Kylie Day, Melanie Pittard
University of New England
Everything is online these days ... online admission, enrolment, teaching and assessment, even graduation is streamed online. Supervised hard-copy exams are still held the same way they were 300 years ago and apart from the ball point pen, not a lot has changed! Hard copy exams come with their own set of problems and remain the subject of ongoing debate as to their validity as an assessment tool. They are stressful for students, often limited in pedagogical usefulness and logistically difficult to provide. Exams seem to be out of step with authentic online learning experiences yet they persist because of ongoing concerns about cheating.
UNE began implementing an Online Supervised Exams platform in 2017. It aims to resolve many of these issues, facilitate more authenticity, and provide a more accessible and flexible exam experience. Students sit the exam at their preferred location and can choose their start time within the availability window. There is no need to travel to a venue. Students are supervised in real time, using video, audio and screen-share technology. Biometrics and AI assist the exam supervisor to identify issues.
Exam timetabling becomes less about mandating student presence based on venue capacity and more about the needs of the student. Accessibility is greatly improved, not only for students who have disabilities but also for students with work and family commitments or who live a long distance from an exam venue. The platform opens the way for exams with innovative question types, rich media and access to real world so ware tools to formulate answers.
Students opt-in to this mode due to its flexibility in terms of the time and place to sit the exam. Surveys show 60% of students who sat their exam online believe it had a positive impact on their performance. Anecdotally, some students are making their enrolment choices based on online exam offerings. With a very large online student cohort, we are also seeing an impact on retention rates when we o er more flexibility in exam options. This also has the potential to dramatically rebuild our notions of academic calendars, student choice and authentic assessment.