The School of Education has been leading the way in introducing online exams as an optional alternative to traditional exams in a bid to further enhance the student learning experience at UNE.

Online exams offer an alternative to the traditional exam format of having students arrive in an exam centre or lecture theatre to complete an exam at a particular time and location. Instead, a student can complete the exam in the comfort of their own home.

The School of Education’s ICT Education Team has been among the first in the faculty to offer their students the option of completing online exams for the past three exam periods, partly at the request of students.

“We actually had students asking why they can’t sit online exams. We have a lot of students who are in regional or remote locations in Australia and overseas who would have to travel a reasonable way to get to UNE or an exam centre. As teachers of technology related subjects, the team felt it was important to explore this option,” ICT Education Team member, Dr Mitch Parkes, said.

The option has proven to be quite popular at this early stage, and the uptake is increasing across the faculty’s units. Mitch says around 70 of their students, or about 30 per cent of the student cohort, elected to sit online exams this trimester, which is all completed through Moodle.

Students sign up and select a timeslot within a specified timeframe to complete the exam. Once they sit down for the exam, they must hold up some photo ID to a webcam and move their computer around to scan their surroundings. Their screen is also checked remotely. They are supervised throughout the exam by an external online invigilator.

Mitch says there are a range of advantages for students and teachers.

“Online exams remove some of the external factors that can negatively impact a student’s exam performance. Just getting to a particular place at a particular time and sitting in an exam room can add to the overall exam stress and anxiety,” Mitch says.

“Students can also complete their exams around other commitments, rather than having to potentially take a day off work, for example. It gives them much more autonomy and flexibility.

“For teachers, because the responses are all typed and entered through Moodle, the exam scripts are available immediately, which is beneficial in the shorter gaps between teaching periods. The solution is scalable without any extra overheads; setting up an online exam is the same amount of effort whether you have five students or 500 students.”

While it may sound daunting to introduce a new technological solution at such a critical time as exam period, Mitch says the team found the process very easy, thanks to the fantastic support from the UNE Online Exams Team, which takes care of everything apart from actually building the exam in Moodle.

“I can’t thank Kylie Day and her team enough. We were supported every step of the way. It made the process a lot easier for us and our experience was that implementation was seamless,” Mitch says.

Kylie Day, team leader of the Online Exams Team, says the most important thing for teachers who want to offer online is exams to do is to notify students early, encourage them to test their readiness (they can undertake a mock exam) and register well before exam period.

“Most technical issues can be ironed out when a student tests the system before they sign up to take the exam. However, they can access support around the clock too if they experience any problems.”

Mitch and Kylie believe there is great opportunity for the online exam format to evolve in future. 

“With online exams, you’re not locked into a paper-based response. Theoretically any function of Moodle could be incorporated into an online exam. You could potentially have students listen to a piece of audio or watch a video and ask them to respond to that. While it would have to be only part of the assessment mix, it probably is the way of the future,” Mitch said.

To explore the option of online exams, contact Kylie Day, Senior Project Manager, Online Supervised Exams (OLX) Project on x4502 or her team on x2145.