Q&A: Exam day - before & after the pandemic

Julie Lykke Storm
December 15, 2020

How do we provide students with flexible, fair and secure opportunities to test their knowledge and skills in the time of turmoil? Did you miss our Q&A Coffee Break about the exam day - before & after the pandemic? Don't worry. In this article the panellists answer 8 questions on the topic.

The panellists:

  • Aleksander Lorentzen, Senior Advisor at the Department for Educational Services, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Jeremy Bodey, Director of Strategy, Innovation and Technology, BPP University, UK
  • Karina Aronsen Olsen, Implementation Consultant, Inspera, Norway 

Q1: Digital exams came to the UiO thanks to the campaign made by the students, who wanted online assessment, and that happened many years before the pandemic. Why was that, and do the students still feel the same?

Aleksander Lorentzen:
It started with a national student campaign in 2011 where the students wanted "Computer on the exam day" where they basically wanted to digitalise pen and paper (and not much more). This student campaign aligned with "The Administrative Streamlining Programme" at UiO, which aimed to review and develop administrative systems, routines and organisational forms that would ensure efficient and professional administration.
This created a bottom-up and top-down situation where UiO was positioned to extrapolate on this and initiate a unified digital assessment project that has led us here. Nowadays the typical student is a "digital native" and expects to have access to digital assessment at the university level as a continuation from primary and secondary school. They demand more of the assessment platform and the digital tools that are available.

Q2: Karina, in your implementation experience, in what different ways does Inspera help institutions before, during and after the exam day?

Karina Aronsen Olsen:

  • Before the exam: We offer a dedicated onboarding consultant, who can help with the setup and implementation around the first live exam. Before the first exam, we recommend having a mock exam, which in a way is a test exam before the real exam. This mock exam is evaluated after completion.
  • During the exam: Support.
  • After the exam: Evaluation of the first live exam.

Q3: How can I download a file when my internet is down?

Jeremy Bodey:
Inspera’s offline capabilities are one of the distinguishing factors that really improve our digital assessment stability for students. We’ve not had many students who have been offline at the point of submission (remembering that it continues to run the exam and save locally if the internet is down during the exam) but where they have had to send us their assessment as a file, clear guidance has meant this worked smoothly.

Karina Aronsen Olsen:
When the internet connection is lost, the responses you make in Inspera Assessment will be saved in your browser. Students can therefore continue working without an internet connection, and then choose Save submission as a file. The file will be downloaded locally to your computer and will be unique to you, the test, and Inspera Assessment.

Q4: Do your institutions support teachers pedagogically in creating good questions and items in Inspera?

Aleksander Lorentzen:
Yes, the University of Oslo (UiO) has a Centre for Learning, Innovation & Academic Development (LINK). LINK is the University of Oslo's Teaching and Learning Center. The Centre stimulates a diverse development of teaching and learning processes by:

  • Offering university pedagogy education.
  • Assisting with guidance, training and innovation in the digitization of teaching and learning.
  • Having a close dialogue with the faculties and supporting the Faculty's own development work.
  • Coordinating, implementing and evaluating development projects aimed at the students' learning and learning environment.
  • Communicating and highlighting research on higher education, teaching and learning.
  • Being a hub for discussions on quality in education, and help spread good practices and create networks for learning across the academic and organizational boundaries of UiO.
  • Being a driving force and contributor in analyzes of UiO's work on quality, and in the development and realization of strategic initiatives.

Jeremy Bodey:
Inspera enabled BPP to re-think how and what we assess. The implementation of a digital assessment platform is a catalyst for driving assessment change.

Q5: If there are Individual Exam Arrangements for some students (e.g. extra time because a reasonable adjustment has been accepted for them due to a disability) can the exam have different end times for these students?

Karina Aronsen Olsen:
Yes, this is a feature we built into the platform from the very beginning. Students can be assigned extra time for special exam arrangements. This can be set up manually or pulled in from an integration if the information already sits somewhere else (perhaps the student information system). If for any reason the student logged in and found that the extra time was not available for them, they could request an update and staff could give them extra time during the exam.

Jeremy Bodey:
We have a significant number of students with learning support agreements who require extra time.  We value the flexibility in Inspera to set individual times if necessary but keep the students within the same exam and therefore question set to prevent multiple instances of an assessment and the possibility for errors between them.

Q6: Mathematics and physics exams are often paper-based with a lot of written numeric equations. How does Inspera deal with hands-in of "analogue" written exams?

Aleksander Lorentzen:
At UiO we mainly use Scantron/Inspera Scan for high-stakes (school) exams. For home assignments/exams, Inspera´s built-in solutions for inserting special characters and/or equations, and for inserting drawings can be used. It is possible for candidates to enter equations and symbols in MS Word and then upload the file as a regular upload assignment in Inspera. And finally, it is possible to take photos or scan documents using a mobile camera, and then upload these files to Inspera. See UiO’s guidelines here.

Q7: How far can the software be tailored to a University’s systems. For example, can students log in with their University username and password to avoid having to remember another one?

Karina Aronsen Olsen:
Yes, most of our university customers set up a Single Sign-On (SSO) integration with us within the first week of using the platform. This is quite straightforward and allows students to log in with their existing university credentials.

Jeremy Bodey:
We use Single Sign-On using Office365 and Auth0.  It means students have one less thing to worry about on exam day.

Q8: Aleksander, one of your fields of expertise is managing organisational change. What advice would you give to those having to do change management now when adopting an e-assessment solution like Inspera?

Aleksander Lorentzen: My top 5 tips would be:

  1. Align change initiative to the strategic objectives of the institutions
  2. Organise and allocate sufficient resources
  3. Plan ahead and be agile
  4. Communicate and build trust
  5. Control a stage and manage risks

Do you want to learn more?

Follow this link to watch a full recording of the Q&A Coffee Break held on 9 December 2020. Enjoy!

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