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Students don’t want to wait, they want digital exams right now. Government and universities in the Nordic countries are trying to meet the demand.

In the digital exam session at the NORDUnet Conference, experiences and plans from Norway, Denmark and Iceland were shared.

Read more on www.ndn2014.net

Different approaches

While Norway has organized a national project, coordinated by UNINETT, the Danish universities have been left to devise their own solutions. The latter has resulted in the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) being able to digitize all their exams, in 2014 some 84 000 individual exams, within a period of two years. The downside is that systems and processes vary between the universities, and students that move between them have to adapt to new ways of doing digital assessments.

The Norwegian project aims to make 15% of all exams digital in 2015 and 60 % in 2016. The system for this will be unified across higher education, which will mean benefits both in user-friendliness and in use of resources. However, the process is substantially more complex, and will involve the bureaucracy connected to public acquisitions.

Workflow

While the students are happy just to use their own electronic devices at exams, the aim for the universities has to be to digitize the whole workflow of an exam, from the creation of assignments, until the grade is final and the results archived. This workflow involves a large number of stakeholders, and even more systems that have to be integrated. It is essential to digitize the whole process; otherwise, digital exams will mean more work and higher costs then traditional exams.

Likewise, digital assessment has to be:

  • Valid – measuring what it is supposed to measure
  • Reliable – available when needed, but only for those assigned to it
  • Feasible – resources must be available
  • Acceptable – the staff and students must feel comfortable using it

When used the right way, digital exams will align the assessment more closely to the learning process.

BYOD

The consensus seems to be that digital exams must be built around students using their own devices. One reason is acceptance among the students; they feel more comfortable with their own equipment than with some university computer unknown to them. Another is the cost issue, having to invest in large quantities of devices for use only in shorter periods.

Of course, BYOD raises some issues, both in terms of security against viruses etc., cheating and feasibility. The exam system needs to be able to run on the students’ devices. While SDU relies on a monitoring program and spot-checks to avoid cheating, Reykjavik University has tested a USB-based system that effectively takes control over all in- and output on the students’ devices during the exam. Both have positive experiences with their solutions.

Read more on the session webpage from NDN2014.

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