The very first ‘great online exam race’ of June 2020 is now done and dusted!

We did quite well all things considered. There was between 1% to 2% of students who sat an online exam in the June exam period who contacted the exams hotline or submitted an error report (although others may have contacted unit convenors directly).

After reflecting on the nature of issues that arose in the June online exams it has become apparent that we can make improvements in how we go about creating and offering online exams. This has prompted us to consider how we can help the MQ community enhance the exam experience for students.

An analysis of the issues we encountered in June was prepared for the PVC (L&T) and presented to the university AQSC last week along with recommendations for improvements.

The new process

A new multi-step, gated online exam design, build and test process was proposed that will involve input from colleagues in faculties and central areas. The timeline for implementation of this new process has been very tight and we recognise that the new process will be less than perfect, but at least we now have a starting point to improve how we do online exams. The Exams Office will continue to oversee exam submission and timetabling and we will endeavour to improve the process as we move forward.

The new submission and quality assurance (QA) process differs between on-campus paper exams and online exams run via iLearn. Both modes will be offered in the November 2020 examination period. The timeline and deadlines for the various phases are outlined in this one page summary: “Exams timeline for Nov 2020 period“.

A new “Exam Specification” form will be used for both exam modes. The form is dynamic according to choices made and caters for both online and on-campus exams (although the sequence of exam preparation, review and submission is different for each mode).

Note: MQ logins are required for each of the links mentioned in this post.

On-campus paper exams

The exam preparation and submission process will largely follow the process used in the past but submission of exam information and peer review sign off will now occur via an online form rather than via a word document. The exam file itself will still need to be a document file.

On Monday 21 September, the Exams office invited unit convenors who nominated an on-campus exam to start the writing and review process, along with notification of the submission deadline.

For an on-campus paper exam the “Exam Specification” form must be completed after the exam has been created and reviewed. The form will request similar details to that required in the past. This includes details relevant for the coversheet, the printing format, materials required for students and confirmation that the peer review has been completed.

The exam file will submitted by examiners to a secure TRUTH folder as was the case in the past.

Submission of the form and the exam file to the exams office is due by 6 October 2020 (Tuesday, week 9).

Those preparing on-campus paper exams can refer to the Exams Office Wiki site and questions can be directed to the Exams Office exams@mq.edu.au or extension 7356.

Online exams

Unit convenors who proposed an online exam for the upcoming exam period will have received an email from Exams Office on Friday 18 September 2020 requesting they complete the new ‘exams specification’ online form.

The process to prepare and submit an online exam now includes distinct phases to:

  • define the exam design (i.e complete the exam specification form),
  • build the exam in iLearn (Moodle) with advice available,
  • conduct an academic content peer review,
  • conduct a technical check of settings,
  • a change freeze on the exam, and finally,
  • implement a range of adjustments for students with particular needs.
  • the exam is then ready for release to students on exam day!

The timeline and deadlines for the various phases are outlined in a one page summary: “Exams timeline for Nov 2020 period“.  Detailed guidance is in the “Exams guidelines document” and iLearn examples are also available in the iLearn for Convenors unit site.

The next step for those preparing an online exam will be to complete the “Exam Specification” online form by 28 September 2020 (Monday, week 8).

The form is to be completed before creating and reviewing the exam. Those completing the form for an online exam will be asked to provide further details about the online exam design and to nominate an academic content peer reviewer.

Tip: to see what is expected in this new form just step through the form but don’t submit yet! Return when you are ready (unfortunately you can’t save and return later – a limitation of MS forms). 

Help for preparing exams

In addition to the information links provided above, colleagues can seek assistance from their Faculty Learning and Teaching team and iLearn support through OneHelp. Questions about the exam submission process can also be directed to the Exams Office exams@mq.edu.au or extension 7356.

More to come

The above is just the first step. Peer review, technical checks and special adjustment stages are yet to come.

The process is up and running, but we recognise that the tight timeline to get this new process implemented probably means we did not consult as widely as what we should have done. We are prepared to adapt as we work our way through this session.

MQ colleagues with questions about the above can contact the Exams Office exams@mq.edu.au or extension 7356.

We wish you the best for the remainder of the session and the upcoming exam season!

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Posted by Mathew Hillier

Mathew has been engaged by Macquarie University as an e-Assessment Academic in residence and is available to answer questions by MQ staff. Mathew specialises in Digital Assessment (e-Assessment) in Higher Education. Has held positions as an advisor and academic developer at University of New South Wales, University of Queensland, Monash University and University of Adelaide. He has also held academic teaching roles in areas such as business information systems, multimedia arts and engineering project management. Mathew recently led a half million dollar Federal government funded grant on e-Exams across ten university partners and is co-chair of the international 'Transforming Assessment' webinar series as the e-Assessment special interest group under the Australasian society for computers in learning in tertiary education. He is an honorary academic University of Queensland, Monash University and an adjunct academic at University of Tasmania.

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