About the University of Bath
The University of Bath, founded in 1966, is nationally and internationally recognised for its reputation in research and teaching excellence. There are over 18,000 students enrolled in its graduate and postgraduate programmes, 30% of which are international students, representing 130 nationalities. The university employs over 5,000 staff members across four faculties.
For this customer story, we interviewed Rowan Cranwell, Solutions and Projects Manager and Dr Donald Lancaster, Teaching Fellow in Marketing and Director of Studies for Executive MBA.
The University of Bath started considering digital examinations solutions in 2016. While some testing was completed previously using MCQ quizzes within the VLE (Moodle), it was determined that there was a need to utilise the funding to trial a more robust, efficient, and purpose-built assessment solution. The University decided to conduct a pilot project to explore and understand the future considerations for scaling the initiative.
The main purpose of the one-year trial was to investigate whether e-examinations would bring any of the following key benefits for students, academics and the administration:
- Aligning exam conditions with the everyday conditions students face in the classroom and later in the workplace
- Securing better accessibility for students with learning support needs
- Increasing marking efficiency
- Improving the fairness of the assessment by removing the bias caused by the students’ illegible handwriting
- Creating more time-efficient and cost-effective operations
The collaboration with Inspera began in December 2017 as a trial at the School of Management and was then followed by a one-year digital assessment pilot in 2019. In July 2020, the University of Bath entered into a full-scale contract with Inspera to move towards full implementation of online assessment.
The planning and development phase of the pilot required efforts in communication, coordination, and stakeholder management. Inspera supported these efforts by allocating a dedicated Account Manager; providing access to an online Service Desk and training materials, providing on-site training, and introducing University of Bath’s team to its Strategic User Forum in Higher Education.
The first trial involved 70 master’s students and took the form of an essay-based formative exam, with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) mode of delivery. Students were given an option to choose whether they want to hand in their exam digitally or on paper, with 70% opting in for the digital exam. During the following one-year pilot, the University trialled and evaluated the digital examination solution across different departments, including the support requirements, user experience, and the capabilities of technology, in a variety of examination conditions.
Both summative assessments and formative assessments were conducted within this pilot project. The question types used included multiple-choice, multiple responses, drag-n-drop, missing words, click select, graphic gap match, graphic text entry, and text area.
Scanning in Scantron solution performed well and took about 15 minutes of administrator’s time for the entire exam, with only about 10% of the sketch sheets needing some manual adjustment (e.g. codes not shaded correctly).
The exams in the pilot were conducted without incidents, and 'overall, it was a very positive experience', reports Lancaster. Rowan Cranwell, Solutions and Project Manager, agrees and adds: 'The majority of students with special needs and learning disabilities said they much preferred digital exams to pen and paper.'
Having previously piloted online exams with Inspera, and in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Bath are rolling out online examinations to all students at the University. In July 2020, the University of Bath entered into a two-year contract with Inspera with the option to renew the agreement for a consecutive period of 1+1 year. The project began in September 2020, with the University focusing on redesigned assessments while the requirements of remotely proctored examinations are being examined further. The full-scale online assessment project involves 20.000 students and covers onscreen authoring, delivering, marking, and in some instances handwritten responses.
A minimum viable product (MVP) is scheduled to be released in January 2021, before a full implementation plan is being rolled out. This has included integrating Inspera with the student records system (Tribal SITS). The University of Bath has a long-term strategy of digitizing all of its exams, and the partnership with Inspera is central to the University’s move towards full implementation of online assessment.
'Eventually, digital exams will become the norm. I think it will happen; the only question is when', as Lancaster concludes.
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