

What we did

With several distinct areas we felt that there was a clear scope to create a single web application that would give the online marking system the feel of a native application, allowing users to switch between views quickly and efficiently. This required breaking the requirements into several view states and building the front end system with this in mind. As such, our team at Distinction quickly developed a .NET API to communicate with IStructE's back-end system, and an Angular JS front end system to handle the large amounts of data being passed to the system in the most efficient and lightweight way possible. This implementation of modern web technologies allowed us to ensure that we could update information in real time, allowing the Exam Manager to monitor progress as it happened, a far cry from tracking Examiners using pens and paper.

The finished system managed to implement all of the functionality required by IStructE and provided them with a system that would allow them to manage and distribute exam scripts more efficiently than their past system. Due to the implementation of this web app there is room for increased scalability, which could allow IStructE to accept more examinations each term without significantly increasing their resources.

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