27 May 2020

Exam period

We had the first online exam period ever! And how did it go? Well, my personal experiences are modest! I am currently module organiser on three second semester modules, and one of them is the dissertation module so that doesn't have an exam. And I teach the majority of one other module, so I have loads of exam questions, but that is a first year MCQ exam. You don't need to mark these! Computers can do that. So that was sorted. So only two exams to mark! And they were in modules with small class sizes.

How did we do it? We basically released the exams at a set time and gave the students 24 hours to complete them. They had been told to sit them like 'normal' exams, but then on a computer. So no Googling or phoning a friend or any of that. But could we check that? Well, no!

So how did it go? Well, mixed bag! It started out with a bit of confusion on who would prepare the MSc level exam: the module leader or the exams officer, but we sorted it without any students seeming to be bothered. Good! And as this was new I wanted to make sure the students were actually there doing the exams. The one exam went swimmingly. The other one had two students who hadn't accessed the exam after a few hours. One had logged issues online. The other one was a Chinese student and I suspected they were in China and therefore in a completely different time zone from the campus. And after a while they let me know all was well. I think my guess was right!

All marking is done now. And the results? Well! Of course there was a bit of a range in the grades. There always is! It's not a good exam if there isn't. But were there issues? Well, there were some suspiciously similar answers but the plagiarism officer didn't think it was serious enough to merit measures.

So what do I think? Well it did work! Yes we can't be sure the students weren't on the phone with each other. But given that face-to-face teaching was suspended mid March and the exams started in late April, we had to think of something fairly fast. And a pandemic is likely to bring sub-ideal circumstances. And then you get sub-ideal exams. I think we did OK considering circumstances! And in June we will have meetings in which we will discuss all this. I wonder how different this year will be with respect to the previous few years. I hope not too much!

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