Assessment often dominates teaching, and the mode of assessment can alter the balance of achievement between genders and subjects. As the computer increasingly becomes accepted as a tool by society, its place in assessment is becoming important. Internationally there are a number of trials and developments to use computers in examinations, with movement towards acceptance as normal operating practice (particularly the Digabi project in Finland).
Candidates can show their individual mastery through examinations. This requires identity authentication, collusion prevention/detection and high levels of technical reliability. Many current projects are providing solutions to these challenges.
The eExams project in Australia has sought to prove a sustainable, scalable and secure pathway for computers to be used in examinations. It does so by equipping all candidates with the same operating system and software applications. Initially developed at the University of Tasmania, it has been used in various degree courses. In addition, it has also been used in the pre-tertiary sector across the state.
Over a thousand students have used the eExam System since its launch in 2009. Candidates bring their own devices (computers with Intel processors) to the examination, and boot up from a specially crafted USB stick. This provides the same modified Ubuntu software environment (based on Linux) and a full office suite to every candidate; access to the exam materials and a secure partition for the candidate’s answers.
As with any long-term software development project, the eExam System continues to evolve. Work on the version 5 improvement began at the University of Queensland in 2013. This adds a copy of the learning management system Moodle on-board the USB stick to enable a range of computer marked question types, such as short answer, numeric, fill-in-the-blank, matching, and multiple-choice. A restricted network connection to specified servers such as an institutional LMS is also possible, creating a secure gateway.
This success foreshadows potential changes to curriculum. This presentation illustrates the way users have made the transition from paper-replacement to post-paper examinations. The style of emerging post-paper exams illuminates the way in which curriculum change can be enhanced and enabled through this new assessment mode.
You are welcome to try the eExam System on your laptop provided all your data has been backed up.