Macquarie University has recently run its first trial of BYOD e-Exams as part of its role in an Australian Office of Learning and Teaching project entitled ‘Transforming exams across Australia: processes and platform for e-exams in high stakes, supervised environments’.

All students in the subject EDUC261 – Information and Communication Technologies and Education were provided with the option of typing their final exam instead of handwriting it. The e-Exam system, developed by Monash University, places an entire Linux operating system on a USB stick which the students then access on their own personal laptop. The operating system is customised so that students can’t access the internet or other areas of their computer. Students use an in-built word processing application to complete an examination that has been loaded onto a USB stick in advance.

There were 17 students who agreed to participate in the trial. A practice session was held two weeks before the exam to make sure that the e-Exam system worked on each student’s computer and that all students were comfortable using it. Then on the day of the exam participating students were given a USB stick instead of a paper-based examination. Students booted up their laptop using the USB stick but were instructed not to login to their e-Exam system until everyone was ready.

During the exam there were minor issues, such as a machine that failed to boot up and a student whose word processor crashed while they were typing. However, each of these issues was resolved quite quickly and the autosave feature of the e-Exam system meant that there was no material loss of student work throughout the trial.

Students who participated in the trial indicated that they appreciated the ability to type their exam. Some of them could type much faster than they could write, meaning that they were able to express more of their thoughts in the allotted time. Completing the examination using the e-Exam system also meant that they could shift text around and edit their work in ways that are not possible for handwritten exams.

The e-Exam system has the potential to reduce the crunch on university resources by offering students the opportunity to complete their examinations using their own devices. It also means that in future we can offer more relevant forms of assessment, such as interpretation of video content or problem solving using different software applications.

Further analysis is being conducted to determine whether there was a substantial difference between the performance of the e-Exam students and those who completed the hand-written examination. Outcomes of this research will be published in scholarly articles.

fFor further information about the research aspects of this trial, feel free to email me. For technical insights into the administration of e-Exam system contact Nathan Sollars from the Learning Innovation Hub, who led the technological aspects of the trial.

Posted by Matt Bower

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