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Online exams are an alternative to a traditional examination to assess students that makes use of the Insitution's Virtual Learning Environment Myplace and computers.This page reflects the current procedures if you are considering an online examination for a class.


There are a number of departments across all four faculties at the University of Strathclyde who have run examinations online rather than using the traditional pen and paper approach.

There are a number of factors to be taken into account when running an exam online at Strathclyde as outlined below. Please contact the university's LTE Team if you would like further support or information regarding online exams at the University:

learning-technologies@strath.ac.uk 

Please note you do not have to contact Myplace support to let us know that you are running an online exam during COVID.



Exam Tasks Online

The requirement for different exam content or method has often driven the move to online delivery; for example, an Engineering exam improvement to include more complex and realistic calculations than cannot be done with pen and paper was enabled by having the exam online. Students used a mathematical software package on PCs to calculate their numerical responses to an online quiz and then uploaded the software file as an assignment on the Myplace exam page. In this case, the Quiz and Assignment activities in Myplace constituted the examination. The quiz was marked automatically as the correct numerical response required was set in the quiz, and the assignment file was checked manually as part of the marking process.

The most common set up for exams online is use of the quiz activity in Myplace, in particular with multiple choice questions that can be automatically marked, however there are other activities such as assignments (as above) which can also be used. Within the Quiz activity, there are a number of different question types to accommodate examination questions, including those which can be automatically marked against set values (with set tolerances/ranges) or text options. Such question types are Multiple Choice, Calculated, Matching, Numerical, True/False and Embedded Answers. If a quiz is to be closed automatically or has a timer to do so, then students must be instructed to submit their responses before the quiz closes or times out otherwise their attempt will not be registered. There are also question types that will be marked manually such as Essay and Short Answer types.

For more information on the Quiz activity, please see the following support page: Creating a Quiz



Exam Development

If using a large number of quiz questions, such as multiple choice questions, then a bank of questions can be built up over a longer period of time. If making previous years exams available then there are benefits for students of this being online as the previous year’s exams will be interactive with instant scores and/or automated feedback being given where available.



Exam Format

The format of the exam is a key factor, and judgements relating to the restrictions and rigour applied to the examination must be considered.

Typically examinations fall into two broad-categories:

  • Open book exams - Students may use a wide range of additional materials during the examination
  • Closed book exams - Students may use a very restrictive range (or no) of additional materials.

Guidance on Myplace's support for these can be found on our Open / Closed Book Examination with the Quiz page.

Separation from Main Class Site

A separate Exam page for a class in Myplace can be requested so that all students and staff will be enrolled correctly, but with the exam page being controlled independently from the main class teaching page in terms of being opened and closed, and having the gradebook accessible to or hidden from students. If you require an exam page for a class, please contact: learning-technologies@strath.ac.uk



Accessibility

Staff can check via Pegasus if there are any students in a particular class who have been granted disability adjustments. If using quizzes, those students with any time concessions will have unlimited time applied on Myplace for quizzes already, so invigilation or retrospective checking will ensure that they do not go over their increased limit. Other considerations are that some students may require using headphones if a screen reader is required, and the general design of activities should be accessible; for example descriptions for images and links should be used as appropriate.

There may also be implications for auto marking of text answers such as poor spelling of dyslexic students resulting in a correct answer being automatically marked wrong as it does not match spelling.

Note that general good design for accessibility often benefits all students and advice can be sought from the University’s Disability Service. More information on providing for students with disabilities and contact details for the Disability Service are available via the following link: https://www.strath.ac.uk/disabilityservice/



Invigilation

Examinations typically fall into 2 categories relating to the level of oversight of the student's behaviour:

  • Invigilated / Proctored - Student conduct is monitored by a member(s) of staff to ensure there are no issues.
  • Non-Invigilated - Student behaviour is not monitored.

As for traditional pen and paper examination, appropriate invigilation is required. As above, students may have H drive and external internet access restricted in a similar way to books and notes being restricted in traditional exams.

Timing & Location 

Timing and location of examinations is an important consideration. 

Exams may be based in a computer lab or they may be taken by students on their own computers in any location. The pages on Flexible Schedule Online Exam and Scheduled Online Exam Scenario provide some illustration on how the timing and location of an examination can be met in Myplace.

On-campus locations

A suitable computer lab should be chosen that can accommodate the number of students taking the exam, ensuring that any specialist software required is available in that particular lab as well as an up to date web browser as there are issues with old versions of Internet Explorer. For information on web browser requirements and updates please see the following support page: MyPlace Browser Requirements 

Staff may wish to give consideration to seating arrangements and spacing of students, perhaps booking a lab with twice as many PC workstations as required so that students can be spaced out appropriately. If using a centrally maintained PC lab, then academic staff can request that external internet access be locked down by contacting the helpdesk in advance. Details of software in the PC labs centrally managed by Information Services can be found on the following webpage: 

http://www.strath.ac.uk/it/teachingsupport/hardwareandsoftware/

Depending on exam format and invigilation requirements, staff may wish to arrange alternative login arrangements for students for the purposes of the exam. There are currently three options for students logging in to PCs.

  1. Students login to lab PCs with their own DS username and password

  2. Students are logged in to lab PCs with a single common DS username and password (the same one for all students) requested in advance by teaching staff via the IT Helpdesk for the purposes of the exam. This prevents students from accessing their H drives and any material there that would be inappropriate for them to view during an exam.

  3. Students are logged in to lab PCs with a separate DS username and password (one separate DS account for each student) requested in advance by teaching staff via the IT Helpdesk for the purposes of the exam. As above, this prevents students from accessing their H drives and any material there that would be inappropriate for them to view during an exam. In addition, as a further measure, it prevents them from accessing the same common H drive and sharing/viewing files there.

Academic staff must consider which option is most appropriate. In many cases, option 1 and sufficient invigilation is all that is required. The practicalities of options 2 and 3 must be considered, staff must either login all PCs in advance as required, or have login details and instructions readily available for students in time for the beginning of the exam. If using option 3, staff must keep a record of which student used which login. This could be done by getting students to sign the user account sheets, then collecting them in at the end of the exam. (User account sheets with login details should be left with the students during the exam so that they are readily available should re-logging in be required for any reason)

For the above 3 options, students always login to Myplace itself with their own DS username and password.

If a student or students are unable to log in with their DS accounts, please see the Student login difficulties - guidance for invigilators page

Maintenance windows

The LTE team normally ensures that Myplace is not scheduled to have any downtime or be at risk during University exam periods. The UK academic network (JANET) is considered to be at risk for maintenance weekly on Tuesday mornings between 7am and 9am (http://www.ja.net/services/publications/supportmanual/fault.htm), therefore it would be advisable to schedule exams outwith this time.

It is wise for academic/teaching staff to check in advance that any other required systems are not scheduled to be down or at risk during an exam. If in doubt, please check with the Helpdesk. Practical issues should be taken into account, for example early on a Monday morning may not allow staff to check all procedures are in place prior to the exam beginning. Equally, late in the day will not ensure availability of staff or students if the exam runs late unexpectedly. For exams running in overseas centres, the time difference should be allowed for to ensure availability of staff on campus where possible. Although out of hours support is available, it is not at the full level of service, although some departmental staff may be available on a goodwill basis by local arrangement.




Risks and Contingency

As with any exam, unplanned events can cause disruption. System failure and power outages are rare but possible and often out with University control. To mitigate such risks, students should be instructed in advance and on the day to save work as they go where possible. Exams should be designed to allow for frequent saving, for example quiz pages should not be so long that students must scroll too far to access the save without submitting button.

Typical risks that would delay or interrupt a traditional or online exam must also be allowed for, such as late entry of students to the exam room or a fire alarm sounding. Such instances should be dealt with on a case by case basis as per the particular circumstances.

Online activities designed for exam purposes should account for possible risks, for example academic and teaching staff can arrange to manually close an exam class or exam activity when the exam time has finished, or else build in tolerances to the pre-set open and close time settings for classes or activities to allow for cases where an exam has run late or has been interrupted and extra time is applied at the end.

If a student or students are unable to log in with their DS accounts, please see the Student login difficulties - guidance for invigilators page



Student Preparation

If having an exam in an online format is new to students, it is critical that they are prepared for the new experience by being informed so that they know what to expect and have an opportunity to have any queries resolved in advance. Instructions must be clear on the day and appropriate advice reinforced as appropriate, for example information about accessing the exam correctly, saving work frequently and submitting any quiz responses on time before the quiz closes or times out.