Online Exams

14 03 2012

Today, I was proctoring an exam for the class in which I teach.  The coordinator for the course really likes giving exams online using our universities provided exam software.  I don’t like it so much.  This morning I had 6 students (out of 54) have problems submitting their exam.  They hit the submit button, but instead of submitting their answers it sent them back to the log-in page.  Unfortunately, the only way for them to receive credit for the exam was them to retake the exam.  It was painful to watch them have to go back through and answer all of the questions again.

It also never fails that some students forget their laptop or their laptop freezes up in the middle of the exam (these students generally have to start all over as well).  I may be old-fashioned in this way, but I simply prefer paper exams (with scantrons if they are all multiple choice questions).  The reason the coordinator likes the online exam format is to cut down on cheating.  It is very easy to randomize questions and answers so that no two students have identical exams.  The software can easily sort out the data to give you an item analysis for each question.  I love that aspect of online exams, but the variables are just too much for me to handle.  It doesn’t take that much more work to randomize paper exams to give 3 different versions so that you can make sure neighboring students have different versions of the exam.  If it is a scantron exam (which all of our exams are), we have the software to simply scan the bubble sheets and provide us with an item analysis for each question without that much work (it’s not anymore work for the professors…just the administrative assistants).

I know that when I coordinate my course (next Spring) I will be using scantrons for all of my exams! I can’t handle another exam like this morning.  After that experience, I can really use a break. Too bad I’m 12-month faculty…no Spring Break for me.  However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I am going to a week-long conference the last week of this month! It can’t get here fast enough.  Not only will it be nice to get away from the office, but it will be nice to get a solid night’s sleep (We have a 2 1/2 year old and a 4 month old in our house).  The oldest sleeps through the night without any problems, but the 4 month old still gets up about one time per night. Even though my wife usually gets up with her, it is still not a solid night of sleep with two baby monitors buzzing near your head and the slightest noise waking me up.

It will also be nice to be at the conference so that I can work on expanding my professional network. I’ve tried to be get my networking started before the meeting by posting to professional social networking sites (i.e. LinkedIn and the society has its own networking site), but no one has responded to anything.  Hopefully, the networking will go better in person!