Moving exams online
This page provides advice and guidance to support academic colleagues to convert timed, supervised exams to an online environment.
Students will receive the exam paper online, work on the tasks/questions set unsupervised off campus and submit their answers electronically within a defined time period.
Students will have access to materials in a take-home exam, therefore the design of questions may need to be reframed to move away from recall-based tasks to questions that require students to demonstrate how they use information. It will be important, therefore, to provide guidance to students about changes in orientation of the task.
Your starting point is the learning outcomes your assessment is designed to test. The take-home exam should align with these outcomes.
Existing assessment criteria/model answers may need to be adapted to reflect changes made to the original assessment and/or changes to the assessment conditions, including student access to reference materials.
- Given that existing assessment criteria may need to be adapted bear in mind how you will support colleagues to ensure consistency of academic judgements.
- Please be mindful that students’ work may need to be judged having regard to the unfamiliar teaching and learning context they will have experienced.
It is good practice, where necessary, to re-run any changes you make to questions through an internal moderation process. Amended papers do not need to be re-considered by External Examiners or Scrutiny Groups.
- Submission will be via Turnitin, where appropriate, to minimise concerns about academic misconduct.
- Where necessary you could customise the assessment by asking students to relate the topic/data to their experience or a specific context where possible.
- You could advise students that you will run ‘spot checks’ or mini-vivas with a sample of the student population, where you will discuss their reasoning for the answers they have provided.
Take-home exam papers will all open at the same time every day at 10 am and will be open for a fixed period of 23 hours.
MCQs will need to be converted to BlackBoard Tests. Academics will need to take a lead in setting those up, and should liaise with their Support Centre to arrange additional support if needed. General guidance about Tests is available on CQSD TEL’s Support for Staff site https://sites.reading.ac.uk/tel-support/
- All exams will be held as “take-home exam papers with online submission” for the April/May 2020 exam season only.
- The University will aim to ensure that students have only one exam per day, which will result in an additional two weeks to the usual exam period.
- The revised exam timetable is expected to be published in early April.
If your exam includes an essay (or another task) which assesses students’ understanding and how well they can make an argument or apply their learning then it will be relatively straightforward to convert this into a take-home exam.
MCQs and questions that require students to recall, list or state information these will need to be converted to Blackboard tests.
You should consider balancing these lower order questions with questions that require students to apply what they have learned in new situations, analyse scenarios, interpret data in tables or graphs, or extrapolate their knowledge in new ways—things they cannot look up quickly online. You could adjust the marking scheme so less marks are given to the lower order questions.
If your exam requires students to draw diagrams, charts or to respond in other visual ways or use mathematical and scientific notations, students will need to scan/photograph their work and upload it to Blackboard.
Guidance for staff when advising their students
This guidance has been compiled to support academic colleagues at the University to develop appropriate advice for students with regards to take-home exams. This guidance is primarily comprised of extracts taken from the University of New South Wales Open-book and Take-home exams (2020).
This guidance does not cover all the factors that colleagues may need to consider when advising students on how to approach their take-home exam. It offers some suggestions which colleagues are advised to adapt to their assessment context.
Ensure students are clear that a take-home exam requires them to complete a task and submit their work electronically within a strict time limit. The only difference is that they are working off-campus.
With this exam format, students can consult their own notes, course texts and other materials as advised by their lecturer.
Ensure you provide your students with the following information on exam requirements:
- The time and date the exam should be handed in.
- How the exam should be submitted.
- How much time they have to complete the exam. Guidance should be provided on how much time they should be spent on different activities (e.g. reading, drafting, writing), where appropriate.
- Clear guidance should be given regarding the reference materials students are advised to consult and/or other resources they can use.
- The topic areas the exam will cover.
- The types of questions, essays, short answers, etc.
- Clear guidance around word length.
- How long answers should be.
- Whether they need to reference.
Other key information:
- Share the assessment criteria in advance and if these have been adapted, outline how and why.
- Students will also need clear guidance on what to do should they encounter difficulties (technical or otherwise). There will be a “support system” in place to help students struggling with a variety of technical issues and for alerting teams to other unforeseen challenges.
- Recognise that some students for a variety of reasons (e.g. access to suitable technology, caring responsibilities, illness) may have challenges engaging with take-home exams. These students should be encouraged to self-identify in advance and request an extension for coursework or defer to the summer examination period (which will be classed as a first attempt) via the new more flexible Extenuating Circumstances process.
- For Special Arrangements outside of extra time Support Centre/HBS Programme Teams and Exams will work together with individual students to see what measures can pragmatically be delivered.
- Reassure students that their work will be marked having regard to the unfamiliar teaching and learning context that we currently find ourselves in.
To prepare for the take-home exam, ensure your students do the following:
- Check their access to IT equipment and that it is working
- Identify a comfortable workspace to prepare for and take the exam
- Work out the materials and resources they will need, check that they have these at hand
- Study their course materials
- Prepare useful notes and organise their materials
- Get a good night’s sleep
On the day of the take-home exam, useful advice for students includes:
- Not to consult with others over the questions or seek unauthorised assistance. This can result in penalties.
- Only use the materials they really need.
- Read all the questions carefully so they understand what is being asked of them.
- Use the exam time wisely. Don’t forget to factor in time needed to spend on reading, drafting, and writing the exam questions.
- Stick to the advised word length and don’t over answer.
- Not to panic. It’s okay to be nervous.
Talk to students about some of the misconceptions of take-home exams:
- Take-home exams are easy - A take-home exam is not an easy option. It requires more than just copying information straight from texts. With this exam format, the majority of the marks are given to how students locate, apply and use information. This requires preparation on the students' part.
- You don’t have to prepare or study - Wrong! This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about take-home exams. Students should study just as they would for any other exam. Having access to texts and notes might mean they don’t have to memorise as much information, but they will still need to be able to apply information effectively. This means students must fully understand and be familiar with the content and material of their module, so they can find and use the appropriate information. With a take-home exam, students will need to find the relevant information in the resources they have.
- You can just copy from the book! In a take-home exam, students are expected to do more than just reproduce materials. They are expected to locate, interpret and apply information. Students may also need to reference sources as well, as they would need to do for any other assignment.
- The more materials the better! Access to too many materials can end up distracting students and crowding their workspace. It is best for students to carefully select the materials they might need and organise them for quick reference.
To avoid plagiarism, ensure your students are aware of the following:
The University’s regulations on plagiarism still apply to take-home exams. The submission process will involve students following the usual guidelines, which can be found here.
Collaborative working is not permitted unless otherwise expressly advised otherwise. Where collaborative working is encouraged as part of the exam process, please ensure students follow the guidelines issued by the lecturer with regard to completion of the take-home exam.